In the arguments over the nomination of Merrick Garland to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court, the subject of gun registries has taken center stage. Garland joined the majority opinion that held that the Brady Act’s retention of background check records for the purpose of audits was not a de facto registry of who owns what guns. In typically disingenuous fashion, advocates of gun control keep telling us that retaining records of who has bought which guns is not a registry, leaving me to wonder what they would apply that word to.
But the discussion also makes me realize it’s a good time to state precisely what is wrong with a registry. After all, we register cars, and we register to vote. Why not register guns?
I’ll address cars and voting first. As I’ve discussed before, guns and cars are different things, but more than that, the registration of cars is all about raising revenue. Registering your vehicles every year ensures that you pay taxes on those vehicles. A better approach might be a tax on gasoline which would reflect actual usage of roads, saving us the annual tedium of the D.M.V., but that’s something to be worked out at a magazine devoted to cars. The car registry hasn’t been used to prevent legal ownership of motor vehicles, though, and that’s a key point.
Voter registration is to have a list of how many voters live in a particular district and to confirm that the voter is participating in the right election. This is a subject of contention, as well, since the claim is often made that voter ID laws, for example, are designed to suppress participation The right to vote is as important as the right to own and carry firearms, and as supporters of gun rights, we need to show that we are also in support of other rights, if for no other reason than building coalitions to protect all our freedoms.
But gun registries have a number of problems. For one, they don’t solve crimes. Canada’s experience with a long-gun registry illustrates this. After having spent some two billion dollars, the program was found to be ineffective at solving crimes or keeping people safe. The State of Maryland has had a similar experience with its ballistic fingerprint records, finding that in fifteen years, only twenty-six cases were aided by the registry, and in those cases, law enforcement already knew which guns were involved. All of this, of course, is in addition to the major question of how we would register American guns in the first place, considering the hundreds of millions here presently and our porous borders.
What registries do allow is confiscation. The experience in Britain of gun control worsening over time illustrates this. The same is true for Australia. And we’ve seen attempts to do the same thing in New York and California.
And then there’s the more basic question of privacy. This is a concern that goes broader and deeper than just gun rights. Whether we’re talking about the NSA’s spying on our e-mail and telephone calls or the FBI’s desire to have a door opened for them into iPhones, it is abundantly clear that government wants easy access to our personal lives, in spite of and in contradiction to the protection of the Fourth Amendment. A gun registry would simply be yet another example of this.
I’m sure that all of these points are a case of preaching to the choir, but as I was told once, even the choir needs to hear a good sermon now and then. In the battles over gun control, we risk letting some things slip through when confronted with a flurry of demands, and it’s up to us to make sure bad ideas are not converted into laws.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.