2008 "SHOT" Show. Photo: Lori D. Roets, LazyRPhotography
Among comments to my last piece, “Lautenberg gun show bill as bad as expected,” several were from well-meaning gun owners who honestly questioned why S. 843 – ostensibly submitted to close the “gun show loophole” – is really so bad.
A typical and knowledgeable comment went like this:
“I am a very pro-gun person. I own a couple of rifles and I will never support any [‘assault weapon’ ban]. I don't even support the ‘86 [McClure-Volkmer] automatic ban. But background checks should be required for any and every sale. If that means transferring it at the dealer, then fine.
"But any kind of government-kept record of who owns what I am strongly opposed to. Make the bill less ridiculous and get rid of all of the registration clauses and I will not oppose it.”
While reasonable and well-intentioned, the argument contains a presumption which, unfortunately, rarely pertains in politics: It presumes the intentions of the bill are honest. Below are the main three reasons why legislation purporting to require “background checks” is unacceptable.
NOTHING IN THE POLITICAL PROCESS IS HONEST
After 15+ years of political action, I say with certainty that subterfuge is the rule rather than the exception: I have seen politicians claim undying support for a bill … just before firing an arrow through its heart. I have sat in the chamber as a legislator killed a bill by offering a “poison pill” amendment while assuring everyone: “This amendment is intended to make a good bill better.” I’ve been assured by a subcommittee chairman that a bill I opposed would never get a hearing, minutes before being told by the chairman of the full committee that it would be heard on Thursday.
In teaching legislative tactics seminars, I tell students: “Lest you think the political process is designed to exclude you, let me assure you that it is.” With few exceptions, politicians are weasels, and the few legislators with character I’ve met will never advance to higher office precisely because they are trustworthy.
Lessons of the Brady Act: In 1993, we were assured by Handgun Control, Inc. and the NRA alike that the National Instant Check System (NICS) would never be used to register guns. NICS transaction records, we were assured, were required to be expunged. Unfortunately, the fine print didn’t say when they had to be expunged, and the Clinton administration immediately instructed the FBI to retain them indefinitely, creating a de facto gun registration system in violation of federal law. Although the Bush administration ordered transaction records expunged in 24 hours, Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand have already proposed again retaining them.
Conclusions: You cannot create a “background check” system that manipulative politicians can’t turn into a gun registration system, as they already have. The goal of “gun show” legislation, in truth, is to not only decimate the gun culture which reinforces itself via gun shows, but to register private gun sales – in the case of S. 843 – with both the Attorney General and the FBI.
“Perhaps,” you say, “but what’s wrong with registering guns? It isn’t as though somebody is taking them away from you.”
REGISTRATION: PRELUDE TO CONFISCATION
No, this is not “black helicopters are after my guns” paranoia, nor is it a history of other countries like Britain, which rounded up previously registered guns after the Dunblane massacre. And I certainly won’t feed “that can’t happen here” fantasies by describing Nazi gun laws.
Nope. These are the “100% made in America” lessons of California and New York.
Self-evident is the fact that you can’t confiscate what you can’t find. Lest you think that is not the agenda of at least some Democrats, let me remind you of Sen. Diane Feinstein’s 1994 remarks to “60 minutes”:
"If I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States for an outright ban, picking up every one of them -- Mr. and Mrs. America, turn them all in -- I would have done it."
California & “Roberti-Roos”
Ever the leader in leftism, California passed the “Roberti-Roos Assault Weapon Control Act of 1989,” ostensibly in response to massacres in 1959 in San Ysidro, and in Stockton in 1989. The act banned semi-automatic weapons by name and “grandfathered” weapons registered with the state. In the years (and profuse litigation) that followed, however, California twice required gun owners who had dutifully registered their guns to turn them in, render them inoperable, or demonstrate they had been transferred out of state, all under threat of criminal prosecution, of course.
In 1999, California decided to reinterpret existing law, banning SKS rifles not previously included in the original law, and requiring gun owners to turn them in under threat of prosecution. Reported WorldNetDaily:
“One of the more famous arrestees was James Dingman of Santa Clara for possession of an unregistered SKS rifle with a fixed magazine.”
