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by Alan Korwin

Only one thing is overlooked in the common sense proposals to register guns, so here it is. How exactly would writing down my name, or your name, help arrest criminals or make you safer? Although at first blush, gun listing has a sort of tantalizing appeal, on reflection you have to wonder whether gun lists would be an instrument of crime control at all.

The unfortunate answer is that, no matter how good it feels when the words first pass your ears, registering honest gun owners doesn't stop criminals, and in fact focuses in exactly the opposite direction. It is an allocation of resources that has no chance of achieving its goal, if that goal is the reduction of crime.

1. Registering 70 million American households is extremely expensive.

Do you know what it takes to run a database that big? You need 19,000 changes daily, just to keep up with people who move every ten years. Floor after floor of cubicle after cubicle for employees with permanent jobs, payroll, parking and dry cleaning bills. It's a federal jobs program all by itself, all in the common sense -- but deceptive name -- of stopping crime. How many criminals do you figure will register when all is said and done? That's right, none, and the planners know that. All that money and time, invested on tracking the innocent.

2. Americans who fail to register would become felons without committing a crime.

Under registration, activity that is a common practice and has been perfectly legal since inception makes you a felon. Think about that. Possession of private property would subject you to felony arrest, if the property isn't on the government's master list. Boy, that doesn't sound like the American way. No other evil is needed, there is no victim and no inherent criminal act takes place.

3. Registration, if enacted, will create an underground market for unregistered guns bigger than the drug trade.

How many times must an elite forbid what the public wants, before learning the unintended consequences of outlawing liberties? People get what they want either way, it's just a question of how much crime the government itself forces to accompany it. With respect to guns, the last thing you want to encourage is the creative import programs and price supports that drug dealers enjoy, for gun runners.

4. People have said to me, "But Alan, if all guns were registered and there was a crime, then you could tell."

Tell what? If your neighbor is shot, that's not probable cause to search everyone with a matching caliber in a ten-block radius. The evidence needed to conclusively link a person to a crime has no connection at all to a registration plan -- police aren't waiting for official lists so they can start catching murderers. Gun registration schemes lack a crime prevention component.

5. You don't really think authorities would use gun registration lists to confiscate weapons from people, do you?

Despite current examples of exactly that in New York and California, and global history for the past century, this couldn't really happen, do you think? Who would even support such a thing in a country like America, with its Bill of Rights? The guarantees against confiscating property, unwarranted seizures and the right to keep and bear arms would surely forestall any such abuse of power.

And what about the so-called First Amendment test? If it's OK for arms it must pass muster for words too. Why would an honest writer object to being on the government list of approved writers? Why indeed.

Pile logic on logic, some people just feel the government should register everything, just to keep control. When government has that much control, you no longer possess your liberties. You're living where government lists define who can do what, and where people control trumps crime control -- the gun registration model precisely.

I might favor registration if the system would include criminals. In fact, I'd favor testing the system on them first. But the U.S. Supreme Court, in a widely known case (Haynes v. U.S., 1968), has already determined that a felon who has a gun cannot be compelled to complete such forms, because it violates the Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination. That's right, registration -- not in your case of course but in the case of a criminal -- is a self-indictment of a crime, and is therefore prohibited.

Gun listing is a feel-good deception that passes unquestioned by the media, engorges the federal bureaucracy, and undercuts the linchpins of American freedoms. It has no more place in a free society than a government authorized list of words, and should be rejected outright. Elected officials who promote such a scheme are opposing the very Constitution they take an oath to preserve, protect and defend, and deserve to be removed from office.


Alan Korwin
Author Gun Laws of America

Alan Korwin is the author of seven best-selling books on gun law, including Gun Laws of America, the unabridged guide to federal gun law. He can be reached at