…and They Wonder Why People Don’t Want to Register Their Guns

Posted on March 11, 2013

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Existing confiscation programs erode public trust and may ultimately make gun control more difficult

In the perennial gun-rights vs. gun-control debate, gun registration is one of those measures inevitably brought up as a reasonable requirement for law-abiding citizens to own guns.  And just as inevitably, there are those who push back, saying that requiring gun registration could eventually turn out to be a precursor to the authorities turning up on one’s doorstep, demanding that they turn the guns over.

Ha ha!  That is so paranoid!  That’s just too “Big Brother,” I mean, that wouldn’t happen!  Right?

Wrong.

For the past five years, California authorities have been seizing guns which were purchased legally, but whose owners later became ineligible.  As Jessica Garrison reports for The Los Angeles Times, the state Attorney General says it’s all about prevention.  “This is about taking guns out of the hands of people who are prohibited from owning them, and are known to be potentially some of the most dangerous people walking around…. It’s just common sense.”  Now, the program is being studied as a possible model for use elsewhere in the country.

The California program does seem to make sense.  If some guy has a weapon and then becomes a felon who is no longer eligible to buy one… well, shouldn’t we take the weapon away?  He’s not supposed to have it.  Plain and simple.

Or not so simple.   Some worry that the California program is setting a precedent of sorts, along the lines of this formula:  If you legally own a weapon but something changes to make your ownership of that weapon illegal, then it can be confiscated.  So the worry is that you could drop a few thousand dollars on a legal purchase, then legislators declare that item illegal at some future date, and the next thing you know there’s a heavily armed SWAT team at your door demanding that you give up your property.

Ha ha!  Nooo, that’s different.  That could never happen.

Well, actually, it already has.  Way back in 1998, California passed a bill that outlawed the SKS rifle and required owners to surrender or destroy them by 1 January 2000, or be prosecuted.

And it could happen again:  just a month ago, California Democrats proposed a 10-bill legislative gun-control package which would ban all semiautomatic rifles with detachable magazines, require registration of all guns, and require special permits just to buy ammunition.  Confiscation of the state’s 166,000 already-registered “assault weapons” is not out of the question.

It’s bad enough that the government might confiscate your legally-purchased property; now add the question of compensation.  In the case of the SKS rifles – well, they are pretty cheap even today at about $400 each –  California appropriated enough money to buy the weapons from their owners for the actual purchase price (with receipt) or $230 (without receipt).  Problem is, “assault rifles” typically cost more than $1000, and there are a lot of them out there.  Do we really think any government entity can come up with that kind of budget?  And are weapons buybacks what we want them spending their scarce resources on, anyway?

Another problem with declaring previously legal weapons suddenly illegal, forcing weapons buybacks, and declaring the formerly law-abiding owners felons if they fail to turn them in is that such action smacks of a police state in which authorities seek to disarm the populace.  Aside from that, it smacks of an extreme nanny state that doesn’t trust the law-abiding citizens to be safe and competent.  Either way, it doesn’t exactly inspire an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect.

And finally, the buybacks don’t have much impact where it is really needed: among those who have some nefarious reason for gun ownership.  Do we think gangsters or drug dealers pay a lick of attention to the amnesty offered with buyback programs?  Hell, no.  Given that situation, do we think that frightened law-abiding citizens living in dangerous neighborhoods are eager to peaceably hand over their weapons?  I would not be surprised if they would prefer risking legal troubles to keep them, rather than risking becoming a crime victim.  And then you have the otherwise law-abiding citizen who just has a case of the a** about the whole thing and has no intentions of surrendering his property.

Now take California’s case, and multiply it by the rest of the country (some 300 million weapons are out there), and we begin to see the obstacles posed by trying to retroactively outlaw previously legal weapons.

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