A license to kill

I know I’m a little behind here, but I wrote to the author of this silly column and wanted to give him a chance to reply.

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A Gun Nut’s Guide to Gun Control That Works
The idea is simple but powerful: a federally issued license for simple possession of all semi-automatic firearms. This license would allow us to carefully vet civilian access to semi-automatic weapons, while overriding state-specific weapon bans and eliminating some of the federal paperwork that ties specific firearms to specific owners.

As a gun owner who is active in RKBA circles, I found this federal semiautomatic firearm licensing proposal extremely interesting. I think testing on a small scale to work out the bugs is a good idea. And there will be issues, as the low compliance rate with the NYSAFE licensing requirement has shown.

Since Stokes’ concern is crime, I propose testing his concept on the small subset of Americans responsible for that crime, before implementing it on 55-120 million noncriminal gun owners. 10,000 or so murderers would be a more manageable test group; and it would be cheaper to implement.

In order to reduce crime through licensing, his plan will definitely have to take certain factors into account.

According to DOJ data, approximately 88% of firearms used in crime are stolen. 64% of murderers are prohibited persons by way of prior felony convictions, and more are prohibited through domestic violence misdemeanors, adjudications of mental illness, and other disqualifiers. (My own informal survey of media reports shows that roughly 80% of murders are prohibited for one reason or another, just based on quick web searches; it could be higher since all court transactions wouldn’t turn up in such a public news search.)

Inmate surveys have shown that most criminals obtain their firearms through friends or family members (who might be expected to be aware of the person prohibited status) or blackmarket street transactions. Less than 10% lawfully obtained their firearms. (Anecdotal data from my own time as a peace officer supports those findings.)

If Stokes can devise a licensing system that will induce those already prohibited persons to register and license themselves, and to comply with existing laws on firearms possession, I think he’ll have proven his thesis, and we can expand it to all Ameri…

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Of course, he’ll also have to find a way to work around the Supreme Court’s HAYNES decision, which found that felons cannot be required to self-incriminate. A prohibited person applying for a firearms license would tend to do that.

Once he’s managed that, he should be able to address the compliance problem among once-lawful gun owners. In the 1990s, California saw a whopping 2.33% compliance rate with “assault weapon” registration. The NY SAFE Act yielded a slightly better 4.45% compliance rate. Connecticut gun owners are a little more obedient. That state saw a huge “assault weapon” registration 13.44% compliance rate, although they must have been disappointed with the “high capacity” magazine registration 4% compliance rate.

The compliance rate on California’s latest registration scheme should be interesting.

Of course, since no one knows how many firearms are out there, where they are, or who has them, determining compliance is going to be tough. Stokes might need to resort to Alison Airies’ proposal to use the NSA to monitor all Americans for firearms ownership indicators and search all suspects’ homes, with no-warrant follow-up searches and friskings.

Hey, if they’re going to rape the Second Amendment, they might as well scrap the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth. Then, when all the gun owners have been eliminated from their police state, they can over the empty homes, taking care of the Third.

And then there’s malicious compliance.

Somehow, these grand plans never take into account the old problem of inducing criminals to obey the law, before wasting money registering the tens of millions of people who are not the problem.


Carl is an unpaid TZP volunteer. If you found this post useful, please consider dropping something in his tip jar. He could use the money, what with truck repairs and bills.

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3 thoughts on “A license to kill”

  1. Carl,
    If it saves just one child’s life, it would be worth it.
    Of course, if we just stopped all abortions, it would save millions of children’s lives, but we don’t want to get into that.

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