reader question: what’s wrong with gun registration?

Commenter “Jarin” has a question regarding gun registration which I answered in the comments thread, but which deserves a blog post response.

Jarin asks:

I don’t understand what the fuss is about registration… (no, really, I don’t get it, someone please explain it). Why should we not have registration for something as easily dangerous as guns? Why should firearms have less regulation than automobiles? Seriously, look at the paperwork around owning and operating a car. And yet, everyone does it. Why not treat firearms similarly?

First of all, registration does not do anything to prevent crime. Don’t believe it? Let me write down the serial number of my gun on these two pieces of paper and hand you one of them. What crime exactly are you going to prevent with that?

Second, registration is pretty much good for nothing except preparatory groundwork for confiscation. (Look at NY for a current-day example.) Canada’s expensive gun registration did not help solve a single crime but carried a $60 million price tag. That’s a lot of money that could have gone to stuff that actually fights crime. Lots of gun owners in this country get justifiably nervous at the idea of a registry of firearms when historically such a registry has only ever served to provide the authorities with a list of addresses for confiscating firearms.

Third, firearms do not have “less regulation than automobiles”. If they did, I’d be able to walk into any gun store and walk out with any gun I want, without having to show anything but a means to pay. I could own whatever I wanted on my own property without license or insurance (you only need those for a car if you plan on operating it on public roads.) My carry license would be valid in all fifty states and most countries abroad.

I wish they’d treat firearms like cars when it comes to regulation. If cars were regulated like guns, you’d need to pass a federal background check for each and every dealer purchase, your driver’s license would only be good in your own state unless some other state had explicitly agreed to reciprocity, and things like the capacity of your gas tank, the spoiler on your trunk lid, or the mode of shifting could be legal in one state but a five-year mandatory felony prison term in a neighboring state.

26 thoughts on “reader question: what’s wrong with gun registration?

  1. Another thing they don’t seem to get. There is no place in the Constitution that says you have the right to own a car. Cars, the licence plates and drivers licences are a privilege. .

    • It’s amazing how many people are repeating this nonsense. Why driving a car is a privilege? How is it different from other means of transportation?

      • Arguably – Constitutionally – any specific form of transportation is “a privilege”, in that there’s no Natural or Enumerated right to that specific form.

        I think it’s not a very effective argument, but it’s not invalid on its face; Constitutionally the States can do all kinds of ridiculous and stupid things, like, say, “ban motorcycles” (to take one that I’m sure some Nanny Safety Patrol/Save Us From Healthcare Costs bastard has suggested).

        (The Ninth and Tenth amendments reasonably prohibit the Federal government from interfering too much with such things, but – contra Kerry – the police power of the States is far broader, constitutionally.

        The Constitution’s purpose was to protect us from the Federal government, not from our States, at least originally.

        And while the Ninth Amendment says there are other rights than those listed, it naturally cannot say what they are, so whether or not “driving” is one or is not one is necessarily debatable in that context.

        My general assumption is that the States should butt out, but that’s not a Constitutionally mandated position.)

        • Arguably – Constitutionally – any specific type of arms is “a privilege”, in that there’s no Natural or Enumerated right to that specific type…

          • Not really — you see, there is a particular enumerated protection that says that the people’s right to keep and bear “arms” shall not be infringed, not “Protestants may have Arms for their Defence suitable to their Conditions, and as allowed by Law”. *

            In legal language, when you make an INCLUSIVE statement, it covers the whole group — whereas is you provide exclusions to the general statement, that establishes that every NOT excluded is covered. The Second Amendment does not exclude ANY arms.

            * The second, BTW, you might recognize if you’ve actually read any Constitutional law and history. . . it was basically a “right” for favored members of the population to have arms, IF they were arms the government thought appropriate for THAT person at THAT time. In other words, the “reasonable gun control” point of view. By limiting it to arms “suitable to their Conditions, and as allowed by Law”, Parliament retained the authority to impose gun controls.

      • Because you are OPERATING or PARKING (storing) it on public roads. Other than in situations of dire necessity (such as a life or death situation where the only solution to get help is to run a non-road-legal vehicle on a public street without a license. Note you can buy, own, operate, and even transport a vehicle without any state involvement on private land. You can even transport a non-registered, non-licensed, non-road-legal vehicle on a public road, so long as the transport being used complies with the relevant laws, including operator permits.

