The Myth of Gun Registration

“My father has this gun he wants to give me, but it’s unregistered.”  or “Is it okay if I bring an unregistered gun to use during my CHL class?” It is amazing how often we hear something like that from one of our students. THERE IS NO GUN REGISTRATION IN TEXAS! That is also true of most of the states except for a few on the East Coast or West Coast.  The ones on a political map we typically call “blue” states.

Since most of our movies and television originate in either New York or Hollywood and those places do have gun registration, the movie makers don’t know any better and apparently neither do movie watchers. As a result, throughout our society ordinary folks believe that if they have a gun that’s unregistered, they’re committing some sort of crime. The anti-gun crowd loves it that people believe this. In fact, the anti-gun crowd wishes it were true. But, it’s not.

Both the Gun Control Act of 1968 and the National Firerams Act imposed a number of restrictions upon the ownership and transfer of firearms. However the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 specifically states:

No such rule or regulation prescribed after the date of the enactment of the Firearms Owners Protection Act may require that records required to be maintained under this chapter or any portion of the contents of such records, be recorded at or transferred to a facility owned, managed, or controlled by the United States or any State or any political subdivision thereof, nor that any system of registration of firearms, firearms owners, or firearms transactions or disposition be established. Nothing in this section expands or restricts the Secretary’s authority to inquire into the disposition of any firearm in the course of a criminal investigation.

In short, they really wish your firearms were registered, but the law prevents it.

One thing that confuses the issue is the transfer form that is completed whenever you buy or otherwise acquire a firearm from a dealer or holder of a Federal Firearms License (FFL). Let me explain what happens here. If you buy a gun from us, or Academy Sports, Cabelas, Bass Pro, Cheaper Than Dirt, etc. you must complete a Form 4473 that attests to the fact that you’re legal to own a firearm. The dealer must add the make, model and serial number of the firearm to the form and, unless you have a Texas Concealed Handgun License, we have to get a clearance from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) before transferring the firearm into your possession.

That 4473 form goes into our files. The information does not go into a database and is not transmitted to any local, state or federal government. It simply goes in our files. We must keep it for 20 years. What you do with the gun after you buy it, is your business. You can decide you don’t like it and sell it to an individual a day, week or month later and there is no requirement that you do any kind of background check on the purchaser or even record the sale.

If law enforcement recovers a firearm from a crime scene in New York City, they run a records check, find out whose gun it is and show up at the owner’s door within the 50 minutes allowed for the TV detectives to solve the crime.  In the real world, they can run a trace that starts with the manufacturer. If it is a firearm manufacturered since 1968, the manufacturer has a record indicating which wholesale distributor orginally acquired the gun. The distributor will have a record of which dealer the gun was sent to and the dealer will have a record of who they originally sold the gun to. A typical firearm trace can take up to 90 days, because in most cases these records are not automated.

I am a law-abiding citizen and I own a few guns. Some were inherited, some I bought from a dealer, some I acquired from individuals. As an individual, I’ve sold a number of firearms and I have no record of the sale. The Federal government has no record of the firearms I own and no reason to have such a record. Neither does the State of Texas or the City of Keller. It’s none of their business. We need to make sure we elect individuals to office who understand why it’s important to keep it that way.