Just four days after the patriots defeated the Red Coats at Lexington and Concord in 1775, the inhabitants of occupied Boston were desperate to flee the city. The British governor, Gen. Thomas Gage, offered a deal. Just turn in your guns to selectmen at Faneuil Hall marked with your names, and you can leave Boston. The deal stated that the arms aforesaid at a suitable time would be returnd to the owners.
Bostonians turned in 1778 fire-arms, 634 pistols, 973 bayonets, and 38 blunder-busses. What happened next is revealed by the Continental Congress in its Declaration of Causes of Taking Up Arms of July 6, 1775: The inhabitants delivered up their arms, but in open violation of honor, Gage ordered the arms... to be seized by a body of soldiers and detained the greatest part of the inhabitants in the town.
Recalling such experiences, the Founders penned and ratified the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, declaring that the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
In 1934, the first draft of what became the National Firearms Act would have required registration of, and a $200 tax on, pistols and revolvers, along with machine guns. The NRA successfully lobbied to remove handguns from the billmind you, this was just a year after Prohibition was repealed. Imagine the new crime wave that would have erupted had the original bill passed.
The ultimate purpose of registration is to facilitate confiscation. New York City passed long-gun registration in the 1960s. This eventually led to the city demanding that registrants confirm they got rid of their semi-automatic rifles.
Just before Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941, Congress gave wide powers to the government to requisition property. But, cognizant of the ongoing atrocities in Europe, the law forbade any act to authorize the requisitioning or require the registration of any firearms possessed by any individual for his personal protection or sport, or to impair or infringe in any manner the right of any individual to keep and bear arms.
Congress rejected bills to require gun registration in 1968, and it prohibited the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) from adopting regulations to register gun owners in the Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986. An anti-registration provision in the 1993 Brady Act did not stop the Clinton administration from keeping records for six months of persons who passed the NICS background check, and, in NRA v. Janet Reno(2000), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that this obvious registration scheme wasnt actually registration. Congress again had to step in and prohibit NICS from keeping the records once the background check was passed.
The ultimate purpose of registration is to facilitate confiscation. New York City passed long-gun registration in the 1960s, denouncing opponents as paranoid right-wing kooks. Then, in 1991, it banned any semi-automatic rifle with a bayonet mount or other assault weapon feature, which included the venerable M-1 Garand purchased through the Civilian Marksmanship Program. The police demanded that registrants confirm that they got rid of their rifles and threatened that they would knock on doors.
Now we have the drive to enact universal background checks on law-abiding gun owners (dont hold your breath for criminals to undergo them). Requiring universal background checks on private sales, according to the National Institute of Justice, depends on ... requiring gun registration. To avoid that loophole, registration has to be the next step, or otherwise the guns could not be traced to the current owner.
Shotgun Joe Biden proposes that owners of undefined assault weapons choose between a buyback from the federal government (which never owned them to start with) or registering them under the National Firearms Act. Expect about as much compliance with that as occurs in California each time the state changes the rules and broadens the assault weapon definitions to encompass more guns required to be registered.
Hell yes, were going to take your AR-15, your AK-47, Beto ORourke proclaimed. But his colleagues want him to keep his mouth shut about the actual plan to confiscate maybe 17 million rifles. Not to worry, Beto responds, owners will sell them back to the government with a smile on their faces and a song in their hearts.
Actually, after an embarrassingly few sell their junk rifles to the feds, it would be time to round up the rest. The rifles arent registered, but the records of every person who made the first retail purchase are available at the FFL dealer shops. The dealer records could be inspected and the identities of the purchasers could be obtained. It then might not be much trouble getting magistrates to rubberstamp applications for search warrants. It might not even matter if the guns were purchased years before and may not even be at the address on the Form 4473 or that the purchaser does not even own the guns anymoreIve seen warrants aplenty approved with such lack of probable cause.
But whos going to confiscate all those rifles? The feds cannot conscript local law enforcement to enforce its gun laws, because the U.S. Supreme Court said exactly that in Sheriff Jay Printz v. U.S. (1997), a case I was fortunate to handle. The job would have to be assigned to ATF Special Agents, many of whom would likely recoil at such orders.
That brings us to the dirty part. Since 1775, Americans havent taken kindly to armed government agents confiscating their firearms or conducting searches and seizures. Searches entail the ransacking of houses to find contraband. No-knock warrants served at night will result in homeowners mistaking agents for intruders. This is a recipe for bloody disaster for both agents and citizens.
This would be a nightmare no sane American would want. The electorate has the power to vote down the politicians who peddle such snake oil.
Not to mention that the U.S. Supreme Court held in D.C. v. Heller (2008) that the Second Amendment protects firearms that are in common use or are typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes. The AR-15 falls easily within that description, penned then-lower-court Judge Brett Kavanaugh in a dissenting opinion in a case known as Heller II. But that hasnt stopped courts from upholding such bans in the jurisdictions that have them.
Theres another long-simmering issue that affects many citizens in their daily lives: The policy in some states to ban the right of the people to bear arms, which the Second Amendment dictates shall not be infringed.
These infringements began with New Yorks Sullivan Act of 1911, which banned the carrying of handguns for all New Yorkers other than the influential few who could get licenses. The first person sentenced under the act was a working man named Marino Rossi, who carried a revolver because he was in fear for his life from the Black Hand criminal gang. The police obviously werent protecting him. But the judge gave him a year in Sing Sing, scolding the custom of your countrymen and your kind (Italian Americans) to carry guns, which furnishes much of the criminal business in this country.
After over a century, another part of the Sullivan Act is now before the U.S. Supreme Court. You have to have a premises license merely to have a handgun in your home in New York City, and, for all practical purposes, the handgun cannot be taken out of the home. It may as well be attached to an ankle bracelet. The court of appeals in New York City upheld this idiocy based on the flimsy allegation of a police official that it would endanger public safety to allow a licensee to take an unloaded, inaccessible handgun to a second home or a shooting match.
Afraid that the U.S. Supreme Court would throw out the law and say something nice about the Second Amendment, New York City has changed its policy to allow taking handguns elsewhere, although that may require yet another license.
On the bright side, some courts have repudiated trust me arguments that bearing arms can be banned and the state will protect you. Rejecting the argument that the right to bear arms for self-defense is confined to the home, the court of appeals in Chicago opined that a Chicagoan is a good deal more likely to be attacked on a sidewalk in a rough neighborhood than in his apartment on the 35th floor of the Park Tower.
Californians were not so lucky, as the Ninth Circuit upheld discretionary handgun licensing for a favored elite, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the decision. But Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch dissented, explaining: For those of us who work in marbled halls, guarded constantly by a vigilant and dedicated police force, the guarantees of the Second Amendment might seem antiquated and superfluous. But the Framers made a clear choice: They reserved to all Americans the right to bear arms for self-defense. Hopefully, the U.S. Supreme Court will resolve the issue in another case.