The mass media is still all atwitter with talk of “closing the gun show loophole” and “universal background checks.” These phrases are tossed about without concern to their true intent: a de facto system of gun registration in these United States. I am dead set against any form of registration, since the history of the 20th Century showed countless times that registration leads to eventual confiscation.
There is one other inherent problem with gun registration schemes that is often ignored: that is that it only applies to law-abiding citizens. By virtue of established case law and cemented with an 8-1 Supreme Court decision, criminals are exempt from gun registration because it would violate their Fifth Amendment protection from self-incrimination. Second Amendment expert Clayton Cramer explains it all in a fine essay titled: The Fifth Amendment, Self-Incrimination, and Gun Registration. Here is an excerpt:
In Haynes v. U.S. (1968), a Miles Edward Haynes appealed his conviction for unlawful possession of an unregistered short-barreled shotgun. His argument was ingenious: since he was a convicted felon at the time he was arrested on the shotgun charge, he could not legally possess a firearm. Haynes further argued that for a convicted felon to register a gun, especially a short-barreled shotgun, was effectively an announcement to the government that he was breaking the law. If he did register it, as 26 U.S.C. sec.5841 required, he was incriminating himself; but if he did not register it, the government would punish him for possessing an unregistered firearm — a violation of 26 U.S.C. sec.5851. Consequently, his Fifth Amendment protection against self- incrimination (“No person… shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself”) was being violated — he would be punished if he registered it, and punished if he did not register it. While the Court acknowledged that there were circumstances where a person might register such a weapon without having violated the prohibition on illegal possession or transfer, both the prosecution and the Court acknowledged such circumstances were “uncommon.” The Court concluded:
“We hold that a proper claim of the constitutional privilege against self-incrimination provides a full defense to prosecutions either for failure to register a firearm under sec.5841 or for possession of an unregistered firearm under sec.5851.”
If you ever get into an argument with a neighbor or co-worker about any gun registration stupidity, then I recommend that you either send them the link to Cramer’s essay, or hand them a printout of it. End of argument! – J.W.R.