Some residents of Morton Grove, which recently repealed its handgun ban, are now calling for gun registration requirements. I’ve also heard other people tout gun registration as some sort of cure to the actions of criminals. Allow me to explain why gun registration bears no relationship to crime prevention, and is instead a wrongful infringement of the 2nd Amendment individual right to keep and bear arms for self defense:
Ineffectiveness: Criminals don’t register their guns
A criminal who is prohibited by law from having a gun certainly won’t register their illegally purchased gun, since doing so would land them in jail. Nor would a person who is preparing to commit a crime register a gun, as doing so might place them under increased scrutiny by the police, either before or after the fact. Furthermore, many current or former criminals simply have a fear of the police and government, and won’t go to the police station or city hall to register their dogs, let alone a gun. In short, the people who will commit crimes with guns are not going to register their guns.
Ineffectiveness: Even many non-violent citizens don’t register their guns
Some of my friends have told me than I’m excessively law abiding, and they are probably right. I signal every turn in my car, register my (exclusively indoor) pets at village hall as the law requires, and strictly adhere to the laws as I understand them. Aside from speeding on the interstate highways, I don’t believe I violate the law. Perhaps thats why I was so surprised to learn that a great many otherwise law abiding people have guns that they don’t register. Some of these people don’t register their guns because they don’t wish to pay the $35 to $50 per year fee that places like Chicago charges for rifles/shotguns, and feel they shouldn’t have to pay a fee to exercise a constitutional right. Others don’t register because they are afraid to have their name in a police database, that they fear will be abused at some later date. Still others (quite reasonably) fear that gun registration is just the first step to gun confiscation. Other people simply don’t register for reasons they can’t seem to articulate, which may include a simple lack of motivation to do so. Each of these people who I am referring to are non-violent individuals who have owned guns for longer than I have been alive.
Unconstitutional: Gun registration is merely method of whittling away at the right to gun ownership
Anti gun rights lobbyists and politicians who support gun control know that as it becomes more difficult to exercise a right, fewer and fewer people will choose to exercise that right. This can be seen throughout history: To deter black people voting, many states required that a poll tax be paid, which imposed hardship on those poorer voters and kept many of them at home. Other states required that a literacy test be passed, which also made voting more difficult and discouraged participation in the political process. Similarly, gun registration requirements are just another way to make gun ownership more difficult, so as to reduce the number of people who will own guns.
Perhaps an example of the process one must undergo to lawfully own a gun in the District of Columbia will make the point clearer: A prospective gun owner must submit a set of fingerprints, pass a vision check, pass (another) background check, allow the gun to be ballistically fingerprinted, pass a written exam, provide proof of residency, and pay a fee. The (currently unregistered and therefore illegal) gun must also be brought in person; a seeming violation of the law that will scare many people away from registering.
Nor do cities make it easy to register. Chicago, which allows parking tickets to be paid online, advertises extensively about low income housing on its trains, and plasters the media with gun buy-back program ads, makes finding gun registration information quite difficult. The form that needs to be filled out is something I still can’t find online, and it must be submitted in person at a police station. I’ve been told by Chicago gun owners that the employees processing the form have denied registration on a seemingly arbitrary basis, and that the process is about as difficult as it can be.
Gun ownership is a constitutional right. While it is true that all constitutional rights are subject to reasonable restrictions, the Supreme Court has made clear over and over again that there must be a compelling reason for the restriction, and the restriction must be narrowly tailored to avoid interfering with the right more than is absolutely necessary. It is not acceptable to require a citizen to register with the government before they exercise the right to free speech, despite the harm that can be caused by words. Nor would the constitution tolerate a “religious permit” requirement, even know religion can be twisted into a deadly thing. The voting prerequisites that were used to keep African Americans voting were also struck down by courts. So too should gun registration requirements, given their virtually non-existent relationship to crime prevention, coupled with the onerous burden they place upon the right of law abiding citizens to keep and bear arms for self defense.