Background Checks, Registries, and the Automobile Comparison

The contents and theme for this post originated in the comments section of a recent posting titled “No One Is Coming For Your Guns!!!!” by Mr. Colion Noir on his site,

If you are new to firearms, you need to take some time to educate yourself on the way the system currently works. We already have a background check system which is supposed to prevent prohibited persons from obtaining firearms. For the most part, the system works decently well. Every firearm that enters the market is sold at least once with a background check. The issue rests squarely with registration efforts which will be necessary for such a system to be effective. Without a registry, it would simply be an ineffective honor system that would serve only as a burden to legal gun owners who have always been lawful in their transactions anyway.

While the superficial purpose of such a registry would be to track down negligence or unlawful transfers, the consequences of such a system can be much more worrisome. Both Great Britain and Australia have had similar registries for many years and both have forced “buy backs” of certain firearms in recent years. If you would like some reading on the matter, look for David Kopel’s “Who Needs Guns?” and its analysis of the Australian registry. Gun owners there were told that they were paranoid to be opposed to a registry, but just a few years later were being forced to turn prized firearms and family heirlooms into the government. Meanwhile, Canada has recently considered ending its firearms registry because police there have found it ineffective and it required over $600 million per year over the first four years alone (2000-2003) to maintain, with costs continuing to climb. A similar registry in the US would likely cost several billion per year. Many of us are not saying that the Toomey-Manchin amendment was going to directly implement a registry of these sorts, but anyone who understands how the current system works and the sort of changes that the amendment hoped to make realizes that once the new measures turn out ineffective, a registry will be the logical next step.

You criticize gun owners for their analogies, but then bring up the tired car example for justification for a registry. How is this in any way parallel? I suppose that you are correct that both are mechanical devices that can be dangerous if used incorrectly, but you need to be careful making such broad categorizations. There are several things out there that fit into that category that I don’t think anyone wants to have to register with the government. Much of the reason we register vehicles and pay taxes on them is to pay for maintenance of the public highway system that is necessary for their effective usage. Cars are not protected by the Constitution. Furthermore, I have yet to hear a politician call for a ban on personal automobiles, but several have called for bans and confiscation of firearms. Simply put, firearm owners have far more to worry about with gun registration than they do with registering their cars.

Lastly, we have now seen two examples this past week of the government overstepping its bounds with both the IRS and the AP wiretapping. In light of these events, can you really fault gun owners for worrying that the government may not have their best interests at heart?



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