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Why havenít Californians registered all their assault weapons?

by David Peltz

As printed on pages 1 and 4 of "Viewpoint"
Los Angeles Daily News, Sunday, March 4, 2001
Submitted for publication here by the author


In "Harassment by Law" (Viewpoint, Sunday, January 30, 2000) I described problems Californians faced in attempting to comply with the stateís new "assault weapon" registration law. AB-23 dictated registration on or before December 31, 2000.

California Governor Gray Davis holds pieces of an "assault rifle" prior to signing a gun ban that should get him tried and convicted for treason. --KABA

Now we learn that out of Californiaís population of 35 million people, only 27,000 "assault weapons" have been registered, even though it is estimated that there are 500,000 to 1 million legally owned assault weapons in California. What caused this massive amount of non-compliance?

On various firearms-related forums on the Internet I learned that many Californians opted to legally ship their assault weapons out of state.

A number of others legally removed certain "offending parts" -- such as pistol grips and flash-hiders -- from their "assault weapons" to reduce them to a state which doesnít require them be registered. The fact that these stripped firearms are still fully functional is proof positive that in addition to being unclear, the assault weapon definitions contained in AB-23 are totally meaningless.

Many law-abiding Californians say they have not registered as an act of civil disobedience -- perhaps the largest such act in U.S. history. They strongly believe that firearms registration is a serious violation of their civil rights and will eventually lead to them losing their firearms.

They point to histories of other locales including New York City, Australia, England and pre-WW II Germany where innocent weapon registration eventually led to wholesale or complete weapon confiscation.

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." --George Santayana

These people are not right-wing extremists, but, they strongly feel Californiaís assault weapon registration crosses the line between maintaining oneís individual God-given rights as dictated by the U.S. Constitution, and giving them up.

They opine that government has no more of a right to dictate which arms they can own for self-defense (or any other legal firearm activity) than it would in selecting which churches they can attend, or which topics they can discuss when writing a newspaper editorial.

And, they say that if you truly examine the facts, you will find that gun control laws just donít work to reduce crime or violence.

For example, if gun control did work, we would not have just seen a shooting outside the White House. Washington DC has the strictest gun control laws in the country. They constitute a total gun ban -- you canít own or even possess any firearm in Washington DC.

Despite that annoying little detail, an armed man did indeed just get arrested outside the White House after allegedly shooting at it.

Every time there is a school or workplace shooting someplace, weíre falsely told that more gun control laws are needed. This in spite of the fact that California, with its very harsh gun control laws, leads the nation in such events.

CNN and The Associated Press have stated that six of the last 27 school or workplace shootings happened in California. By contrast, absolutely none have occurred in 20 of the 32 states with "shall issue" carry concealed weapon permits and no assault weapons laws.

Californiaís assault weapon law was passed as the result of a schoolyard shooting in Stockton. Gun-owners felt it was nothing more than a feel-good, knee-jerk reaction, and the CNN/AP numbers have proved them correct.

No fewer than 10 of those 27 school and workplace shootings ended with the suicide death of the shooter. Two more ended with suicide-by-cop. Can sanity be legislated? No, it cannot!

Our legislators seem to have forgotten that each and every thing a criminal can do with a firearm (such as merely possessing it, or committing homicide, assault, robbery or kidnapping, etc.), is already as illegal as these crimes can be, without benefit of any of the nationís 30,000 gun-control laws. What we really need instead is criminal control.

Lastly, others complain they couldnít or didnít register because the law is unclear or the registration procedure was impossible to follow.

When the AB-23 assault-weapon registration went into effect, practically no information was available regarding how to comply with it by December 31, 2000. Public hearings were held. The Department of Justice "clarified" the compliance rules, over and over again.

But, many questions still remained unanswered, including which firearms needed to be registered. As late as October, the DOJ released a document on the Internet which added new ones to the list.

Due to the constant changes, my wife and I delayed sending in our own registrations until December.

We needed two forms but only had one at the time. We went to place after place, but other than "...the very last (form) we have..." from LAPD in the West Valley, all through December, no registration forms were available anywhere in the San Fernando Valley. Absolutely none.

Finally, on December 28, three short days before the deadline, DOJ posted (on the Internet) a version of the otherwise unobtainable form.

You could fill it in and send it to DOJ, but you still had to somehow obtain and submit a "real" form within 14 calendar days.

If you were lucky enough to find a form, you faced the next hurdle -- fingerprinting. LAPD doesnít do it anymore. We eventually found someone with a fingerprinting kit.

The year and a half of change, uncertainty, missing information and unobtainable forms are, in part, why so few law-abiding Californians succeeded in running the DOJ assault-weapon registration gauntlet. To many, it was impossible to comply.

To outside observers, the California assault weapons registration system has been funnier than a Mel Brooks movie. I donít think the unnecessary creation of upwards of a million new criminals (because of nonregistration of weapons) is at all humorous -- itís sad, tragic and disgraceful.

My wife and I complied. But, after waiting for two months, we still havenít received any proof of registration. We still canít use our "registered" firearm without fear of arrest and confiscation. If this isnít harassment by law, what is it?

Related Reading -- Registration


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In the end, more than freedom, they wanted security. They wanted a comfortable life, and they lost it all ó security, comfort, and freedom. When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society but for society to give to them, when the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility then Athens ceased to be free and was never free again. ó EDWARD GIBBON [On ancient Athens]

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