I often have SurvivalBlog readers forward me alarmist e-mails, warning of “total disarmament” of the civilian populace. While there indeed may be plans or schemes to disarm Americans, I don’t consider these threats credible. Let me explain why: I would conservatively estimate that there are about 316 million firearms in private hands in the United States. Of these, less than 10% are logged in any formal registry. Perhaps another 30% have Form 4473s filed with the FFL dealers where they were first purchased, but that is a fractured mishmash of records with a quite perishable life span. It is notable that we live in a very mobile society, where most families move every three or four years. And in most states, there are no record keeping requirements for secondary sales of firearms. So to call the accumulation of 4473 forms a de facto registration system is laughable.
A Congressional Research Service report provides these details:
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) reported in a national survey that in 1994, 44 million people, approximately 35% of households, owned 192 million firearms, 65 million of which were handguns. Seventy-four percent of those individuals were reported to own more than one firearm. According to the ATF, by the end of 1996 approximately 242 million firearms were available for sale to or were possessed by civilians in the United States. That total includes roughly 72 million handguns (mostly pistols, revolvers, and derringers), 76 million rifles, and 64 million shotguns. By 2000, the number of firearms had increased to approximately 259 million: 92 million handguns, 92 million rifles, and 75 million shotguns. By 2007, the number of firearms had increased to approximately 294 million: 106 million handguns, 105 million rifles, and 83 million shotguns.
In the past, most guns available for sale were produced domestically. In recent years, 1 million to 2 million handguns were manufactured each year, along with 1 million to 1.5 million rifles and fewer than 1 million shotguns. From 2001 through 2007, however, handgun imports nearly doubled, from 711,000 to nearly 1.4 million. By 2009, nearly 2.2 million handguns were imported into the United States. From 2001 through 2007, rifle imports increased from 228,000 to 632,000, and shotgun imports increased from 428,000 to 726,000. By 2009, rifle imports had increased to 864,000, but shotguns had decreased 559,000. By the same year, 2009, the estimated total number of firearms available to civilians in the United States had increased to approximately 310 million: 114 million handguns, 110 million rifles, and 86 million shotguns.
The sheer number of guns that have little or no paper trail would make it virtually impossible to for any Papa Fidel or Chairman Mao Wannabes to implement a national registration scheme. Americans are quite independent by nature and are unlikely to comply with any universal registration edict. Consider the recent experience in Germany, where a new national registry logged in only 5.5 million guns, while 17 million guns remain un-papered in the hands of refuseniks. Now, if this happened in Germany–where the populace is famous for being sticklers to most laws (except on the autobahnen)–can you imagine the result if this were attempted in the United States? To call it massive noncompliance would be putting it mildly.
The bottom line: Be vigilant and vocal with our elected officials about any proposed legislation, but don’t worry too much about the police ever going door to door, looking for unregistered guns. If this were attempted, they wouldn’t get very far. I can predict that if Eric Holder ever wants to turn his fantasies of disarming the American people into reality, then he’ll have to enlist the aid of every sworn law enforcement officer, every soldier, every prison guard, every park ranger, every dog catcher and every meter maid in the country. But I doubt many of those folks will be enthusiastic, in carrying out unconstitutional orders. So then he’d undoubtedly also need the help of a hundred divisions of foreign troops. My advice to Mr. Holder: Order up plenty of body bags. You’ll need them.
Veteran blogger and Appleseed program shooting instructor Bob Owens recently summarized the mathematics of rebellion, quite succinctly: “A nation with just 800,000 law enforcement officers and 3 million active and reserve military personal cannot easily defeat and enslave a free people armed with 300 million firearms, even if large numbers of the police and military didn’t walk away or switch sides to follow their oath to the Constitution instead of any given leader, as many assuredly will.”