One Absurdity of Gun Registration: Criminals Are Exempt
There is one other inherent problem with gun registration schemes that is often ignored: that is that it only applies to law-abiding citizens. By virtue of established case law and cemented with an 8-1 Supreme Court decision, criminals are exempt from gun registration because it would violate their Fifth Amendment protection from self-incrimination. Second Amendment expert Clayton Cramer explains it all in a fine essay titled: The Fifth Amendment, Self-Incrimination, and Gun Registration. Here is an excerpt:
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. While the Court acknowledged that there were circumstances where a person might register such a weapon without having violated the prohibition on illegal possession or transfer, both the prosecution and the Court acknowledged such circumstances were “uncommon.” The Court concluded:
“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 sec.5841 or for possession of an unregistered firearm under sec.5851.”
If you ever get into an argument with a neighbor or co-worker about any gun registration stupidity, then I recommend that you either send them the link to Cramer’s essay, or hand them a printout of it. End of argument! – J.W.R.