Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

APPEARS IN News

Licensing And Registration

Saturday, October 7, 2000

Some people may wonder why NRA members and millions of other American gun owners protest so loudly when the gun control lobby offers one more "reasonable solution" to problems that they associate with guns. They may even be aware that Sarah Brady, chair of the nation`s largest anti-gun group--Brady Campaign (previously Handgun Control, Inc.)--years ago discussed her plans for the future with the New York Times. She said in her Aug. 15, 1993, interview that her group favors a "needs-based licensing" system, with all guns and all gun transfers registered. In the Brady world, an honest citizen who wanted to own a gun would have to prove to his or her local police the "need" for that gun.

Constitutional issues aside, those who wonder what motivates American gun owners should understand that perhaps only one other word in the English language so boils their blood as "registration," and that word is "confiscation." Gun owners fiercely believe those words are ominously related.

Gun owners also know that criminals will never register their illegally possessed guns and, in fact, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Haynes v. U.S. (309 U.S. 85 (1968)) that since felons are prohibited from owning firearms, compelling them to register them would violate their 5th Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Gun owners know further that the registration and licensing of America`s 60-65 million gun owners and their estimated 230 million firearms would require creation of a huge bureaucracy at tremendous taxpayer cost, without any tangible anti-crime benefit.

Gun registration is, of course, hardly new, and neither are its widely recognized dangers. In 1975, U.S. Sen. James A. McClure (R-ID) said: "Gun registration is the first step toward ultimate and total confiscation, the first step in a complete destruction of a cornerstone of our Bill of Rights." When Sen. McClure sponsored the Firearms Owners` Protection Act (1986), he made sure that it included a prohibition against the federal government keeping a national registry of gun owners. Similar prohibitive language appears in the Brady Act and in annual appropriations bills.

Others recognize gun registration`s inherent purpose. In 1975 testimony before the House Subcommittee on Crime, anti-gun advocate Charles Morgan, director of the Washington, D.C., office of the American Civil Liberties Union stated: "I have not one doubt, even if I am in agreement with the National Rifle Association, that that kind of record-keeping procedure is the first step to eventual confiscation under one administration or another."

Registration lists have led to gun confiscation in Australia, Bermuda, Cuba, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Ireland, Jamaica, Soviet Georgia and other countries. It has also happened here, and the history of firearms registration in New York City is particularly instructive.

In 1967, New York City passed an ordinance requiring a citizen to obtain a permit to own a rifle or shotgun, which would then be registered. Concerns over the potential use of those registration lists to confiscate guns in the future were dismissed as paranoia. In 1991, gun owners` legitimate fears were realized, when the city passed a ban on the private possession of some semi-automatic rifles and shotguns, despite the police commissioner`s testimony that no registered firearms of the types banned had been used in violent crimes in the city. New Yorkers who had been licensed earlier to possess semi-automatic rifles and shotguns were told that any licensed firearms that were covered by the ban had to be surrendered, rendered inoperable or taken out of the city. They were warned that they might be subject to "spot checks."

American gun owners know their fears about licensing and registration are hardly unfounded, because they are familiar with the sorry story of gun control in Great Britain. This story is concisely told in the monograph, "Lost Battles, Lost Rights," written by David B. Kopel, adjunct professor of law at New York University Law School.

As Kopel recounts, after passage of the Firearms Act of 1920, Britons suddenly could possess pistols and rifles only if they proved they had "good reason" for receiving a police permit. Then, in 1936, the British police began adding a permit requirement requiring that the guns be stored securely.

As the public grew accustomed to the idea of guns being licensed, it became possible to begin to enforce the licensing requirements with greater and greater stringency. By enforcing the Firearms Act with moderation, at first, and then with gradually increasing severity, the British government acclimated British gun owners to higher and higher levels of control.

An English court decision reveals how far this control has gone. The London Times reports that on March 6, 2000, a judge denied an appeal by Arthur Mark Farrer to renew his license to own a shotgun. Farrer`s license, or "shotgun certificate," allowed him to own a shotgun as long as he stored it in compliance with increasingly severe British storage laws. He kept his gun in a safe at his mother`s house. But when he told his mother where the key to the safe was kept, the police licensing bureau was not pleased--81-year-old mom had no license. The judge agreed, ruling Farrer "was in breach of the condition prescribed by rule . . . that he should store the gun securely so as to prevent . . . access to it by an unauthorised person."

The judge cited a section of English law stating that a person can be granted a certificate if the chief of police is "satisfied that the applicant could be permitted to possess a shotgun without danger to the public safety or the peace." Since Farrer trusted his mother access to the shotgun, he did not qualify.

