Beyond NICS: How Many Ways Can You Say "Registration"?by Dr. Paul Gallant and Dr. Joanne Eisen
A National Instant Check System (NICS), billed as a "reasonable" measure to reduce violent firearm-related crime, is now in effect in the U.S. Under NICS, each and every firearm transfer between you and a licensed dealer will be recorded, and illegally retained by the U.S. Department of Justice. Hunting guns. Plinking guns. Target guns. Collector's guns. Self-defense guns. All of them.
And that is still not enough for the Clinton Administration.
Prior to NICS, a great deal of heated discussion centered around who should foot the bill - gun-owners, or all Americans indirectly through our taxes. In contrast was the relative lack of discourse about the real issue: the great peril such a registration scheme poses to our nation.
When the Brady Act was signed into law on November 30, 1993, its "sunset" provisions - i.e. the "instant-check" system - were laid out in Phase II. It was clear from Sec. 103 (i)(2) that the names of firearm purchasers were not to be retained in the system:
"No department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States may...use the system established under this section to establish any system for the registration of firearms (or) firearm owners..."
But just before NICS went into effect, we were advised that the record of gun purchasers would be maintained for a period of 18 months, and that the data would be destroyed after that time.
Now we are told that the data will be retained for 6 months - or is it 3 months? Anyone want to buy a bridge called "Brooklyn"?
The crucial question that all Americans should have asked all along is whether or not the creation of a National Instant Check System, exposing all legal firearm transfers to government scrutiny, is necessary, or desirable.
The peril is not just to gun-owners, but to non-owners as well. For if those households containing firearms are identified, so, too, are those which do not.
According to criminologist Dr. Gary Kleck, burglars in this country tend to devote considerable effort in identifying homes which are unoccupied. Commenting on a 1980's study by Wright and Rossi, Dr. Kleck cited their finding that 73 percent of those who had committed a burglary or violent crime avoided houses when people are home because they feared being shot. Dr. Kleck elaborated:
"...the [deterrence] benefit is enjoyed by all potential burglary victims, not just those who own guns, since burglars are rarely in a position to know exactly which households have guns..."
Whether the firearm-prohibitionists want to admit it or not, private firearm possession benefits all law-abiding Americans. And also, whether they want to admit it or not, computer lists of gun-owners would be accessible to computer hackers, at the very least. Such lists would be of great value to the criminals in our society.
One of the lessons the firearm-prohibitionists have learned is that they need gun-owner lists to effectively confiscate banned firearms. This is especially true for America, because of our Fourth Amendment which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure, and because of the exceptionally high rate of non-compliance here relative to other countries.
A perfect example can be found in New Jersey's "assault-weapon" ban, which Trenton Police Chief Joseph Constance declared "...created a wall of suspicion between the police and the citizens". The ban went into effect in 1990. Six months later, New Jersey State Police estimated that less than one percent of the ban's 300,000 proscribed firearms had been disposed of, in accordance with provisions of the law.
If NICS had been in effect for a long enough period of time prior to the "assault-weapons" ban, many of those New Jersey gun-owners who had the guts to practice civil disobedience would have been caught red-handed, facing up to 5 years in prison.
Just to the north of us, the familiar sound of the "goose-step two-step" - registration leading to confiscation - can be heard from our Canadian neighbors, where the paper trail of gun-owners has been a long time in the making.
According to Canadian researchers Drs. Gary Mauser and Taylor Buckner, in their 1997 study "Canadian Attitudes Toward Gun Control: The Real Story", registration followed by confiscation has already happened there:
"The government has already confiscated various kinds of registered firearms on at least five occasions between 1978 and 1995."
During his weekly Saturday radio address on February 3, 1999, Bill Clinton announced what he thought America's new national firearm policy ought to be: "No background check, no gun. No exceptions". Here is a question we need him to answer (but only under the influence of truth serum): exactly where have such schemes worked to reduce violent crime?
All the while gun-owners were busy debating the cost of NICS, the Clinton administration was busy preparing to close all the loopholes - and add all firearm transfers into their computer system. At this time, the federal government is planning beyond NICS, seeking to record private transfers between all gun-owners, with all transfers of firearms to eventually be documented by a paper trail. Purchases at gun shows between private citizens, or gifts from a family member - your government wants to know about and record all those transfers.
The issue, plain and simple, is liberty. The tragedy is that so few people seem to care. The big question is whether Americans - gun-owners or not - will heed the early warning signs of liberty's demise. It is foolish to presume that the United States, even with its Second Amendment, remains an exception to the firearm-prohibitionists' plan for total civilian disarmament.
As Mauser and Buckner point out:
"Only irretrievably naive and hopelessly optimistic gun owners believe that they are not vulnerable now that the Federal Government [Canadian] has the right to prohibit any firearm thought to be 'not reasonable'..."
Apparently many American gun-owners are intent on joining the Canadian "club".
Kleck, G.; Point Blank: Guns & Violence in America; Aldine de Gruyter; NY 1991
Mauser, G., Buckner, H. T.; Canadian Attitudes Toward Gun-Control: The Real Story; Mackenzie Institute; Toronto; 1997
"New Jerseyites Ignore Ban, Await Legislative Action"; The New Gun Week; 1/17/92
About the Authors:
Dr. Joanne D. Eisen is engaged in the private practice of Family Dentistry. She is President, Association of Dentists for Accuracy in Scientific Media (ADASM), a national organization of dentists concerned with preserving the integrity of the professional dental literature, against the politicization which has corrupted America's medical literature.
Dr. Paul Gallant is engaged in the private practice of Family Optometry, Wesley Hills, NY. He is Chairman, Committee for Law-Abiding Gun-Owners, Rockland (LAGR), a 2nd Amendment grassroots group, based in Rockland County, NY.
The authors may be reached at:
P.O. Box 354
Thiells, NY 10984-0354