February 26, 2013

“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?





Posted by Jeff G. @ 10:36am

Comments (10)

  1. 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.”

    By that logic, Al Capone’s conviction for tax evasion should be vacated.

  2. OT:


    How you Okies liking that storm we sent your way?

    Nice of you to pawn it off on the midwest.

  3. You’re welcome. We just got a little dusting of snow but they closed the schools anyway.

  4. I wonder if Mike LaRoche has managed to dig out. From what I saw yesterday Lubbock was shut down.

  5. And it is to be noted that the majority of law abiding citizens obey many laws because of the fear that they would lose the property and liberty they have and those of their family for little gain.

    Laws such as a registry would make disobeying less hazardous to some as registry would increase the likelihood that their property and liberty would be taken away at a future time.

    Some of the even more egregious gun right violation laws would do far more and create instant criminals of the otherwise law abiding.

    Frankly, even the increase in background checks is a threat as who among us really believes that the Gov’t itself strictly obeys the law and doesn’t somewhere maintain a list of all background check data since inception. Any new laws regardless of so called safe guards would be even more suspect given that it is so mild a reaction and so far from the extreme measures that many on the left tried so hard to enact.

    If the 2nd amendment truly is a constitutional right then it shouldn’t have any more regulation than any of the other rights and they must be imposed only if other necessities of public safety vastly outweigh their inviolate status.

    Yet we find that that is not the case. This needs to be stood up for and demand that the Gov’t cease imposing stricter standards for the exercise of the 2nd Amendment than it is allowed to for the others.

    That ANY restrictions are being considered and that many states and other gov’t bodies still have excessively restrictive laws that inherently violate citizens 2nd Amendment rights needs to be brought up for adjudication.

    We must be as relentless, unforgiving and constantly vigilant as the left.

  6. Once a gun is traced, even falsely or in error, and no matter how innocent the buyer, the first (and any known subsequent) owner’s personal data is permanently retained in the ATF trace file and sent to any law enforcement agency asking for the trace. It is documented that to attempt to accomplish a trace, Law Enforcement will frequently enter partial serial numbers to attempt a match, which results in additional false traces.


    The Firearm Tracing System provides manual & automated data retrieval from:

    All previous firearms traces from all sources,
    Dealer, Importer, and Manufacturer computer, paper or microfilm “Bound Book” Out-of-Business records (including digital files required by ATF Ruling 2008-2),
    Dealer “Bound Book” records (computer and/or paper) copied by ATF during annual inspections.
    ATF Form 4473 copied from dealers during annual inspections and in Out-of-Business records.
    Multiple Firearm Sales reports (ATF F 3310.4)
    Traditional phone calls to the manufacturer, distributor and final selling dealer, and
    Additional data sources, such as some state firearms sales records.
    Dealer “Bound Books” over 20 years old voluntarily sent in to ATF.
    Includes some antique firearms allowed to be entered in “Bound Books”.
    Stolen firearms reported to ATF.
    System 2000 automated retrieval system from manufacturers, importers and distributors (48 companies as of 2009)
    Certain firearms dealers are required by ATF to report certain used firearms transaction to ATF for entry into the Firearms Tracing System.


    There are reports that some state firearm registration systems have been loaded into the tracing system. In a press release, New Jersey admits posting all police records of gun purchases into the ATF Firearms Tracing System through eTrace. By state law, New York and Connecticut require tracing all purchased firearms.

    “Each gun found by Chicago police–more than 10,000 annually–is traced and categorized by serial number, where it was found, if it was used in a crime and who bought it when and where. Computers can quickly display information such as where guns recovered on certain Chicago blocks are coming from or turn the data around to show where guns bought at out-of-state gun stores are turning up.” (Source: The Chicago Regional Crime Gun Center, run by the field intelligence group of ATF)

    Online LEAD
    Online LEAD is a system available to all state and local law enforcement in the U.S. at ATF field offices throughout the country, with access to more than 100 million firearms transaction records (reported in 2001) in the ATF Firearms Tracing System.


    eTrace System
    eTrace is a method of world-wide internet access to millions of registration records in the Firearms Tracing System! ATF publicized global access in ‘United Nations Disarmament Marking and Tracing Workshops’ held in Nairobi, Kenya in December, 2007, Lomé, Togo in April, 2008, Rio de Janeiro in June, 2008, and other locations. Over 17,000 individuals representing over 2000 law enforcement agencies around the world have access to American gun owner personal information. Tracing data is of no value without identifying the suspect (individual purchaser by name & address), so ATF specifically provides “a description of the original retail purchaser” to the requester.


    American gun owner names and addresses, detailed personal information (including Social Security Number) from 4473 forms, and detail on the guns by purchaser name or firearm serial number is directly available to some 31 foreign governments, including governments with known corruption issues. Trace requests have been accepted by ATF from 58 foreign governments (some with possible terrorist connections). Columbia and Mexico (both with known corruption issues) were provided with their own in-country tracing centers (staffed by foreign nationals) with full access to ATF registration records. Columbia was provided (at taxpayer expense) with a Joint ATF-CNP Center for Anti-Explosives Information and Firearms Tracing (CIARA) which opened on December 6, 2006. In Mexico, The National Center for Information, Analysis and Planning in order to Fight Crime (CENAPI) was established in 2003. ATF admits these are models for planned future tracing centers throughout Central and South America, and the Caribbean Basin (ATF Congressional Budget Submission, 2010). There seems to be little concern for privacy protection for American gun purchasers.

    Countries formally provided with eTrace software and access to American gun owner names and addresses include: Mexico, Columbia, Suriname, Tobago, Guyana, Canada, Germany, Bahamas, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Barbados, Anguilla, Antigua, Barbuda, Aruba, Curaçao, Dominica, Grenada, St Vincent, Grenadines St. Lucia, Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, St. Kitts, Nevis, several Caribbean police forces, Britain, Australia, Japan, Belgium, and Finland.

    Sleep well.

  7. The above is just a small part of the entire entry there. Read it all and weep for just how far down this road we have already gone.

  8. A long ways since the mail order days of yore, that’s for sure.

  9. The problem is, too many “pragmatic” red state governors are out for themselves…

    How does one combat that?

    One works tirelessly to rid oneself of “pragmatic” governors. The battle at the state level is not quick or easy, but at least it’s one that can be successful (outside of California and Illinois, of course). And it’s not like we need a simple majority of states; just 10 states standing together to say “we will not comply” is more than enough to show how powerless Washington is to enforce their illegal legislation. The withholding of payments out of Washington will reflexively lead to the withholding of payments to Washington. And then what?

    We hobbits are long overdue for a scouring of the Shire.

  10. If the Republicans had any balls they’d tack an amendment onto whatever arrives from the Senate. The amendment would make it a federal felony for anyone to violate FOPA, to include anyone who has access to background check data (authorized or unauthorized), and anyone above them (call it the ‘no fall guys’ clause.)

    They would also mandate that named personnel in the DOJ will annually certify compliance with FOPA, with similar penalties for non-compliance or false reporting.