WASHINGTON, May 19, 2014 — The Firearms Owner Protection Act of 1986 prohibits the maintenance of a government-held firearms registry in the United States. The same legislation which imposed the NICS background check requirement and enacted the restrictions on “machine guns” in the United States also blocks the government’s ability to collect firearms information on law-abiding citizens.
The idea behind blocking a gun registry is simple enough to understand, but a bitter pill for progressives to swallow. The prevailing argument is that government-run gun registries lead eventually to confiscation. In addition, they only track weapons owned by those who do not intend to commit crimes with them, and so registration seems to be just another form of government control. Gun registries in Canada had little impact on crime rates, and registries in the U.K. and Australia led to confiscation without stopping rising violent crime rates.
Despite that, Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., wants to eliminate the prohibition on gun registries and grant the ATF greater authority to collect information. H.R. 1728, the “Enforce Existing Gun Laws Act” was introduced to Congress by Rangel in April, and has recently gained support among Democrats.
The bill, titled the “Enforce Existing Gun Laws Act,” does anything but. It strips away restrictions placed on the FBI and ATF in creating and maintaining a national registry. There are of course already lists of stolen guns which have been used in crimes, and the records of “Out of Business” FFL holders which are supposed to be sent to the government for “safe keeping.” The act not only removes these restrictions, but it also asks for money to be able to pay for administrators and collectors to maintain the registry.
So far, 57 Democrats and one Republican have cosponsored this legislation. If passed, it would remove a vital protection American gun owners have against potential confiscation. Proponents of the bill will scoff at the notion of the government coming for their guns. They downplay dissenting opinions as paranoid. However, those same concerns probably occurred to gun owners in Australia and the U.K., countries which now have no significant civilian gun ownership.
Rational gun owners know that a gun registry will do nothing to resolve crimes. The registry would be made up of records kept through NICS background checks, which criminals avoid. A gun registry that’s supposed to prevent crime will be defeated by criminals who simply do not use it, hence there must be another reason to create it. The sponsor and cosponsors of this bill know this; should this bill be enacted, it is one step closer to increased government control over the civilian arsenal.
The bill makes some interesting claims. One claim made within the text is that by striking certain provisions of existing law, the government can “use of firearms trace data to draw broad conclusions about firearms-related crime.”
This is noteworthy for several reasons. First, Joe Biden has already made it clear that we need more gun laws because we can’t enforce the ones we have, so it is interesting to know the planned use for this information that can’t lead to any arrests. Second, criminals don’t use the NICS, so it would be a waste of money to track people who do not use guns to commit crimes. Third, it’s a scare tactic meant to give the act legitimacy. Violent crime is going down in the U.S., but the law is crafted to justify violating your rights in order to catch the bad guys who don’t use NICS to begin with.
The bill also does away with the provision mandating that all record checks be destroyed within 24 hours. This is a fundamental requirement of the existing law to safeguard the rights of gun owners against the government. It is a perfect example of legislation that restricts freedom and increases government control being compounded by new legislation, building further restrictions off of previous ones.
The NICS was an interesting idea, and its proponents had to gain support from gun rights activists by agreeing to the destruction of gun records. They may have intended that once the law was on the books, the restriction would be lifted and records kept. Those who warned of this were probably called paranoid, as well.
But that is exactly what this legislation does.
It has an uphill battle ahead of it. Not only does it challenge existing law, it directly conflicts with two new bills that would cut funding to any program that supports a gun registry, and prohibit the creation of a registry at any level of government from federal down to village management. H.R. 4380 would restrict funding for registries, and S. 2105 would prohibit them altogether.
The problem for gun owners and Republicans is that the bill which seeks to make gun registries legal has more support for it than the two that would prohibit it. Republicans have a majority in the House, and the pro-registry movements should be dead on arrival; the anti-registry proposals should pass the House easily if Congress truly believes in upholding privacy rights. But we should not hold our breath for that to happen.
H.R. 1728 represents the expansion of government intrusion into our privacy and restrictions of our rights that begins with legislation designed to limit our freedoms in the name of security. This bill did not start it, but previous legislation was put into place allowing for the further erosion of our rights under the guise of public safety. This was how the Patriot Act was passed, and NDAA compounded it. Legislation calling for temporary background check records has paved the way to make those records permanent; permanent records lead to a registry. Where registries lead should be self-evident.
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