Guns

Round Up (Tens of Thousands of) Gun Registration Scofflaws, Rants Hartford Courant Editorial Board

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AR-15
M62

A bit of miltary wisdom has it that you should never give an order you know won't be obeyed. Issuing such an order accomplishes nothing except to undermine your authority and expose the extent to which, no matter what enforcement mechanisms are in place, you rely upon voluntary compliance. But now that Connecticut's resident class of politically employed cretins has awoken to the fact that, in their state, like everywhere else, people overwhelmingly disobey orders to register their weapons, they're acting like this is a shocking revelation. They're also promising to make those who tried to comply, but missed the deadline regret the effort (proving the point of the openly defiant). And the politicians' enablers in the press are screaming for the prosecution of "scores of thousands" of state residents who, quite predictably, flipped the bird at the government.

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.

Some people actually tried to comply with the registration law, but missed the deadline. The state's official position is that it will accept applications notarized on or before January 1, 2014 and postmarked by January 4. But, says Dora Schriro, Commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, in a letter to lawmakers, anybody sufficiently law-abiding but foolish enough to miss that slightly extended grace period will have to surrender or otherwise get rid of their guns.

Bullshit
Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection

This, of course, is the eternally fulfilled fear of those who oppose registration of things governments don't like—that allowing the government to know about them will result in their eventual confiscation. Such confiscation, despite assurances to the contrary, occurred in New York, California, and elsewhere. Connecticut has accomplished something special, though, by making "eventual" a synonym for "right now."

You know who won't have to surrender their weapons? People who quietly told the state to fuck off.

This successful example of mass defiance horrifies the editorial board of the Hartford Courant, which shudders at the sight of the masses not obeying an order that, history, tells us, never had a shot at wide compliance. According to them:

It's estimated that perhaps scores of thousands of Connecticut residents failed to register their military-style assault weapons with state police by Dec. 31….

…the bottom line is that the state must try to enforce the law. Authorities should use the background check database as a way to find assault weapon purchasers who might not have registered those guns in compliance with the new law.

A Class D felony calls for a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Even much lesser penalties or probation would mar a heretofore clean record and could adversely affect, say, the ability to have a pistol permit.

If you want to disobey the law, you should be prepared to face the consequences.

Such shock! Such outrage!

But compliance with gun registration would have been a historical aberration. Gun restrictions of all sorts breed defiance everywhere they're introduced. About 25 percent of Illinois handgun owners actually complied when that state's registration law was introduced in the 1970s, according to Don B. Kates, a criminologist and civil liberties attorney, writing in the December 1977 issue of Inquiry. Then, when California began registering "assault weapons" in 1990, The New York Times reported after the registration period came to a close that "only about 7,000 weapons of an estimated 300,000 in private hands in the state have been registered."

Similar defiance occurred in Australia, Canada, and many European countries. People, unsurprisingly, seem to think that being armed is not a bad thing, and that governments can't be trusted.

Can't imagine why.

Here's the thing: Laws rely, almost entirely, on voluntary compliance, with enforcement efforts sufficient for a tiny, noncompliant minority. If a large number of people to whom a law applies find the law repugnant—and a majority of a group, consisting of scores of thousands of people, constitutes a large number—than the law is unenforceable, no matter how many politicians and newspaper editorial writers think it's a swell idea. Governments that try enforcement, anyway, will be stuck in a pattern of escalating brutality and declining legitimacy.

Gun registration, let alone confiscation has, always and everywhere, fallen into that "unenforceable" category. We saw the same phenomenon with Prohibition, and we've also seen it with drugs.

To insist, now, that Connecticut authorities try to chase down "scores of thousands" of gun owners (using background check records that don't actually prove they still own the forbidden firearms) displays wild ignorance of the limits of government power. It also expresses disgusting deference to authority at the expense of any respect for liberty—an immature morality that sees no good beyond obedience to rules. And, it's sheer lunacy.