Even more egregious was California’s decision to expose owners of 2,000 guns registered under the law to criminal prosecution for the crime of actually registering them: Although Roberti-Roos required guns to have been bought by June 1, 1989 and registered with the California Department of Justice by March 30, 1992, Attorney General Dan Lungren extended the registration deadline.
On August 21, 1998, however, the Superior Court in San Francisco decided Lungren lacked the authority to extend the deadline. When Lungren’s successor, Bill Lockyer, later backed away from defending the registration extension, he exposed 1,500 previously law-abiding gun owners to prosecution. Said the Los Angeles Times:
“Putting close to 1,500 gun owners in legal jeopardy, state Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer has decided to drop a court fight defending his predecessor's controversial practice of registering semiautomatic assault weapons declared illegal by a 1989 state law.
“The decision means that the owners of almost 2,000 UZIs, AK-47s, AR-15s and 72 other types of assault weapons will face a fine and imprisonment if they do not turn in their guns, destroy them or take them out of California.
"’If they don't, they will be felons in illegal possession of an assault weapon,’ said Nathan Brankin, Lockyer's spokesman.”
“Yes,” you say, “but that was just a bureaucratic SNAFU. Such a thing could never happen intentionally. Let us now turn to the City of New York …
New York City rifle and shotgun registration
In 1967, the New York City Council passed, and Mayor John V. Lindsay signed, a law requiring New Yorkers to pay a $3 fee and register all rifles and shotguns, including make, model and serial number. Ignoring, for a moment, promises that the fee would never increase (at last report, it was $55), most ironic was the vow by The New York Times that the law “would protect the constitutional rights of owners and buyers.”
In 1991, the city council, at the behest of Mayor David Dinkins, passed Administrative Code, Sec. 10-303.1, banning semi-automatic rifles and shotguns. Shortly thereafter, the NYPD kindly instructed the 2,340 New Yorkers who had complied with the registration law to return sworn statements the guns had been surrendered, rendered inoperable, or transferred elsewhere. NYPD deputy commissioner Jeremy Travis promised “spot checks” to ensure compliance.
“The year after the ban was enacted, a man`s home in Staten Island was raided by the police after he had announced that he would not comply with the city`s ban. He was arrested, and his guns were seized.”
‘GUN SHOW LOOPHOLE’ IS NOT ABOUT GUN SHOWS
Beyond voluminous evidence that criminals don’t get guns from gun shows, Lautenberg and anti-gun politicians know full well that laws governing gun transfers are the same at guns shows as anywhere else. The “loophole” they plan to close is the private transfer of firearms by requiring all such transactions to go through NICS, and their motivation is to register each and every gun and gun owner.
In the exceedingly unlikely event you could produce final legislation not filled with the “gotchas” so adored by anti-gun Democrats, you could not draft a law that I could not eventually convert to a registration scheme. And as history has repeatedly demonstrated – not only in autocracies and foreign nations but in the United States – registration is the necessary prelude to confiscation.
I leave you with philosopher George Santayana’s adage, as true as it is trite: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Check out other Gun Rights Examiners:
- Atlanta: Restaurant with anti-gun policy saved by a gun
- Austin: Questions persist about Paul Helmke, Brady Campaign
- Boston: Laws, Lies, Lautenberg and Linsky - Part II
- Charlotte: UPDATE: Lautenberg gun show bill as bad as expected
- Cleveland: Biding their time on gun control
- DC: More guns, less pirates
- Denver: An insight about the liberal mind
- Los Angeles: Liberal Anger, Part II
- Milwaukee: Jews, self defense and guns
- Minneapolis: Milwaukee Police Chief Flynn is bordering on irresponsible
- National: Hampton University shooting highlights 'effective' gun policy
- Seattle: We’re just full of good news today, Sunday, April 26
- St. Louis: Missouri State Rep. Rick Stream can't make up his mind about 'gun free zones'
- Wisconsin: Unrestricted carry of guns may be coming to Wisconsin soon