John Lott Jr.: Pa. gun registry waste of money, resources
Pennsylvania Democrats want to register your guns. On March 15, state House Representatives Angel Cruz (D-Philadelphia), Mary Isaacson (D-Philadelphia) and Mary Jo Daley (D-Montgomery) proposed the Firearms Registration Act, from which only antiques and guns owned by law enforcement would be exempt. Gov. Tom Wolf strongly supports the bill.
“The bill would require Pennsylvanians seeking to do anything with a gun, whether that be own, possess, sell or transfer, to apply for gun registration through State Police,” said Cruz. “This (Pennsylvania State Police) database will aid all law enforcement officials with investigations and with tracking missing or stolen firearms.”
State police have kept records on all transfers of handguns (both private and through dealers) since 1931 and thus already have a registration system for them. Records on handgun purchases through dealers go back to 1901. The new regulations would add in the private transfer of long guns as well as a $10 fee per gun per year as well as fingerprinting and citizenship verification.
Gun-control advocates have long claimed that a comprehensive registry would be an effective safety tool. Their reasoning is straightforward: If a gun has been left at a crime scene, the registry will link the crime gun back to the criminal.
Nice logic, but reality has never worked that way. Crime guns are rarely left at crime scenes. The few that are have been unregistered — criminals are not stupid enough to leave behind a gun that’s registered to them. When a gun is left at the scene, it is usually because the criminal has been seriously injured or killed. These crimes would have been solved even without registration.
Registration hasn’t worked in Pennsylvania or other places. During a 2001 lawsuit, the Pennsylvania State Police could not identify a specific crime that had been solved through the registration system from 1901 to 2001, though they did claim that it had “assisted” in a total of four cases but they could provide no details.
During a 2013 deposition, the Washington, D.C., police chief said that she could not “recall any specific instance where registration records were used to determine who committed a crime.”
When I testified before the Hawaii State Senate in 2000, the Honolulu chief of police also 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 each year to registering and licensing guns. This time is being taken away from traditional, time-tested law enforcement activities.
Of course, many are concerned that registration lists will eventually be used to confiscate people’s guns. Given that such lists have been used to force people to turn in guns in California, Connecticut, New York and Chicago, these fears aren’t entirely unjustified.
Instead of wasting money and precious police time on a gun registry that won’t solve crime, Pennsylvania should get rid of the program that we already have and spend our resources on programs that matter. Traditional policing works, and we should all be concerned that this bill will keep even more officers from important duties.