I probably should have posted this gun control blog first, as nearly every other gun control proposition depends, at some level, on a federal firearms registry. Once again, I offer absolutely no solutions, only commentary and an explanation of why current proposals would do nothing but make people feel like they were doing something.
What law-abiding citizen wouldn’t want to register their guns? Well, a shit ton, as it turns out. If they don’t register, then we’ll just track them down and force them to comply, or take their guns, or bomb their houses or something, right?
Again, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend we did pass a federal registration law.
Let’s say you have to register all of your guns with the local PD or the gun registering people, or someone anyway by the end of the week. Unless, of course, you don’t want to, then don’t bother. There’s simply no way the unregistered guns could be tracked down. We’d have to trace every single gun through the ATF’s National Tracing Center, as it’s the only agency that traces firearms. If you’re unfamiliar with the process, here’s an example:
Officer Bob discovers a Beretta handgun, model 92, stamped with the serial number xxx666 at a murder scene in Florida. He forwards this information to the NTC and stamps it urgent, meaning the gun was directly involved in a crime. Sandy gets the request for the trace and contacts the manufacturer of the gun.
Beretta says that serial number was sold to Acusport, a distributer in the Midwest. Sandy contacts Acusport and they tell her they sold the gun to a gun shop in Indiana. Sandy faxes a request form to the gun store.
Some poor bastard at the gun store runs the serial number and then locates the original ATF form 4473 among the 20 years worth of forms the store is required to keep. He faxes the original buyer’s information back to the NTC and probably cries in the corner for a little while, wondering why the fuck he never finished college.
Officer Bob is stoked to receive the news that Joe Blow purchased the Beretta in 1998. He’s got the bad guy. Except he soon learns that Joe sold the gun to his Uncle Blow back in 2003. Uncle Blow has since moved to Texas and traded the gun to his meth dealer, who gave it to his father for Father’s Day in 2008.
Meth Guy’s dad then ran away with a stripper from Vegas and his pissed off wife sold the gun to a guy at a yard sale for $40...Because fuck Meth Guy’s dad anyway. She thinks the buyer’s name was Billy, or Joey, or possibly Who the Fuck Cares. No, she didn’t get a receipt. In most states, it's perfectly legal to transfer a firearm this way, unless you're knowingly selling it to a drunk 12 year old or a felon.
Officer Bob promptly begins a weeklong drinking binge and contemplates the reason for his existence.
Now you have to realize that we’d have to do that for every single gun sold or owned in the history of forever. Even if we don’t factor in guns that were brought home from wars, antique guns or the fact that quality record keeping in the firearms industry is a fairly recent requirement, and also assuming that the NTC will have the time, funding and manpower to trace anything other than the more than 344,000 gun they traced in FY2012, tracing every gun in America to the current owners is impossible.