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Firearms Registration: New York City`s Lesson

Thursday, January 27, 2000

Advocates of "gun control" desire gun prohibition, despite claiming that every "gun control" measure they support is merely a "reasonable" step that supposedly would not infringe the rights of law-abiding citizens to shoot, hunt, or protect themselves from violent crime. Anyone inclined to trust these claims would be wise to study the history of firearms registration in New York City.

In 1967, Mayor John V. Lindsay signed into law a rifle-shotgun registration ordinance passed by the New York City Council. Under that law, every person who possessed or would later possess any rifle or shotgun in New York City had to register it by make, model and serial number, and obtain a permit to possess it. The fee was set at $3.

City Councilman Theodore Weiss, sponsor of the bill, solemnly promised that the $3 fee would never be raised, but that the city would always bear the brunt of the real costs of administering the law. Seeking to allay firearms owners` fear of registration, the firearms-prohibitionist New York Times editorially vowed the bill "would protect the constitutional rights of owners and buyers. The purpose of registration would not be to prohibit but to control dangerous weapons."

Interestingly, just after the bill became law, another New York Times editorial entitled "Encouraging Rifle Registration," opposed Mayor Lindsay`s proposed amendments to increase the fee to $10, or to $25 as he had originally proposed. The Times for December 16, 1967, expressed concern that "too-high license fees right off the bat would undermine effective operation of the law. The idea is to get maximum registration for the public safety."

Notice the expression "right off the bat." What about later on? Well, today, the fee is $55, an increase of over 1,700%!

Most significantly, just before the rifle-shotgun bill became law in 1967, Vincent L. Broderick, a former New York City police commissioner who was later awarded a federal judgeship, testified at a city council committee hearing on the bill that the philosophy underlying the bill was "all wrong." According to Broderick, that philosophy assumed that all law-abiding citizens somehow had a "right to own shotguns or rifles." Broderick then added: "There should be no right to possess a firearm of any sort in 20th Century New York City, and unless good and sufficient reason is shown by an applicant, permission to possess a gun should not be granted." This was all reported in the New York Times for October 17, 1967. How prophetic!

In 1991, the New York City Council, at the prodding of Mayor David N. Dinkins, went further than Broderick. It passed, and the Mayor signed into law, a flat ban on the private possession of certain semi-automatic rifles and shotguns -- namely, certain imitation or look-alike assault firearms (New York City Administrative Code, Sec. 10-303.1). The ban was flat in the sense that it applied regardless of reason or need for the firearm -- and it was passed despite then-Police Commissioner Lee Brown`s testimony that no registered "assault weapon" had been used in a violent crime in the city.

The year after the ban was enacted, a man`s home in Staten Island was raided by the police after he had announced that he would not comply with the city`s ban. He was arrested, and his guns were seized.

The New York City Police Department (NYPD) had notified the 2,340 New Yorkers who had been licensed earlier to possess semi-automatic rifles and shotguns that any of those licensed firearms that were covered by the ban had to be surrendered, rendered inoperable or taken out of the city. The recipients of the notification were directed to send back a sworn statement indicating what had been done with those firearms.

The NYPD has reported that the majority of these previously-registered imitation assault firearms -- 2,615 out of 3,360 -- have been taken out of the city. In addition, the department`s deputy commissioner of legal matters, Jeremy Travis, told the Daily News: "for now, the department is taking owners at their word, but spot checks are planned."

This deplorable New York City saga shows that those of us who had opposed the concept of registration back in 1967, and were labeled "paranoid," were not only not paranoid but also not impractical. For the New York City story quite vividly shows the nationwide plan abart to destroy the civil right and liberty to keep arms, guaranteed by the Second Amendment and by other provisions of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, notably the Ninth Amendment.

The plan is now obvious to all who would see: First Step, enact a nationwide firearms waiting period law. Second Step, when the waiting period doesn`t reduce crime, and it won`t, then enact a nationwide registration law. Final Step, confiscate all the registered firearms.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.