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EDITORIAL: ‘We want them registered’

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, announced last week that she wants to register guns. Her next move will be to try to confiscate them.

The speaker picked a television show with a viewership of 4.6 million to float the Democrats' coming gun-control push. Questioned on ABC's "Good Morning America" about the prospect of new gun-control laws now that "it's a Democratic president, a Democratic House," she responded, "We don't want to take their guns away. We want them registered."

Politicians and bureaucrats routinely claim that registration helps solve crimes. If a registered gun is used in a crime and left at the crime scene, registration supposedly lets the police trace the gun back to the criminal. Though this turn of events might work on fictional TV crime shows, it virtually never occurs in real life. Criminals' guns are rarely left at crime scenes. When guns are left behind, it usually is because a crook has been seriously injured or killed and the police are poised to catch him anyway.

The few guns left at crime scenes rarely - if ever - are registered to the perpetrator. If they are registered at all, it is to someone else, whose piece was stolen. Despite what Mrs. Pelosi might think, those who use guns to commit major crimes such as robbing and killing are unlikely to respect her request to file paperwork so the government can catalog the tools of their trade.

Numerous examples disprove gun-control propaganda. Hawaii has had licensing and registration of guns for about 50 years. After all of the administrative expenses and inconvenience imposed on gun owners, police there cannot point to a single crime that has been solved as a result of those programs. Given Hawaii's remote island geography, this should be an ideal place to keep track of guns because movement in and out of the state is limited and legal importation is controlled. If registration is going to work anywhere, it should work there. Unfortunately, criminals seem to be able to get their hands on guns virtually anyplace in the world.

Other jurisdictions with a history of strict handgun bans, such as the District of Columbia and Chicago, have even required registration of hunting rifles and shotguns for more than 20 years. Neither the District nor Chicago can point to any crimes that have been solved using registration records.

The same rules apply across the border. Canada, which has imposed registration of handguns since the 1930s, does not have much to show for it. In 2006, when the Liberal Party under Prime Minister Paul Martin controlled the government, it was admitted in parliamentary debate that just three crimes in 70 years had been solved as a result of registration. A couple of those cases were debatable because other independent evidence helped solve the crimes. According to the Canadian Ministry of Public Safety, just 4 percent of Canadian handgun murders in 2005 and 2006 were committed with registered handguns, and none of those were registered to the people who committed the crimes. As for long-gun registration, at least as of 2006, not a single violent crime had been solved through registration.

Because registration doesn't help solve crime, it is important to ask why government wants to register the people's firearms. History provides the answer. In countries from Australia to England, registration has been used to create lists of guns that later were confiscated by their governments. Despite Mrs. Pelosi's assurances to the contrary, Americans' fear that registration will lead to confiscation is well-founded. Indeed, Mrs. Pelosi's own state of California already has used existing registration lists to confiscate so-called assault weapons just a half-dozen years ago.

The speaker claims registration won't lead to gun confiscation because of the Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, which struck down the District's handgun ban last June. She knows full well that this judgment was based on a narrow 5-4 decision that could be reversed when President Obama gets his opportunity to appoint an additional liberal justice to the court.

A Gallup poll released Wednesday shows that support for gun control is "at an all-time low" since the issue started being surveyed nearly 50 years ago. According to Gallup, just 29 percent favor handgun bans. Now that Democrats are in control of the legislative and executive branches of government, even the will of the people won't keep them from going after the guns of law-abiding Americans.

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