        Your right to travel is a protected right. But your use of a particular form of transport ON PUBLIC PROPERTY may be limited.

        The analogous situation with firearms is FIRING them (OPERATING, not TRANSPORTING) or storing them on public property, except in cases of dire necessity. Yup, the government can freely set limits and restrictions on guns you want to shoot on public property — whether banning the firing of guns in the street, to requiring hunter licenses and gun registration (if you want to hunt on a military base, which civilians can on many bases, you have to register the gun with the Provost) to hunt public lands, to limiting the types of guns and/or ammo that can lawfully be used on a public firing range or while hunting on public land, etc. (Additionally, as hunting is a SPORT, the government has an easily arguable claim of authority to limit the types of guns and ammo used for HUNTING, as wildlife not actually owned by a particular person is generally considered a public resource.)

    • “There is no place in the Constitution that says you have the right to own a car.” You have it backwards. Read the Ninth Amendment. That’s the one that reminds us that, in order for government to do ANYTHING, that power must be explicitly delegated in the Constitution. What must be specified in the Constitution is what THE GOVERNMENT is permitted to do. THAT is the exhaustive list. We have allowed ourselves to fall into exactly the trap that was feared by the opponents of the Bill of Rights: That since the Constitution was written to be an exhaustive list of powers delegated to the government, any written list of EXAMPLES of protected rights would come to be viewed as an EXHAUSTIVE list. The most fundamental founding precept of this country is that sovereignty resides originally and inherently in the individual; we grouped together and specified a few activities that are best and most effectively performed collectively, and we appointed (hired) a “government” to do those things for us. We told it exactly what it should be doing; it’s not supposed to be doing anything else, or even stretching the definition of what it should do to somehow authorize other activities. So, “There’s no place in the Constitution where it says…” is NOT an indication that the right does not exist; on the contrary, it’s an indication that government’s POWER IN THAT AREA DOES NOT EXIST.
      In order to fully understand this, you must understand several underlying factors. First, the Declaration of Independence was a statement of beliefs about how a country ought to be; a set of values and ideals, as it were. The Constitution was written to explain how we will set up a government to protect those ideals and operate under them. And those fundamental values are the ones the authors called out to be self-evident: “…that all men are created equal…” (which phrasing in turn implies that they held the fact that all men are CREATED to also be self-evident, which in turn requires that the existence of that Creator is also held to be self-evident) “…and that they are endowed by their CREATOR… (which in turn shows further that they held that the existence of that Creator to also be self-evident, and that the Creator–NOT the Constitution–is the source of individual rights) “…with certain unalienable rights…” (the rights are endowed, not by the Constitution, but by the Creator; the Constitution merely declares that government is to respect them and hold them inviolate) “…and that among these…” (among these tells us again that it’s a short list of examples which exist in a larger universe of other rights not specifically listed) “…are life…” (and the fact that life is a right implies that the ability to preserve, defend, and protect it is also a right) “…liberty…” (it is not stated, but implied by the fact that each individual has EQUAL status, that any person’s liberty is constrained to the extent that he may not avoidably harm another) “…and the pursuit of Happiness.” (Note that they declared the PURSUIT to be a right–not Happiness itself.) “That TO SECURE THESE RIGHTS governments are instituted among men…” (the function of government is NOT to RULE, but to protect and preserve [secure] individual rights.) “…deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…” (CONSENT–NOT from the exercise of superior force and coercion). That’s what the Constitution does–it institutes a government to secure the referenced individual rights. Government exists to protect me from you, you from me, and both of us from outside threats, and to create and sustain an environment in which we can safely and peaceable go about the conduct of our activities in pursuit of that ever-elusive Happiness. No less, and absolutely no more.

    • Nonsense. I have every right to move my property down a public road.

      Allowing states to regulate cars was a big mistake. Like allowing the federal government to regulate television.

  2. I should point out that last I heard the Canadian gun registry stopped reporting on cost at the $2 billion mark, not a measly $60 million.

    And at no point in its lifespan was it accurate or up to date.

    • “Eowyn on May 3, 2013 at 4:56 pm said:

      I should point out that last I heard the Canadian gun registry stopped reporting on cost at the $2 billion mark, ”

      Yup, I’ll confirm that boondoggle. Also it made a large number of legitimate, honest, Canadian gun owners into criminals for not registering.

