Privatized Gun Registration

Published on September 22, 2018 by

I’m a supporter of the Second Amendment. I believe people have the right to arm themselves for their own protection and as a check against a tyrannical government.

Therefore, I agree with those who say it would be a bad idea to allow the government to have a database of guns and their owners, because that would make gun confiscation significantly easier. And, let’s face it, there are plenty of liberals who would happily ban all guns if the political climate ever shifted enough that they felt they could get away with it.

On the other hand, the lack of searchable databases of gun owners hampers investigations after a gun has been used in a crime. See this story in GQ for an examination of the problem. (Hat tip to Stacy Whitman for the link.)

So, is there a way to bridge that gap? I think there might be: privatized gun registration.

How would that work?

A federal law would allow private organizations to become gun registrars. (The NRA could become one if they wanted.) A gun registrar would maintain a searchable database of guns and gun owners, that would allow the registrar to retrieve the identity of the owner of a particular gun based on its serial number, or to retrieve a list of all the guns registered in their database for a particular gun owner. This could be used in two ways:

  1. Police could ask the gun registrars to search for the owner of a particular gun that is in the police’s possession, and the registrar would be legally obligated to respond within a certain amount of time. This would allow police to find the registered owner of a lost or stolen gun (in which case the owner will presumably be happy to get it back), or the owner of a gun used in a crime (and therefore help the investigation of a particular crime). I don’t think this provision opens the door for gun confiscation, since the police would have the gun in their possession already.
  2. After showing probable cause that a person committed a crime involving a gun, police could get a warrant to ask the registrars for a list of all guns owned by that person (and maybe other people in the same household). I think the warrant requirement is a sufficient barrier to mass confiscation of guns by asking the registrar.

But what if the government comes in and seizes the registrar’s database?

Good question.

  1. The registrars will be required by law to have a system in place to destroy the database and any backups at a particular location if government agents try to seize the database at that location. (To protect against accidental destruction, the registrar must have the database in multiple locations. But if the government tries to seize all of a registrar’s locations, the database should be completely destroyed, with no way to recover it.)
  2. Even if a registrar fails to destroy their database, and the government seizes it, that registrar’s database only has the guns and gun owners registered through that registrar. People who own multiple guns and were concerned about limiting the knowledge of what guns they had would simply register different guns with different registrars.
  3. The registrars would be required by law to destroy all their databases immediately if a bill to confiscate weapons passes in either chamber of Congress, or if the President of the United States issues an executive order to confiscate guns. Thus, even if the politics of guns shifted to the point where gun confiscation became politically possible, the registrars’ databases could not be used.

Since a privatized gun registration system like this would avoid the danger of gun confiscation posed by a centralized, government-run gun registration system, I think it would therefore be reasonable to require gun owners to register their weapons.

However, since such required registration would subject law-abiding gun owners to an inconvenience (and would presumably cost them money for registration), it seems fair that they should get something in return for agreeing to such a system. Something like concealed carry permit reciprocity (a concealed carry permit from any state would be honored in any state, just like a driver’s license) might work.




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One comment on “Privatized Gun Registration”

  1. COB says:

    I will agree to registration of any weapon that the military is able to possess so long as I can buy said weapon for no more than 100% over the military’s cost.

    Reciprocity of concealed carry is coming one way or another eventually though so that’s not needed as a bargain chip.