The NRA, which describes itself as "America's foremost defender of Second Amendment rights," opposes both changes. Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman, didn't return calls about the group's efforts to block gun laws and data collection.
The group had 2011 revenue of $219 million, according to its tax returns. From 2004 to 2010, revenue from fundraising, including donations from more than 50 firearms and ammunition companies, grew twice as fast as its income from member dues, according to NRA tax returns. Still, the group says it represents more than 4 million people.
Wayne LaPierre, its chief executive, says Obama is "trying to take away" guns.
"They'll turn this universal check on the law-abiding into a universal registry of law-abiding people, and law-abiding people don't want that," LaPierre said Feb. 2 on "Fox News Sunday."
Todd Tiahrt, a former Republican congressman from Kansas, said police have the tools to track criminals. Tiahrt successfully pushed NRA-backed measures to block access to data tracing the sale and possession of guns used in crimes, and ban the information from being used as evidence in civil court.
His amendments stopped the ATF from requiring that gun dealers check their inventory for missing weapons and mandated the Federal Bureau of Investigation destroy background check results within 24 hours.
Tiahrt, now chief executive of Neumann Systems, a Colorado Springs, Colo.-based emissions-control provider, said authorities' best response to the Connecticut massacre would be to investigate the mental-health history of shooter Adam Lanza.
"If they were really concerned about what happened in Newtown, they'd find out what psychiatric drugs this kid was on, how that impacted his view of violence," he said. "Their motives are questionable at best."
Since 1979, Congress has prevented ATF from keeping centralized gun-ownership records, according to the agency. Sales data instead are maintained by the country's 58,900 federally licensed firearms dealers. When they go out of business, they're required to send the paperwork to ATF, which stores it on microfilm and microfiche.