Federal law explicitly prohibits the creation of a federal firearm registry, but the Biden administration is making one anyway. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has collected nearly one billion firearm purchase records. The government has now created a searchable digital database containing 866 million of these transactions, including some 54 million made in 2021 alone.
This massive data collection effort encompasses information on all guns sold by licensed gun dealers, and on all legal gun transfers in states with so-called universal background checks. So, federal officials will have the name of everyone who legally obtained a gun. Now, President Biden wants to make universal background checks nationwide so he can have an even more complete registration list.
According to a Rasmussen Reports survey, Democrats support the idea by a 2-1 ratio, while Republicans oppose it by a similar margin. Two-thirds of Republicans believe the policy will lead to gun confiscation, and even 40% of Democrats believe the same. Confiscating legally owned firearms, it seems, is not merely a right-wing conspiracy theory.
Similarly, a recent Gallup poll shows that 40% of Democrats want a complete ban on civilian ownership of handguns. Countries such as Canada, the U.K., and Australia aren’t the only ones to use registration to ban and confiscate guns. California, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. have also used registration to know who legally owned different types of guns before banning them.
Conducting background checks to see if someone can legally buy a gun is different from the government keeping a searchable record of those who own guns. Indeed, federal law has always required that the National Instant Criminal Background Check System erase background check information within 24 hours of its completion.
Gun control activists push for registration as a way to solve crime. In theory, if criminals leave registered guns at a crime scene, they can then be traced back to the perpetrator. But in real life, a gun is usually left at the scene of a crime only when the gunman has been seriously injured or killed. Also, guns used in crimes are rarely registered. In the exceedingly unusual instances that they are, they aren’t registered to the person who committed the crime. However, with both the criminal and weapon present at the scene, police can solve these crimes even without registration.
In a 2001 lawsuit, the Pennsylvania state police could not identify any crimes solved by their registration system from 1901 to 2001; however they did claim that it had “assisted” in a total of four cases, for which they could provide no details.
In a 2013 deposition for District of Columbia v. Heller II, the plaintiffs recorded that the Washington, D.C. police chief could not “recall any specific instance where registration records were used to determine who committed a crime, except for possession offenses.”
During testimony before the Hawaii State Senate in 2000, Honolulu’s police chief stated that he couldn’t find any crimes that had been solved due to registration and licensing. The chief also said that his officers devoted about 50,000 hours to registering and licensing guns each year. This is time that could have been spent on traditional, time-tested law enforcement activities.
New York and Maryland spent tens of millions of dollars putting together a computer database on all new guns sold in the past 15 years, even recording the ballistic fingerprint of each gun. But even these states, which strongly favor gun control, eventually abolished their systems because they never solved a single crime.
In 2010, Canada conducted a detailed examination of its program. It found that, from 2003 to 2009, 1,314 out of 4,257 Canadian homicides involved firearms. Of the identified weapons, about three-quarters were not registered. Among registered weapons, the registered owner was rarely the person accused of the homicide. In just 62 cases – only 4.7 percent of all firearm homicides – was the gun registered to the accused, and an unknown number of these homicide cases involve instances of self-defense. But the Royal Canadian Mounted Police failed to identify any cases where registration was integral to solving the crime.
Why do Democrats keep pushing a policy that costs so much and has no crime-reducing benefits? With so many Democrat voters supporting complete gun bans, many Republicans and Democrats believe that the registry is designed to pave the way for a ban on guns.