      Always a sign of a bad law, it makes normally law abiding people into criminals.

  3. One suspects that criminals are orders of magnitude more concerned with simple forensics than registration since no criminal with any sense is going to use a gun that can be readily traced to them.

    The paradox of registration is that anyone willing to subject themselves to that kind of scrutiny represents about the lowest possible risk to society. You are probably better off worrying about dirty cops at that point than above-board gun owners.

  4. What’s wrong with firearm registration?

    Exactly the same thing that’s wrong with making Jews wear special patches on their clothes.

    • Yes, but make sure you attribute it to “Maj. Caudill, USMC (Ret.)”. 😉

  5. $60 million is the price tag that the Canadian government put forward as how little it would cost to run the thing. $2 billion is the actual price tag. Notice how government projected cost and reality are couple of order of magnitude off?

  6. Were i live gun owners a for the most part a criminal and I find Americans opinions on gun control a form of insanity it is logic that no legal guns few guns in criminal hands

    • In America – where conservative estimates suggest >200 million firearms in private hands – an outright ban on ownership would be the proverbial “day late and dollar short.” Ignoring the right to bear arms in the Constitution, there are simply too many and records too unreliable to track down enough make the measure effective. There is also the rarely-acknowledged fact that widespread firearms ownership factors into how criminals think and behave – to the point that breaking into a house that might be occupied is strongly avoided.

    • And also where you live, Mr. Møllegaard, people had to give themselves up to German occupation without resistance. Regardless of what legal gun ownership does to the crime rate (and there’s serious sociological research to say it lowers it, though I grant that experts don’t all agree), it makes a population difficult to tyrannize. Historically we prize that.

    • Quite very simply your country was not based on documents saying every citizen has the right to keep and bear arms as well as ‘my stuff is my stuff and neither it, nor I, belong to anyone else’.

      Through much of Europe the disarming of the populace has been going on since before there was a United States. We were quite literally founded by pioneers who said ‘No you cant take these away from us. These are valuable tools for us to have, and they belong to us. Not everything and everyone here BELONGS to you to take and or discard at whim. That may work back home but not on our turf.”

      The first shots of the American Revolution happened when British officials sent troops to take the arms of the towns of Concord and Lexington. It was not the first such raid so the townsfolk knew what was going to happen and organized. To the crown there was no ‘private property’ that they could not take. This was what started our War of Independence. We are taught these lessons (mostly watered down these days compared to 30 years ago I hear) in school history classes. It is quite literally an ingrained culture from the birth of our country.

      So it is not surprising you do NOT understand it. However as an exercise in understanding try to view it through those parameters and then see if you can understand a little bit of it.

      There are many cultural things from around the world I don’t ‘get’ but I am aware of. Many I can at least kind of think I understand some of the WHY behind them; but I know I can’t fully GET it from afar (and I may or may not if I live among those cultures for an extended time). Marko coming from a European country and now having been a US citizen for quite some time did GET this thing, others do not no matter how long they are here. Some never do even if they are born and raised here (that is a whole nother blog post in my head I need to write soon).

      • There are many cultural things from around the world I don’t ‘get’ but I am aware of.

        Lutefisk, to name one relevant to the poster. 😉

    • You mean like Great Britain, which has had a de facto elimination on legal guns, aside from EXTREMELY limited numbers of hunting and sporting weapons, pretty much since the end of WWII, has such a problem with illegal guns in criminal hands?

      You know, Great Britain, that island nation?

  7. Gun registration like so many other “sensible” restrictions are usually just thinly veiled “gotcha laws” as Michael Bane calls them.

    If doing what you have always done suddenly becomes illegal and a law is written to make it hard to be in compliance with then the Anti-Gun nuts think it will lead to fewer people either A) bothering with he whole mess or B) felons and now illegal to own guns. The devil is in the details.

    Gun confiscations and seizures will never happen in the US like other parts of the world. It will instead be regulating and restricting by increments until exercising your Second Amendment rights becomes theoretically possible but practical impossible. This has been stated by those against private arms in the past.

    And of course as stated even our kindly Northern Neighbors had to pull the plug on a $2 Billion program that was using up more department resources than any other royal police responisibility and not yielding any crime reduction.

  8. There is another argument against registration:
    Registration creates a database, and databases, whether of the paper or the electronic kind, can be stolen, hacked and used against you. Not only by the government but also by other criminals.