“Against Gun Registration”
Redundant, yes. But what’s left to “argue,” really? We’re at the point of competing assertions, and the truth matters little — and facts even less so.
But we soldier on. For the children.
And for once I don’t write that ironically.
Charles Cooke, NRO:
As things stand, the Firearm Owners Protection Act mandates the federal government to destroy within 24 hours any information that it gathers during background checks; all who are jealous of their liberty must ensure that this remains law.
Contrary to the claims of some on the right, President Obama has not advocated any form of gun registration. But, despite how it sometimes appears, President Obama is not the entire U.S. government, and while he may have kept quiet on the matter, others have not been so wise. Illinois representative Bobby Rush has thrice introduced the “Blair Holt’s Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act” — first in 2007, again in 2009, and, most recently, as soon as the 113th Congress convened in January of this year. Rush’s bill would require all gun owners to possess a federal firearm license and allow the attorney general to create and oversee a national gun registry.
Another bill, introduced in January of this year by Representative Rush Holt, would “provide for the mandatory licensing and registration of handguns.” And Senator Dianne Feinstein, who authored the 1994 “assault weapons” ban, included registration of grandfathered weapons in her recent “assault weapons” bill and has a history of proposing national gun registration. A host of other bills include provisions, both large and small, by which the federal government might keep tabs on Americans’ gun ownership.
An American gun registry has been an aim of gun-control advocacy groups for almost 40 years — and not always as a stand-alone measure. Reinforcing the worst “slippery slope” fears held by Second Amendment advocates, the chairman of the Brady Campaign explained the role of gun registries in 1976:
The first problem is to slow down the increasing number of handguns being produced and sold in this country. The second problem is to get handguns registered. And the final problem is to make the possession of all handguns and all handgun ammunition — except for the military, policemen, licensed security guards, licensed sporting clubs, and licensed gun collectors — totally illegal.
The threat to liberty inherent in gun registries should be painfully self-evident, especially when combined with the horrifying history of such programs elsewhere. The sheer fruitlessness of such systems, however, is not so apparent, and the uninitiated could be forgiven for wondering, “What’s the fuss?” Luckily, a few other countries — countries regarded by the gun-control lobby as being more enlightened than the United States and happily lacking in the pernicious influence of the National Rifle Association — have tried and abandoned gun registries, providing an example that Americans would do well not to follow.
Canada’s experiment with a long-gun registry, ostensibly contrived to prevent “violence against women” — it’s always for “women” or “the children,” isn’t it? — achieved little more than to demonstrate what the less naïve among us already knew: that criminals do not abide by the law. As Mauser has noted, data from Statistics Canada show not just that only 4 percent of long guns used in Canadian homicides were registered, but also that the claim that such registration will help the police to “monitor potentially dangerous gun owners” is upside down. Instead, statistics reveal that Canadians who own legally registered guns are less dangerous to their fellow citizens than those who either do not own guns at all or own unregistered guns. Unsurprisingly, while the long-gun registry was in force, in not a single case did the police employ it in order to identify a murderer.
New Zealand’s long-gun-registry experiment ended in failure, too. By the early 1980s, New Zealand’s National Police pleaded with that country’s parliament to abandon the system, having watched ballooning budgets lead only to a lot of wasted time and to the expansion of a system that, frankly, didn’t do anything useful. In 1983, parliament, conceding that criminals are unlikely to leave registered guns at the scenes of their crimes, complied.
Very little thought is necessary to render as a sick joke the oft-repeated claim that police benefit from knowing who has guns and who hasn’t. A registry tells authorities which law-abiding citizens have weapons and which don’t — which at best is useless information, and at worst is yet another case of government’s failing to do anything about the criminal and so going after the rest of us instead. The reductio ad absurdum of this tendency has been well documented by the historian Clayton Cramer. “The U.S. Supreme Court,” Cramer writes,
ruled in Haynes vs. U.S. (1968) that convicted felons have a Constitutional right to not register a gun, because to register a gun would be self-incrimination. Only people that aren’t criminals can be punished for not registering. If the criminals aren’t required to register, but you and I are, why bother?
As Cramer noted, the Supreme Court thus ruled that on Fifth Amendment grounds “a person illegally possessing a firearm, under either federal or state law, [can] not be punished for failing to register it.” This conceit has been upheld elsewhere, too. I have no great objection to this principle, but it does highlight the absurdity of an approach that would see constitutionally protected individual liberties being strictly guarded in the case of criminals but restricted when it comes to the law-abiding. Practically speaking, the Haynes decision legally exempts from any future registry the very people whose behavior is used to justify its necessity. Surely, if we are going to become so strict about the Constitution, then the Second and Fourth Amendments should share in the bounty?
If good sense prevails, this principle will never need to be tested. As John Lott argued in 2012, “in parts of the United States where registration is required, the results have been no different” from what they were in Canada. “Neither Hawaii, D.C., nor Chicago,” he adds, “can point to any crimes that have been solved using registration records.” Both philosophically and practically, Senator Coburn is right to insist that the federal government stay out of the game. Only in Washington, D.C., could a handful of politicians look at the failure of registry programs at home and abroad and propose that they be copied and expanded.
Of course, if good sense prevailed, those Republicans willing to join forces with Chuck Schumer on any “commonsense compromises” on the 2nd Amendment would have either already been removed from office, or else would have at least had the courtesy to run as Democrats.
The bottom line is this: criminals are dangerous and tend to disregard the whims of legislators without so much as a second thought. Petty despots know this and so, to feel powerful, they focus their energies on the law abiding, who are more likely to cede to the moral authority of the petty despot interested in wielding his power for public posturing and easy, bumpersticker grace, if only because they are law-abiding in the first place and will follow the laws duly passed by the legislature.
But obeying unconstitutional laws is no more moral than passing them by laying claim to some nebulous ethical high ground redounding to the “general welfare” or “the safety of the children,” and then declaring the circumvention of constitutional protections a function of an evolving Greater Good.
So let’s see where the feds will take us. Because though Cooke is technically correct that Obama hasn’t “advocated any form of gun registration,” he is incorrect that Obama hasn’t effected the push for such measures, using the states to do his work while he pretends to keep his hands clean.
Having watched the Colorado House turn at the insistence of Joe Biden (and, to some accounts, under threat of having willing administration lapdogs installed against them in primaries), I know this to be the case.
Here at pw I’ve been advocating state resistance to federal tyranny as a way to beat back the encroachment of the Leviathan. The problem is, too many “pragmatic” red state governors are out for themselves, and too many blue state leaders are committed to surrendering state sovereignty to promote the agenda of the progressives, which is precisely to weaken federalism and grow the reach and power of the federal government.
How does one combat that? Aside from, say, civil disobedience and increasingly smaller zones of constitutional protection?