Today, in Great Britain, handguns are banned. Semi-automatic center-fire rifles, which had been legally owned for nearly a century, are banned. Pump-action rifles are banned, since it was argued that these guns could be substituted for semi-automatics. Shotguns that can hold more than two shells at once now require a "firearms license" and are thus registered, and shotguns that can hold only two rounds require a "shotgun certificate."

American parallels are obvious. Enactment of the Brady Act, for example, establishes the principle of a national gun licensing system. Once a lenient national handgun licensing system is established, the licensing system can gradually be tightened, and police, as they have done in Great Britain, can begin inventing their own conditions to put on licenses. Such practices already occur in American jurisdictions such as New York, where licensing authorities sometimes add their own extralegal restrictions to handgun licenses.

Those, who from time to time wonder about what American gun owners think and why they think it, should realize that those who believe in their Second Amendment-guaranteed right will fight mightily to prevent this nation from becoming, like Great Britain, a place where the rights of gun owners are slowly strangled to death because too many people trusted politicians who did not trust them.

IN THIS ARTICLE
Registration & Licensing
TRENDING NOW
Levi’s Teams with Billionaire Michael Bloomberg to Attack Gun Rights

News  

Friday, September 7, 2018

Levi’s Teams with Billionaire Michael Bloomberg to Attack Gun Rights

Levi Strauss & Co. established its brand in the mid-19th century by selling durable clothing to working-class Americans. As Levi’s signature jeans gained popularity amongst a wider set in the middle of the last century, ...

Surprise: Physician Group Rehashes Same Tired Gun Control Policies

News  

Friday, November 2, 2018

Surprise: Physician Group Rehashes Same Tired Gun Control Policies

Everyone has hobbies. Some doctors’ collective hobby is opining on firearms policy. Half of the articles in the “Latest from Annals” email from the Annals of Internal Medicine journal are related to firearms. The most prominent of these ...

NRA Challenges Constitutional Violations in Initiative 1639

News  

Thursday, November 15, 2018

NRA Challenges Constitutional Violations in Initiative 1639

The NRA was joined by the Second Amendment Foundation in filing a lawsuit challenging gun control measures recently passed in Washington ballot initiative I-1639.

Missing the Marx: Gun Control’s Future is … Communism?

News  

Friday, November 2, 2018

Missing the Marx: Gun Control’s Future is … Communism?

After every high profile crime committed with a firearm of any sort, there are always calls for gun control. But one particular proposal this week managed to distinguish itself amid the usual din, if only ...

Midterm Elections Offer Motivation to Continue the Fight For Our Rights

News  

Friday, November 9, 2018

Midterm Elections Offer Motivation to Continue the Fight For Our Rights

The votes have all been cast in the 2018 midterm elections. And while the counting and recounting is still under way in some places, the overall picture that has emerged soundly refutes the breathless media narrative of ...

Former ATF Agent Pulls Mask Off Giffords’s Plans for Federal AR-15 Registration

News  

Friday, November 2, 2018

Former ATF Agent Pulls Mask Off Giffords’s Plans for Federal AR-15 Registration

In an odd turn, just before Halloween one prominent gun control group briefly got out of costume. When former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and husband Mark Kelly launched Americans for Responsible Solutions (now named Giffords) in ...

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

Gun Laws  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

CAUTION: Federal and state firearms laws are subject to frequent change. This summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law.

Videos Reveal Arizona’s Sinema and Florida’s Gillum Downplay Anti-gun Positions

News  

Friday, November 2, 2018

Videos Reveal Arizona’s Sinema and Florida’s Gillum Downplay Anti-gun Positions

In the last decade, gun control groups have tried to get more sophisticated with how they market their unpopular ideas. Some gun control advocates have gone so far as to partner with high-profile public relations firms to ...

Georgia Gubernatorial Candidate Stacey Abrams Reiterates Support for Semi-automatic Ban

News  

Friday, November 2, 2018

Georgia Gubernatorial Candidate Stacey Abrams Reiterates Support for Semi-automatic Ban

During a recent segment on ABC’s The View, Stacey Abrams reiterated her support for a ban on commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms. During an interview with the candidate, host Meghan McCain, daughter of longtime U.S. Senator John McCain, ...

President’s Column | Your Vote Outweighs Their Millions: Make Your Voice Heard Nov. 6

News  

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

President’s Column | Your Vote Outweighs Their Millions: Make Your Voice Heard Nov. 6

My fellow NRA members, we stand at the edge of the precipice of one of the most important elections of our lives. That is the reality we face, and we face it just days from ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -

More Like This From Around The NRA

NRA ILA

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.