Monday, August 27, 2018

Hundreds of millions of U.S. Guns are Unlicensed and Untraceable

In the hysteria about 3D printed guns, the words "unlicensed and untraceable" are thrown about promiscuously and irresponsibly. They are used to imply disaster is upon us, that some new scary threshold has been breached.

They are scare tactics based on ignorance. Most of the 400 million plus firearms in the United States are unlicensed (unregistered) and untraceable.  It has been that way for decades, hundreds of years. It has not made a significant difference in the crime rate. It will not make a significant difference in the future. Separate from gun licensing, there are background checks at retail purchase for most guns in the United States. Only a few states require background checks on private sales of guns. Background checks do not make a difference.

The number of guns in a state do not predict homicide rates or violent crime.

"Unlicensed and untraceable" is scary only if you think most guns are "licensed (registered)" and that "traceability" has anything to do with preventing crime.

National registration of guns has been illegal for decades. Only a few authoritarian states require registration of firearms. Those states are California, Hawaii, Maryland, and New York. The registration schemes in Hawaii and California apply to all guns. The requirements for registration of long guns are fairly recent.  Most guns that were unregistered before registration was required remain unregistered, and are grandfathered in. New York required registration of handguns only. Recently they required registration of some semi-automatic rifles. The law has been ignored by over 80% of the people affected. Maryland has required handgun and some semi-automatic firearm registration for a few years. It does not require registration of most long guns.

A few U.S. territories, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa require gun registration. Puerto Rico requires gun registration. The District of Columbia requires gun registration. Gun registration is effectively gun licensing.  Gun registration has meant nothing.  The District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico have higher murder rates than any of the United States. Registration of guns is a failed crime-fighting theory. New Zealand and Canada repealed gun registration schemes as expensive and ineffective. New Zealand repealed long gun registration in 1983, Canada in 2012.

There are a few minor registration schemes around the nation. Some states desultorily attempt to keep track of some handgun sales by requiring handgun sales to be reported to state police. Few people have bothered with such antiquated systems. People in the United States move from state to state. Few register their guns when they move.

The vast majority of states do not register guns. There are over 400 million guns in the United States. Over 300 million guns in the United States are not registered. Most were never required to be registered.

After 20 years of ownership, guns are generally untraceable. Guns are sold, inherited in estates, or traded without a paper trail.  Over 20 years, one percent of guns may be stolen. Once a gun is stolen, it is untraceable. The only thing gun tracing does is track the gun to the first person it was sold to at a retail level. This does nothing to fight crime.

Gun tracing is the bastard child of Lyndon Johnson's attempt to put into place a national gun licensing and registration scheme in the 1968 Gun Control Act (GCA).  The National Rifle Association worked hard to prevent national gun licensing and registration. As a compromise, the nation got the intrusive, expensive and ineffective GCA. The GCA requires record keeping at the point of sale, for the purpose of tracing the gun to the first retail sale.  What is the point of that? Almost no crimes are solved with gun traces. A gun trace finds who the gun was sold to a number of years ago. It solves nothing. "Traceability" is a failed crime-fighting theory.

Hundreds of millions of guns in the United States are untraceable. If means nothing. Hundreds of millions of guns are unlicensed. It means nothing.

People have been making guns at home for hundreds of years. They are not required to be registered.  There are likely a few hundred thousand homemade guns in the United States. So? A few hundred thousand homemade guns are a drop in the bucket to the hundreds of millions that are factory made.  A few hundred made by 3D printing is even less significant. 

Another term that is promiscuously used is "undetectable".

We did not have metal detectors until the 1950s, at the earliest. Crime rates were about the same as they are today. If people needed to keep weapons out of jail cells, prisons, or, occasionally, a court room, they searched people as they went in. The TSA has found four 3D printed guns over the years. 3D guns have mass and take up space. They are *not* undetectable. Undetectable is just another scary buzzword.

The concept that you can keep criminals from obtaining guns by regulating the access of everyone else is flawed from the start.  It cannot be done in a free society. Even prisoners make their own guns or smuggle them into prison. With 350 million unlicensed and unregistered guns already in the country, it is an impossible task to stop a few prohibited possessors from getting guns by restricting access to everyone else.

A better, much more effective approach, is to monitor the small number of people that are so dangerous as to be prohibited from obtaining firearms. Parents should be responsible for their children. People who are shown to be a danger to others can be visited and checked to see if they have weapons. If people can show they have become responsible members of society, their Second Amendment rights should be restored.

Instead of innocent people asking the government for permission to purchase a gun, a list of those who are prohibited from having a gun should be made public and updated in real time. Then the public would have a chance of determining if the person they are selling a gun to is on the list. That has a possibility of making it a little harder for those prohibited from possessing guns to obtain them.

The idea that any eight year old could print a gun at home with the push of a button sounds scary. It is not based in fact.

If an eight year old can load a program, select the proper material, print and assemble a gun, find the proper ammunition and load it, they can operate a file and a drill press.  Does a several hundred dollar 3D printer make more of a difference than a couple of hundred dollar drill press or lathe and some files? It does not.

The only reason 3D printed guns are hyped is because ignorant people, who are afraid of guns, have some knowledge of computers and printers. The idea of 3D printed guns give them a little bit of understanding of what most makers have known for decades.  The people concerned about 3D printers have no understanding of casting, welding, drill presses, lathes, files or hammers.

The hype about 3D printed guns only highlights the ignorance of those determined to have a disarmed population.

If you want a disarmed population, repeal the Second Amendment, declare most firearms ownership illegal, and gin up the prisons and labor camps. I suspect armed resistance would occur. That cure would be far worse than the current disease.

People who push for strong restrictions on gun ownership and use often believe that because they do not wish a gun, all the costs of heavy restrictions would be paid by others. That is a mistake.

At present, a person who dislikes guns can avoid committing suicide or having an accident with a gun simply by not possessing one. If armed resistance to gun control occurs, the resisters will not be hunting police. They will be hunting those who politically pushed for a disarmed population. They will have guns. Those who pushed for disarmament will not.

©2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

Gun Watch

No comments: