According to this article, and a letter from the ATF to Congress Michael Cloud, the Biden Administration has records of 920.6 million gun sales. (Yes, almost one billion).
My initial thoughts are:
- Wow, that’s more guns than I thought there were in the U.S. (Obviously, many guns get counted more than once as there is a large market for used guns.)
- Hey, I thought it was illegal for the ATF to create a firearms registry. (It is, but more on that later.)
- And you still can’t clamp down on gun crime?
According to the article:
The ATF maintained in its response to the 2021 investigation that the “sole purpose” of its database and ongoing efforts to digitize out-of-business records “is to trace firearms used in crimes.”
I’d like to know how many firearm traces the ATF has conducted lead to the criminal and result in an arrest and conviction. The ATF says they do not know.
Connecting Guns to Crimes
The idea that the legal owner of a gun will commit a murder or other violent crime with a gun registered to them and then leave the gun at the scene so it can be traced back to him is preposterous. Maybe the government thinks gun owners are that stupid. I’d like to see figures on how many times that happens.
Just like when a car is used to commit a crime and the police track down the owner who reported it stolen days or hours before, most crimes are committed with stolen or otherwise illegally obtained weapons.
The government has a record of every car ever sold, but you’ll note that doesn’t stop people from driving unsafely or using a stolen car when committing a crime. Knowing who the original purchaser of a car is doesn’t stop the illegal trade in stolen parts or the export of stolen cars. Know who bought the gun won’t stop gun crimes either. So the ATF must have another reason for accumulating their list.
The Problems with a Registry
There are multiple dangers of a registry. The biggest problem is the historical fact demonstrated multiple times all over the world: registration leads to confiscation. You cannot confiscate guns if you don’t know who has them. When the government can pull gun ownership data out of a database, they can go door-to-door and confiscate guns, even if the guns were legal when purchased. Gun confiscation is a goal of socialists, communists, and other leftists. They want to impose their will on the people, and they can’t do it if the people re armed. Weapons are needed to resist tyranny. it is also contrary to the Second Amendment of the Constitution.
There are other problems with a registry that goes beyond confiscation. I can see this registry being used as an investigative tool. For example, if a blue 2015 Honda Civic is involved in a hit and run that mows down a mother and her toddler, the police will look up the records of every Blue 2015 blue Honda Civic and track them down until they find one that has front-end damage consistent with the accident.
So why shouldn’t they do that with guns? Well, most people park and use their cars in a public area. The police can inspect your Honda when it is parked at the curb or other public location without subjecting you to an illegal search. That’s not the case with guns. If a cop shows up at your door demanding to see your gun, are you going to show it to him? Do you demand that they get a warrant?
A Sticky Situation
Let’s imagine the police recover a Taurus revolver at the scene of a crime where a stray bullet fired from the gun killed a mother and toddler. The gun’s serial number has been ground away. The police have no leads. The detective asks the ATF to search for everyone who bought that model of gun in the city. (Even though the gun could have come from several states away.) Let’s say the database generates a list of 42 names. The police decide to go and make inquiries of the 42 people. Because no one parks their gun on the street, they have to confront the owners face-to-face. You’re the first one on the list. They knock on the door and want to know if you still own your Taurus revolver. How do you respond?
If you say something like, “I’m sorry, officer, but I have a strict policy of not answering questions about guns. Have a nice day.” Then you become a suspect in their eyes, even though you have the Fifth Amendment right to say nothing.
If you say you no longer have the gun, then you are also a suspect in their eye. Maybe it was your gun that was used in the crime. That potentially connects you to the crime. You have gone from innocent gun owner to suspect.
If you say you sold it to someone or gave it to someone, depending on your state you live in, you may be admitting that you broke the law. Assuming you sold it to an FFL dealer, you’d better have the paperwork to prove it.
No Good Can Come from This
There is nothing to be gained by talking to the police unless you are the victim of a crime. No good can come from it. You may put yourself in a compromising position even though you had nothing to do with the crime they are investigating. The police are over-worked and want to close cases. If they think you are guilty, there’s a chance they won’t investigate the other 41 people who own that model of gun and pursue a case against you.
In a case where I had possession of the gun in question, I think I’d say something like, “Detectives, I’d like to help. If you think this is the key evidence in your case, then have the district attorney contact my lawyer to set up a meeting. At that meeting, my attorney and I will provide proof that the gun is in my possession and is not the one left at the crime scene.”
Here’s a video that illustrates the problems an innocent person can run into when talking to the police. In it, an investigator says, “People are inherently honest, and that is their biggest downfall.”
Not mentioned in this video is that it is illegal to lie to a Federal investigator. That’s what the FBI uses to arrest and prosecute people. If you don’t talk to them, you can’t be caught in a lie.
It’s Not to Stop Crime
We live in a heavily surveilled world that would shock even George Orwell. They recorded our license plates at red lights and when we enter or exit highways. Organizations track our purchases and analyze our behavior online. Most of us carry cell phones, which are tracking devices that report on our location. We use email services that have permission to read our mail. Vast server farms collect and collate data that is used to predict what we do.
If information could stop crime, the murder rate wouldn’t have jumped last year.
This is not about preventing crime, it’s about identifying targets. It’s about building a list of honest, law abiding people that the government wants to target. The Socialists fear what honest, honorable, patriotic people will do.
Breaking the Rules
The BATFE (AKA the ATF), an agency that enthusiastically prosecutes people who unknowingly break the rules when it comes to things like barrel length and fancy triggers, appear to be breaking the rules by keeping a database of gun owners. They claim it is not a registry, so therefore is not illegal. The courts would probably disagree.
The Firearms Owners’ Protection Act reads as follows:
No such rule or regulation prescribed after the date of the enactment of the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act may require that records required to be maintained under this chapter or any portion of the contents of such records, be recorded at or transferred to a facility owned, managed, or controlled by the United States or any State or any political subdivision thereof, nor that any system of registration of firearms, firearms owners, or firearms transactions or dispositions be established (18 USC § 926(a)).
Seems pretty clear to me, but the ATF has what many would call a history at misinterpreting the intent of laws and changing their interpretation to suit the agency’s politically appointed leadership. Anyone who has followed the ATF’s recent actions on pistol braces and forced reset triggers are unlikely to be surprised that the agency is ignoring the clear intent that no “system or registration of firearms, firearms owners, or firearms transactions be established.”
What can we do? We can contact our congressional representative and demand that they stop the ATF. We can join or support pro-gun organizations that will sue the BATFE for violating the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act.
You can also make their jobs more difficult by making their database useless. If you live where it is legal to do so, sell a gun to a private party or buy a gun from one. Where legal, give guns to your adult children. Ask elderly relatives to leave you guns in their will. (Some of these guns may be so old that they don’t have serial numbers or were never on the ATF books.) Buy 80 percent receivers and build your own guns. Pay cash for ammo, gun parts, and accessories.
Just as it is legal to take advantage of lawful ways to reduce your taxes, it is legal to lawfully obtain weapons that are not on the ATF’s new gun registry. So far, at least.