The Folly of Gun Registration

It’s practically a Pavlovian response at this point: every time an incident involving gun violence occurs, the resultant freak-out from the gun control advocates is always: “Somebody needs to do SOMETHING!!


Inevitably, the discussion leads to background checks and mandatory registration.  Since this blog already dissected the risible “90%” claim spouted by President Obama regarding background checks, let’s take a peek at mandatory registration, shall we?

We had this recent comment from VP Joe “Soo-per Jean-yus” Biden:

“When you go to registration, it raises all the black-helicopter-crowd notion that what this is all about is identifying who has a gun so that one day the government can get up and go to the house and arrest everyone who has a gun, and they’ll cite Nazi Germany and all that…”

Of course, we’re well aware of Joe’s idiotic prescription for home-defense…., so please consider the source.


Still, you might ask:  “What IS the problem with mandating gun registration?”  Well, leaving behind the black-helicopter-crowd notion, there’s another reason I’d beseech you to consider…

Have you ever heard of the Supreme Court decision:  U.S. v. Haynes (1968)?

Clayton Cramer wrote an article on the subject that I read at Firearms and Liberty.  He summarizes the case:

“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.

gavelPretty ingenious, eh? Yet surely our Court system would see through this plainly illogical argument, …wouldn’t it?

Think again.

It was a 7-1 decision, with Justice Thurgood Marshall not involved in the ruling and only Chief Justice Warren having dissented. Justice Harlan delivered the Majority Opinion, concluding his writing with:

“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 5841 or for possession of an unregistered firearm under 5851.”

May I summarize the decision in terms that I understand?  Thank you, I think I will.

In other words, a convicted felon can NOT be convicted for failing to register a gun. See…. if he were to attempt to register it, it would be revealed that he was a convicted felon who was attempting to purchase/register the weapon, and would be incriminating himself…..which violates his Fifth Amendment Rights.

However, a citizen who IS legally “allowed” to own a firearm, but fails to register it according to any law that would require such, can (and almost certainly, WILL) be punished.

torn constitution

And there you have it: the criminal, towards whom registration laws would presumably be aimed, cannot be punished for failing to register the weapon.  BUT: you, me, and all other law-abiding, tax-paying citizens, …CAN be.

So, would someone, …anyone, …kindly explain to me: WHAT is gained by requiring our firearms to be registered? There’s no need to answer, of course…

We already know:

18 responses to “The Folly of Gun Registration

  1. Solid post, Pgh.

    Admittedly, I was ignorant of this law. I basically understand the logic behind it, such as it is, but how can this not have been overturned by now?
    Makes no sense to me…

    • livinrightinpgh

      Thanks, bro….I had to read and re-read some of this stuff several times, and research law journals to get my mind around this. It’s ridiculous to say the least.

      I can’t get away from the belief that a National Gun Registry is nothing more than Step #1 in the “How to seize the peoples’ guns” manifesto.

  2. The information in this post really needs to be promulgated to all of our citizens. There really should be a way to educate people!

  3. You are so welcome, Pgh. It’s one way to get the story out there. We can’t count on ABC world news.

    • livinrightinpgh

      JTR has often pointed out how the Left will give away their TRUE motivations in the comments they make. I refer back to the quote by Veep Biden:
      “….that what this is all about is identifying who has a gun so that one day the government can get up and go to the house and arrest everyone who has a gun….”

      The “arrest everyone who has a gun” is delivered to make the first (and truthful) part of his statement seem absurd. But just replace that last part with “and confiscated every gun”.

      Yep, Joe…..that’s what this IS all about.

  4. This makes no sense, yet makes perfect sense because the government is involved. I agree with tannngl, more people need to be aware of this.

    • livinrightinpgh

      I’ll tell ya, CTX….THAT’S why I had to read and re-read this material several times. Your (logical) mind says: No way.
      But, there it is.

      I really encourage folks to check out the whole Clayton Cramer article, and then, Google “U.S. v Haynes”, and look at the legal reviews….both enlightening AND, very disturbing!

      Thanks for the comment!

      • I will definitely have to check out the article and more information in the court case. There would be a whole lot of deserved outrage over gun registration if this became common knowledge. Having to register to exercise a Constitutionally protected right is bad enough on its own, but this just takes the cake.

        • It is my understanding that although Congress has made certain amendments to the National Firearms Act, the basic provisions of Haynes continues to block states from prosecuting criminals for failure to properly register a hand gun….

  5. Wonderful article, PGH! Kudos to you for the research…slogging through the legalese was heroic on your part, and what a benefit to the rest of us!

    • Thanks, GBL….I keep digging, CERTAIN that there MUST be something I’ve missed in this whole thing. But, even if U.S. v Haynes was overturned, I still see no REAL benefit in mandatory registration. Frankly, I’m not comfortable with ANY government having ANY list. History is fully documented with what happens AFTER the government seizes guns. Any study of the Second Amendment, done in earnest, makes it VERY clear why our Founders believed that the rights of the people should not be infringed in this area.

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