Universal background checks don't require a registry. Background checks mandated for commercial sales don't produce such a registry. Which is not to say that a registry is a bad idea.
Indeed, for the past 79 years, there has been a registry that was initiated under the National Firearms Act of 1934. It requires anyone who wants to buy a machine-gun or other fully automatic firearm, silencer or gadget-gun (like a cane gun) undergo a thorough FBI background check, pay a tax and have their name and the weapon they have purchased added to a registry, which was long ago turned into a computer database. In all those years, there has been no confiscation of the hundreds of thousands of weapons registered on that database, no harassment of their owners, no midnight knocks at the door.
But, as pointed out by TriSec, the NRA is not so skittish when it comes to the database the organization itself maintains:
But in fact, the sort of vast, secret database the NRA often warns of already exists, despite having been assembled largely without the knowledge or consent of gun owners. It is housed in the Virginia offices of the NRA itself. The country’s largest privately held database of current, former, and prospective gun owners is one of the powerful lobby’s secret weapons, expanding its influence well beyond its estimated 3 million members and bolstering its political supremacy.In other words, this ain't no membership list. These are not people voluntarily providing their information to the NRA. These aren't people checking a "terms of service" box. This is the association Hoovering up all these data without any of the targets on those lists having a clue it's happening. Please read more below the fold on the NRA's game.
That database has been built through years of acquiring gun permit registration lists from state and county offices, gathering names of new owners from the thousands of gun-safety classes taught by NRA-certified instructors and by buying lists of attendees of gun shows, subscribers to gun magazines, and more, BuzzFeed has learned. [...]
The NRA won’t say how many names and what other personal information is in its database, but former NRA lobbyist Richard Feldman estimates they keep tabs on “tens of millions of people.”
The NRA hypocrisy runs deep. Last year, the Westchester Journal News published an online map of gun permit owners in two New York counties, many people criticized the move as an invasion of privacy, and an invitation to burglaries or worse. The paper soon took the map down. Nobody was more critical than the NRA. Likewise when the editor of the North Carolina Cherokee Scout dared to request—not publish, but merely request—similar data from his local sheriff, he was forced to apologize and resign after receiving death threats from gun owners. The NRA excoriated him, too, and sought legislation barring the release of such information by local authorities.
“We’ve been doing this since the old days,” Feldman said. “You could obtain from most states the listings of hunter licenses from the Department of Wildlife and Conservations. It was sort of amazing what we knew about people from that. There were early [concealed-carry] permit holders, black powder holders, so many different seasons. It was a lot of data.”The NRA hasn't stopped doing this. As Friess reports, NRA lobbyist Christopher Rager wrote to Iowa Department of Public Safety legislative in 2011 inquiring how to go about obtaining data from the state's concealed-permit files and how much it might cost to have the files copied and mailed to the association's headquarters.
Complementing this practice is the mining of data on the thousands who take gun safety classes from NRA-certified instructors. Arulanandam said there are 97,000 of them, a figure that impressed [Laura Quinn, CEO of Catalist, a data analysis firm used by Obama for America] as a larger “army of organizers” than Obama had.
Imagine if the Obama campaign or former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords' gun-safety lobbying group, Americans for Responsible Solutions, were found to be fishing for such data from state agencies. The NRA's shrieks would be heard all the way to Tierra del Fuego.
What does the NRA use its list for? Politics, of course. Like campaigns to bellyache about databases of gun owners. Campaigns seeking to smear and defeat elected officials who don't follow the association's prescriptions for loosening already loose gun laws. And, you can be sure, helping manufacturers sell more guns, which has for a long time been the NRA's primary mission.