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TheStreet Open House

MEMORANDUM: The Fallacy Of Gun Registry And Confiscation

NEW YORK, April 4, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The latest NRA argument against legislation on comprehensive and enforceable background checks is that they would create a national gun registry the government would eventually use to take everyone's guns away.

This idea is completely unfounded and utterly false. 

Its just the latest scare tactic the gun lobby is using to keep political leaders from supporting commonsense gun reforms that are proven to prevent gun violence. 

Nothing about expanded background checks would create a national gun registry.  Multiple pieces of federal law expressly prohibit the creation of a government gun registry, and nothing about the current background check proposals would alter or amend those provisions.

  • The United States Code expressly prohibits the federal government from maintaining a national registry of gun owners.[1]
  • It is prohibited again by an appropriation rider called the Tiahrt amendment.[2]
  • Another federal statute requires that records generated by successful background checks be destroyed.[3]  A regulation clarifies that the destruction must take place within 24 hours.[4]
  • Another federal regulation specifically states that National Instant Criminal Background Check System cannot be used to create a registry.[5]

In fact, dealers have been keeping sales records for 40 years, without any complaint by reasonable, law-abiding gun owners.  Records of gun sales are currently kept in a very decentralized manner, among more than 58,000 dealers.[6]  Each dealer maintains the records of its own sales.

  • Federal law only allows the federal government to inspect a dealer's records once a year (or in the course of a criminal investigation).[7] In practice, with only 791 investigators to conduct perform compliance audits [8] and more than 58,000 gun dealers, ATF inspects each gun dealer on average less than once every 5 years.[9]
  • The records kept by dealers simply record basic ID information about the buyer, such as name and date of birth, and the make, model, and serial number of the gun purchased. No other personal information is gathered, nor is it entered into any database.  
  • It is inconceivable that the federal government could collude with so many individual businesses to create an illegal database of gun owners. 

And nothing about a system of universal background checks and basic sales records will lead to confiscation.  The federal government does not have the desire, legal authority, means or capacity to confiscate guns.

  • The government is legally prohibited from confiscating everyone's guns. In District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to possess a handgun in the home for self-defense.[10]
  • There are currently about 300 million guns[11] in this country.  If this number stayed static, each ATF special agent would have to confiscate 119, 617 guns,[12] or one gun a day for 327 years.

So then why is the gun lobby pushing this line?  Its all part of a campaign of fear meant to keep Washington from passing commonsense legislation that will close the private sale loophole and prevent more Americans from dying. 

Make no mistake: background checks reduce crime and save lives.  Expanded checks are the only systematic way to keep guns out of the hands of felons, domestic abusers, the severely mentally ill, and other dangerous people.

  • Since its inception in 1998, the background check system has blocked more two million attempted sales by prohibited purchasers.
  • In the 14 states that already require a background check for every handgun sale, 38% fewer women are shot to death by intimate partners; there are 49% fewer firearms suicides; and the gun trafficking rate is 48% lower.

What's more – Americans overwhelmingly support background checks.

  • Over 90% of Americans support background checks for all gun transfers.
  • Recent polls by Mayors Against Illegal Guns showed likely voters in a wide range of states and congressional districts overwhelmingly support background checks for all gun sales. The average support for background checks for all gun sales among 41 congressional district polls was 89 percent; the average among 21 statewide polls was 86 percent.  The findings of these surveys can be found here.
  • Previous polling by Republican Frank Luntz for Mayors Against Illegal Guns also found that 82 percent of gun owners – including 74 percent of National Rifle Association members – support requiring criminal background checks for anyone purchasing a gun.

Let's not let this fallacy stand in the way of keeping guns out of dangerous hands and saving lives. 

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