The National Rifle Association appears to suffer from pinaciphobia: the fear of lists.
It doesn't matter whether such lists are compiled by a local, state, national or international body; whether they are public, private, corporate or academic; whether they are of actual human beings (such as suspected terrorists) or inanimate objects (such as guns). The NRA opposes them. How long before it comes for your grocery list?
We jest. But that is exactly the kind of logic employed by the NRA, which uses its influence to stoke fear and paranoia among gun owners about the U.S. government's interest in information. Of course, government lists, from McCarthy's to Nixon's, don't exactly have a sterling reputation. The kinds of lists the NRA fears, however, are exactly those Americans should welcome, and most need.
Just last week, the NRA opposed a House bill to fund state programs that would have identified and disarmed gun owners who have been deemed mentally ill or have committed a serious crime. In 2009, it opposed a bill empowering the U.S. attorney general to block weapons sales to anyone whose name appears on the government's terrorist watch list. It even opposes a treaty, being negotiated at the United Nations this week, to track international arms sales. This is all in addition to the NRA's insistence that background check data be destroyed — and its fierce opposition to any kind of data that can illuminate gun violence or what can be done to mitigate it.
The NRA's fear is ahistorical as well as irrational. American history is filled with gun regulations, including government surveys of gun ownership. During the Revolutionary era, writes UCLA constitutional law professor Adam Winkler, the founders not only required able men to arm themselves for military service, but also inspected their guns and listed the firearms on public rolls. New Hampshire and Rhode Island conducted door-to-door surveys of gun ownership.