How NRA Manages Its Member List

Apparently Santorum is hitting up gun owners in Michigan by slamming Mitt, which has some NRA members upset. NRA guards their membership list very very carefully. I’m actually surprised by folks who think they sell it, or would lend it to a campaign. While organizations on the left and the right regularly sell or lease member lists, politically it’s a stupid move for any organization that aspires to grassroots power. NRA is not going to want politicians or political groups to have direct access to their membership except through them. That’s part of what makes the endorsements valuable.

Just to give you an idea of how closely they guard things like member lists, on our Friends of the NRA committee, we sometimes do mailings to members to promote our dinner. NRA does allow committees to do this, but you have to tell them what zip codes you want, and HQ prints out the labels. On the day you’re going to stuff envelopes, someone from NRA brings the labels already pre-printed for us to affix to our materials, and helps us put together the mailing. NRA won’t even give out member info, even very small subsets of it, to volunteers.

As an NRA Election Volunteer Coordinator, I have my own list that I build. I don’t have access to NRA members directly. It would probably be easier for EVCs to have access to NRA member information in their district, but they just won’t do that. So any concern about whether your member info is safe, it absolutely is. Even gross statistics, like how many NRA members are in Pennsylvania, or my district, is something they don’t discuss publicly. It’s better to keep politicians guessing.

10 thoughts on “How NRA Manages Its Member List”

  1. It’s easy for companies or politicians to get the “list” without getting it from NRA. There are companies out there that collect and sell your address info base on your, say, magazine subscriptions, purchase history [outdoors, hunting, etc]. And some of these folks might very well be NRA members.

    Rick could have gotten them from various, eager, willing partners, without grilling it out of NRA.

  2. You don’t need NRA’s list. SAF rents theirs. So do gun magazines and business like Sportsmen’s Guide. Compiling a list of gun owners anywhere in the country takes no more than a phone call. Those lists can then easily be run against the list of registered Republicans in the state for targeted robocalls.

    1. For sure SAF sells/rents their member list. That both surprised and annoyed me. However, I know for sure because of this? Almost as soon as I gave money for a one-year “voluntary membership,” a variety of RKBA-related (and non-SAF) mail began coming. It all had the same small typo that SAF’s mail to me had.

      It was disappointing, and I’ve given SAF no money since then.

  3. A number of years ago – about 20, IIRC – I had a discussion about membership info with Someone In The NRA Who Should Know; the response I got,and based on my relationship with this individual I had no reason to doubt the info, was that while member info was retained in a single database, there was a Doomsday Button that would delete and overwrite the info; this NRA person confirmed that the reason for the Doomsday Button was, among other reasons, governmental desire to capture the member database (for obvious reasons).

    I asked what the procedure was for activating the Doomsday Button and the individual was, understandably, reluctant to discuss it.

    I’ve been pretty deep in the IT biz for over 3 decades, and have been engaged in Stuff About Which I Cannot Speak so I know a little bit about data integrity.

    One of the first rules about data integrity is “maintain only one database.” My recent paper NRA ballot showed up forwarded from the address from which I moved 7 months ago; and, yes, I did execute an address change with NRA when I moved. This alone tells me there is more than one member/address database.

    Sebastian – would you mind using your NRA contacts to have confirmed/denied that member info at NRA is secure, and secure to what level, and that NRA has a defined plan – including an established implementation procedure – to protect those data? While confident that NRA has not sold/rented/loaned member data, I am less than impressed by what I’ve seen lately.

    1. I’d be surprised if there was any “doomsday button” on the member database. If there was, I’d be rather appalled, because it would violate just about any standard I can think of for IT data integrity practices. I doubt NRA is going to discuss with me how they protect their member database, because it would also be a violation of any known IT security process to talk about that with someone who isn’t under NDA with them.

      Either way, if it were me, there would be one database, and it would be backed up offsite. But with most offsite backup schemes, the backups can be recalled, if need be, in a few hours, or be retrieved in person. If the barbarians were at the gates, it wouldn’t take much to be able to destroy it, even if they are doing everything right. It’s not really any kind of doomsday button, but when I’ve run IT, it would have taken no more than an hour to wipe all our data from the planet if we had decided that was necessary.

  4. Isn’t there a briefcase with secret codes that follows Wayne everywhere?

    1. It takes both Wayne and Chris turning their keys simultaneously in order to self-destruct the member database. Both carry an NRA issued side arm, so one can shoot the other in the event one fails to turn his key. In that instance, is falls to the NRA President to turn the key.

  5. Okay, I followed the link to the story and I fail to see what the fuss is about.

    True enough the robo-call refers to NRA rankings, but so what? That is just a convenient shorthand to place the gun-records of Santorum v Romney in perspective, with reference to a trusted authority.

    Anyone who hears the robo-call and assumes it came from the NRA is making a leap.

    For Romney to get attacked on the gun issue is a fair charge, and I’m shocked the other candidates didn’t exploit the issue more than they have.

  6. I used to be an EVC. I had to resign when I ran for City Council. Even then I didn’t get names of NRA members. Instead, my name went on the mailing labels of all the magazine subscribers, with the note to contact me. If someone didn’t contact me, I had no way of knowing they were even NRA members.

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