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The Catastrophic Consequences Of Gun Registration

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Handguns in Australia had been registered since the 1930s, but most Australian states had only imposed long gun registration in the two decades preceding the confiscation. Civil liberties activists who raised concerns that registration lists could be used for confiscation were sneered at as paranoid extremists.

Some of the people who had enacted gun registration in England and Australia may have had no intention of confiscating firearms, and may even have opposed confiscation. They may have rationalized that even if registration might not do much good, it couldn’t do any harm.  They were absolutely wrong.

The catastrophic dangers of gun registration were demonstrated in Europe in the mid-20th century. There, gun registration laws had been enacted by democratic governments, such as the Weimar Republic in Germany, or the Third Republic in France.

The lists fell into the hands of the Nazis, first in Germany and then in all the countries they conquered. In Germany, guns were confiscated from the Jews and from anyone else who was not considered to be an utterly obedient servant of the regime. In the Nazi-occupied countries, guns were confiscated from everyone. If a family could not produce and immediately surrender a firearm that had once been registered to someone in the family, the entire family would be executed on the spot.

In the Soviet Union, and then in the Eastern European countries that the Soviets took over following World War II, gun registration lists were likewise used for confiscation. Hitler and Stalin, like every dictator who perpetrated genocide during the 20th century, assiduously confiscated guns before starting the genocide.

Registration. Confiscation. Extinction.

Each step makes the next step much easier.

The American people were well aware of this danger on the eve of World War II. So in 1941, when Congress passed the Property Requisition Act to allow the federal government to seize property that might be needed for the national defense, Congress specifically forbade the federal government from using this act to seize or register guns.

In 1986, the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act, the NRA flagship bill that forbids the creation of a federal registry of guns or gun owners, became law. Likewise, when Congress in 1993 set up the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, it required that once a check was completed, the record of an approved sale must be destroyed.

Like President Obama, President Lyndon Johnson used an atrocious crime (the assassination of Sen. Robert Kennedy by an anti-Israel extremist) to push national gun registration. Congress rejected the idea. Instead, the Gun Control Act of 1968 requires firearm manufacturers, wholesalers and retail dealers to keep written records of sales. However, those records are decentralized, and are not consolidated into a national database. This reduces (but does not eliminate) the risk that those records could be used for gun confiscation.

We know that gun registration does not work. The largest, most detailed comparative study of the effects of various firearm laws was conducted by Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck, published in his book Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America. That book was awarded the highest honor by the American Society of Criminology: the Michael J. Hindelang book award “for the greatest contribution to criminology in a three-year period.” The Kleck study examined many years of crime data from the 75 largest cities in the U.S. The study controlled for numerous variables such as poverty, race, arrest rates and so on. Kleck’s study found no crime-reductive benefits from gun registration.

New Zealand’s Arms Act of 1983, enacted at the request of the police, abolished the registration of rifles and shotguns. Rifle registration had been the law since 1920 and shotgun registration since 1968. The New Zealand police explained that long gun registration was expensive and impractical, and that the money could be better spent on other police work. The New Zealand police pointed out that database management is an enormously difficult and expensive task, that the long gun registration database was a mess, and that it yielded virtually nothing of value to the police.

Although some gun control advocates began pushing in 1997 to revive the registry, since, supposedly, computers would make it work this time. The plan was rejected after several years of extensive debate
and analysis.

One reason that New Zealand continues to reject gun registration was the fiasco in Canada. There, long gun registration was enacted in 1995 and repealed in 2012. The registry literally cost over 100 times more than expected. The more than $2 billion that was wasted on the registry could have been spent on putting police on the streets (rather than shuffling paperwork). Or it could have upgraded forensics laboratories. Or it could have paid for social worker outreach to potentially violent people.

Allan Rock, the justice minister for the Liberal government that imposed registration, claimed that universal firearm registration would reduce criminal violence, total suicides and domestic abuse. He spoke forcefully against the use of firearms for self-defense, and said that the severe gun laws would distinguish Canada from the United States. Put another way, Rock was saying that his gun registry was the opposite of the Second Amendment.

The pretext for the Canadian registry was that a man had attacked a college and killed several people (because, of course, Canadians are not allowed to carry handguns for protection). The killer had actually used registered guns, but that fact was irrelevant to Canada’s gun prohibitionists.

Already, by executive fiat, Obama has unilaterally imposed federal registration on anyone who buys two or more semi-automatic rifles within a one-week period. Currently, Obama’s registration system applies in the four Southwest border states, but Bloomberg has been urging Obama to impose the registration nationwide. Never mind that a federal statute specifically forbids this registration—so far, the courts have let Obama get away with it.

When Obama and Bloomberg talk about “expanding background checks,” read the fine print of the actual bill. Every bill touted by Bloomberg and sponsored by anti-gun zealots such as Sen. Charles Schumer that carries the label of “background checks” has, in fact, been a bill that includes extensive gun registration.

When the NRA said “never again” about Newtown, it was serious. Real security measures would ensure that never again, as in Newtown, will a sociopath have 20 minutes to murder schoolchildren before the police arrive.

The gun-ban lobbies, their political allies and their media enablers looked at Newtown and saw the opportunity for which they had been waiting. The murdered children and their teachers have been turned into the political pretext for gun registration.

Rather cynical, isn’t it?

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