Civil Liberties

Connecticut Pols Shocked That 'Tens of Thousands' of Gun Owners Defy Registration Laws


Earlier this month, I pointed to a 2011 Connecticut legislative report to make the point that anemic registration of "assault weapons" and high-capacity magazines under a particularly stupid new state law demonstrated that gun owners were continuing a long and proud tradition of defying restrictions on weapons ownership. Now lawmakers and journalists in the state acknowledge the same phenomenon, and the mass scofflawry it represents, and wonder just what corner they've backed themselves into.

Three years ago, the Connecticut legislature estimated there were 372,000 rifles in the state of the sort that might be classified as "assault weapons," and two million plus high-capacity magazines. Many more have been sold in the gun-buying boom since then. But by the close of registration at the end of 2013, state officials received around 50,000 applications for "assault weapon" registrations, and 38,000 applications for magazines.

Ummm. Errr.

As Dan Haar writes for the Hartford Courant:

And that means as of Jan. 1, Connecticut has very likely created tens of thousands of newly minted criminals — perhaps 100,000 people, almost certainly at least 20,000 — who have broken no other laws. By owning unregistered guns defined as assault weapons, all of them are committing Class D felonies.

"I honestly thought from my own standpoint that the vast majority would register," said Sen. Tony Guglielmo, R-Stafford, the ranking GOP senator on the legislature's public safety committee. "If you pass laws that people have no respect for and they don't follow them, then you have a real problem."

From a politicians' perspective, this is a problem. The sheep are refusing to be herded. But this was a completely predictable "problem." These laws always experience more defiance than compliance, in the United States and around the world. The reasons people resist restrictions on their ability to own weapons probably vary, but the empowerment that comes with owning arms probably plays a role, and government officials' eternal and consistent lying about why they want to know who is armed certainly does, too.

Of course, if you value liberty over government officials' whims, and consider government to be little more than a protection racket with better PR, this is hardly a problem at all.

Mike Lawlor, an undersecretary in the state Office of Policy and Management and leading mouthpiece for this legislative disaster, pretends the "problem" could be solved by … writing letters.

The problem could explode if Connecticut officials decide to compare the list of people who underwent background checks to buy military-style rifles in the past, to the list of those who registered in 2013. Do they still own those guns? The state might want to know.

"A lot of it is just a question to ask, and I think the firearms unit would be looking at it," said Mike Lawlor, the state's top official in criminal justice. "They could send them a letter."

But those letters are unlikely to be terribly intimidating, because a background check isn't proof that somebody owns a forbidden rifle. They might have moved it out of state, destroyed it, lost it, or sold it privately in a transaction that won't be regulated under state law until April 2014.

Ultimately, Lawlor compares the defiance of registration to that of speed restrictions on the roads. "Like anything else, people who violate the law face consequences. … that's their decision."

Nice spin, Mike. But speeding doesn't leave scofflaws under threat of felony charges, armed, and pissed off at control freak government officials. You really should have seen this coming.