On "Good Morning America" last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared:
"We don't want to take their guns away. We want them registered."
Somehow, I don't think America's 80 million firearms owners feel reassured.
People have, in fact, been buying guns and ammo at such a rapid pace since the election of President Obama that there is now an ammunition shortage in the U.S. Johnny Dury, proprietor of Dury's Gun Shop in San Antonio, TX:
"It started the day that Obama got elected. It is when everything just went crazy in the gun business."
Drury said people are buying the guns and bullets for several reasons, including the fear of more restrictive gun laws being enacted by a Democrat congress and willingly signed by a president whose record as a legislator on gun control has been one favoring increased restrictions and government regulation.
The leading legislation by which the Democrats in Congress and the White House want to register your guns is HR 45, commonly known as the Blair Holt bill or simply Blair Holt's. The measure, introduced January 6 by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) from Michelle Obama's Real Chicago, includes - but is not limited to - the following restrictions:
* It will be "unlawful" to own a firearm without a license.
* Be required to submit a picture and thumbprint.
* Provide certification that the firearms are properly stored.
* Pass a written firearms exam which tests a persons knowledge of the safe storage of firearms in the presence of children, safe handling of firearms, risks associated with firearms, legal responsibilities of a firearm owner, and anything else the Attorney General deems fit.
* A release of any mental health records.
* Makes private sales illegal.
* Establishes a Federal Record of Sale system which records make, model, serial number, license of the transferee and name and address of the transferor.
* Provides for inspection of your home
* Reporting of lost or stolen firearms
* Notice of change of address
Not only does the bill trample on second amendment rights, but the provision for home inspections flies in the face of the fourth amendment. The prohibition on firearms sales between private owners also appears to be an unconstitutional restriction of commerce.
HR 45 is currently in committee.
One argument advanced by gun control advocates is that registering firearms helps police solve crimes. But there are major flaws in that way of thinking:
Politicians and bureaucrats routinely claim that registration helps solve crimes. If a registered gun is used in a crime and left at the crime scene, registration supposedly lets the police trace the gun back to the criminal. Though this turn of events might work on fictional TV crime shows, it virtually never occurs in real life. Criminals' guns are rarely left at crime scenes. When guns are left behind, it usually is because a crook has been seriously injured or killed and the police are poised to catch him anyway.
The few guns left at crime scenes rarely - if ever - are registered to the perpetrator. If they are registered at all, it is to someone else, whose piece was stolen. Despite what Mrs. Pelosi might think, those who use guns to commit major crimes such as robbing and killing are unlikely to respect her request to file paperwork so the government can catalog the tools of their trade.
Authorities have in fact experienced serious problems tracking those firearms which they have registered:
DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier inadvertently admitted that the District's gun registration program was a failure. According to the Chief, "Honestly, there are thousands of handguns that were registered in the city and I don't know whether those handguns are still in the city." Of the 41,000 handguns registered, the police department cannot account for 36,000.
The handguns in question were registered back in 1976 when the District's near-total handgun ban became law. The law grandfathered handguns that already existed in the city, but required the owners to register them. The owners of 41,000 handguns dutifully registered the guns. Yet now, 32 years later, the District does not know where 88% of those handguns are.
Speaker Pelosi assures us that registration won't lead to gun confiscation, citing a Supreme Court decision (District of Columbia v. Heller) which struck down the District's handgun ban last June. But as the Washington Times editorial notes, that decision was a narrow 5-4 ruling which could be reversed by a more liberal SCOTUS in the future.
Gun rights activists claim that confiscation of firearms will follow registration. The history of gun confiscation in democratic societies provides ample supporting evidence for their arguments:
New Zealand has had some form of firearms registration since 1921. In 1974, all revolvers lawfully held for personal security were confiscated.
In May of 1995, Canada's Bill C-68 prohibited previously legal and registered small-caliber handguns. Current owners of such guns were "grandfathered," which means the guns are to be forfeited upon death of the owner. Bill C-68 also authorizes the Canadian government to enact future weapons prohibitions.
On 10 May 1996, Australia banned most semi-automatic rifles and semi-automatic and pump shotguns. Prior to this law, many Australian states and territories had firearms registration. Owners of these newly outlawed firearms were required to surrender them (with some monetary compensation). All such firearms are to be confiscated and destroyed after a 12-month amnesty program. Roughly 600,000 of an estimated 4 million Australian guns have been surrendered to authorities and destroyed.
"Since 1921, all lawfully-owned handguns in Great Britain are registered with the government, so handgun owners have little choice but to surrender their guns in exchange for payment according to government schedule...The handgun ban by no means has satiated the anti-gun appetite in Great Britain."
Even in the United States, registration has been used to outlaw and confiscate firearms. In New York City, a registration system enacted in 1967 for long guns, was used in the early 1990s to confiscate lawfully owned semiautomatic rifles and shotguns. (Same source as previous paragraph) The New York City Council banned firearms that had been classified by the city as "assault weapons." This was done despite the testimony of Police Commissioner Lee Brown that no registered "assault weapon" had been used in a violent crime in the city. The 2,340 New Yorkers who had registered their firearms were notified that these firearms had to be surrendered, rendered inoperable, or taken out of the city.
More recently, California revoked a grace period for the registration of certain rifles (SKS Sporters) and declared that any such weapons registered during that period were illegal. (California Penal Code, Chapter 2.3, Roberti-Ross Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989 section 12281(f) ) In addition, California has prohibited certain semi-automatic long-rifles and pistols. Those guns currently owned, must be registered, and upon the death of the owner, either surrendered or moved out of state.
Citing a recent Gallup poll which shows support for gun control at an all-time low, the Times editorial worries that "even the will of the people" will not prevent the Democrats from making a serious grab for the guns of responsible, law-abiding, firearms owners.