The foregoing discussion has focused on gun control in general. Many people who are skeptical about a complete ban on all guns nevertheless favor some sort of intermediate controls, which would regulate but not ban guns or ban only certain types of guns. While some of these proposals seem plausible in the abstract, closer examination raises serious doubts about their utility.
Gun registration is essentially useless in crime detection. Tracing the history of a recovered firearm generally leads to the discovery that it was stolen from a legal owner and that its subsequent pattern of ownership is unknown.
Analogies are sometimes drawn between gun registration and automobile registration. Indeed, a majority of the public seems to favor gun registration not because a reduction in crime is expected but because automobiles and guns are both intrinsically dangerous objects that the government should keep track of.The analogy, though, is flawed. Gun owners, unlike drivers, do not need to leave private property and enter a public roadway. No one has ever demanded that prospective drivers prove a unique need for a car and offer compelling reasons why they cannot rely solely on public transportation. No Department of Motor Vehicles
has ever adopted the policy of reducing to a minimum the number of cars in private hands. Automobile registration is not advocated or feared as a first step toward confiscation of all automobiles. However, registration lists did facilitate gun confiscation in Greece, Ireland, Jamaica, and Bermuda. The Washington, D.C., city council considered (but did not enact) a proposal to use registration lists to confiscate all shotguns and handguns in the city. When reminded that the registration plan had been enacted with the explicit promise to gun owners that it would not be used for confiscation, the confiscation's sponsor retorted, "Well, I never promised them anything!"The Evanston, Illinois, police department also attempted to use state registration lists to enforce a gun ban. Unlike automobiles, guns are specifically protected by the Constitution, and it is improper to require that people possess- ing constitutionally protected objects register themselves with the government, especially when the benefits of registration are so trivial. The Supreme Court has ruled that the First Amendment prohibits the government from registering purchasers of newspapers and magazines, even of foreign Communist propaganda.The same principle should apply to the Second Amendment: the tools of political dissent should be privately owned and unregistered.