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

AR-15M62Earlier 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.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Prosecutors should be popping major wood over this. So many potential resume pads.

  • Ted S.||

    How many of these people are actually going to vote out the legislators who voted for this shit?

  • Paul.||

    Time will tell.

  • Rasilio||

    IT probably largely depends on how many people guilty of no other crime are charged with a felony for this

  • Christophe||

    Freestaters are having a field day trying to get a ton of gun owners to move to NH instead.

  • Rich||

    "If you pass laws that people have no respect for and they don't follow them, then you have a real problem."

    Are YOU listening to YOURSELF, Senator?

  • Maevwyn||

    I am reminded of the saying that an officer should never give an order that he knows will not be obeyed.

  • ||

    You mean you knew about the words I had written down on a sheet of paper and just ignored them? Well I never!

  • gaoxiaen||

    OR "You didn't know about the words I had written down on a sheet of paper?"

  • Killaz||

    They should pass a law where they send a form out to every household in the state to affirm under penalty of law if they are or are not in possession of firearms. That should prove very popular.

  • Killaz||

    penalty of law perjury

  • ||

    And if they don't return it?

  • Killaz||

    Pass another law that forces them to comply.

  • ||

    Would that law be constitutional?

  • Killaz||

    That's little over my pay grade. I'm just making a few helpful suggestions that could spark an overthrow of government is all.

  • Paul.||

    Would that law be constitutional?

    Commerce clause, so yes.

  • ||

    It would be a state law, so for once the FYTW clause doesn't come into play.

  • Laird||

    5th Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, so no.

  • ||

    Census anyone? Technically its illegal to not respond.

  • Paul.||

    Charge them with theft of government property.

  • BrokeGopher||

    Ever heard of the fifth amendment?

  • Paul.||

    "If you pass laws that people have no respect for and they don't follow them, then you have a real problem."

    Yes, Bob, yes you do. It is 'Bob' isn't it? Can I call you 'Bob'?

    Yeah, so Bob, when your most heavily armed constituents either explicitly or implicitly tell you to fuck off, it's time to reconsider your position.

  • Sigivald||

    They couldn't even get Canadians to comply with a gun registry.

    And these guys expect Americans to go along?

    (They might learn, at least, that the law depends on the People thinking the law is reasonable.

    As he said, almost grasping the issue, the law cannot actually exceed the respect of the people, while remaining meaningfully "law".)

  • AlmightyJB||

    And when you start enforcing laws like that many people lose all respect for law enforcement. Which is exactly what happened during alcohol prohibition.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    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.

    Has CT been tracking which background checks were for "assault rifles" and which ones were for other kinds of guns? The article isn't clear. They don't really need a registry if they've got that info, do they?

  • LarryA||

    If CT has a list of the BG checks, they can check the 4473s. Labor intensive, but not impossible.

    Check a few, prosecute, give everyone else a chance to comply.

    It's one idea. It's not a good one.

  • Sinclair||

    I'm sure there's a good deal of defiance going on here, but I'd bet ignorance is an even bigger factor. Most people just don't have the time or the inclination to pay attention to shit like this. Hell, I'm a lawyer, and more aware of the goings-on in Congress and my state legislature than pretty much anyone I know, and I still occasionally come across a recent law that's relevant to me and was passed and enacted entirely without my knowledge.

    Of course, the fact that politicians know—or damn well should know—that most people couldn't care less about what they're doing makes their nonchalant passage of a law guaranteed to turn thousands of their constituents into felons (for simply failing to file the proper paperwork) that much more shameful.

  • Laird||

    Seems unlikely. This issue has received HUGE press, nationwide and certainly in CT. Anyone not aware of it is living in a hole.

  • Sinclair||

    Lots of people live in holes, is my point. And even for those who sort of pay attention, it's really difficult to separate the relevant information from all the noise (e.g. any news story about a bill being considered, or a bill passed by one legislative chamber but unlikely to be passed by the other—people, understandably, lose track after a while).

    But, you may be right. I live pretty far from Connecticut, so I haven't seen what kind of effort they've made to spread the word. And it seems likely that gun owners are, on average, more aware of new laws (especially those related to guns) than the average citizen. But the larger point still stands. Even if, in this case, Connecticut did a thorough job of informing most of their residents of a new law that can turn them into felons through mere inaction, I doubt that's how these things usually go.

  • PM||

    This presumes the actual purpose of the law is the state purpose of the law. When the law makes everybody a scofflaw the point isn't to throw everybody in jail, the point is to throw whoever you'd like into jail.

  • dinkster||

    How again does registering 200 thousand 30rd magazines stop the next shooter who only needs two?

  • Johnimo||

    "When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns."

    The old bumper sticker is entirely true.

  • Tejicano||

    I wonder how much of this issue is politicians not understanding how far their "grasp" has exceeded their "reach" or how much they just want to add to the list of felonies everybody commits day-to-day to give enforcement just one more fang to sink in.

    I can only hope they reach a "torches and pitchforks" tipping point before they realize it. Otherwise, the frog will be boiled before they even have to paint over the entire constitution.

  • Phil Ossiferz Stone||

    After my failing state of California passed its own Ugly Gun Ban in 2003, the Cali DOJ estimated that rates of compliance were in the mid-teens. Just like Connecticut. Which means that five out of six politically incorrect weapons are still sitting in closets and gun lockers all up and down the state. Just in case.

  • trutherator||

    Even somebody writing on wikipedia quoted an estimate of 650,000 unregistered illegal guns in Honduras. Laws have not been very strict, but tell you what. Try to confiscate guns in Olancho and the government would probably crumble. I don't think they'd dare. One of the gangs tried to start a "chapter" in Olancho. When they killed their first victim, the father got a couple of friends together and wiped them out. No more gangs. (No New York's "finest" arresting them either, like they did crime victim Bernard Geotz, who is still occasionally vilified in some stupid television crime series).

    Gangs like 18 and 13 are Exhibit A for the utter stupidity of gun laws. When the gangs can't get arms, they make their own, and they're a lot more dangerous. One of Zelaya's political allies set up a clandestine firearms factory in Tegucigalpa. Their cover was as a machine shop school.

  • optimusratiostultum||

    Criminals always find a way. I find it astounding that all the gun grabbers forget that the biggest mass murders in American history were not done with guns. The twin towers were not shot at, McVeigh didn't shoot the Murrah building, and even the largest murder in a school was done with dynamite.

    Evil succeeds when good people do nothing, so why take away the tools from the good people?

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