- - Monday, May 27, 2019

Every one of the 24 Democratic presidential candidates support more gun control. Front-runner Joe Biden not only oversaw the Obama administration’s gun control proposals, but took credit this month for the 1994 federal Assault Weapon Ban. Even Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, from as gun-friendly a state as there is, vetoed a bill that would have prohibited local governments from implementing various gun control ordinances. He did so just before announcing his presidential run.

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and California Sen. Kamala Harris came out in support of licensing gun owners, as well as a long list of other gun regulations. The regulations that they propose will prevent poor Americans — particularly poor blacks living in high-crime neighborhoods — from owning guns for protection.

Mr. Booker made a particularly long list of promises. He pledged to try to remove the NRA’s tax-exempt status, license and fingerprint gun owners, impose universal background checks on the private transfers of guns, microstamp firearms, as well as ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Mr. Booker would allow courts to confiscate firearms if it simply suspects that an individual is dangerous. He would also use your tax dollars to fund gun control research.

Mr. Booker believes that licensing gun owners will reduce crime, but licensing and registration hasn’t worked out that way in parts of the United States and other countries where it has been tried. In theory, if guns are left at a crime scene, they can be traced back to the criminal. In real life, crime guns are only left at the scene of incidents when criminals have been seriously injured or killed. Also, crime guns are very rarely registered. In the exceedingly rare instances that they are, they aren’t registered to the person who committed the crime.

That’s why police in Chicago, Hawaii, D.C., Pennsylvania and Canada can’t point to any crimes that have been solved as a result of registration. But there is a cost. In Honolulu, Hawaii, the licensing and registration operation took up 50,000 hours of police time each year to run.

Mr. Booker claims that Connecticut saw “a 40% drop in gun homicides” between 1995 and 2005, but he ignores that crime was falling nationally as well as across the Northeast.

New Jersey, Mr. Booker’s home state, has just proposed increasing the cost of its mandatory Firearms Purchaser Identification Card to $100. On top of that, gun owners must obtain a permit, for which the proposed fee is $50.

All the Democrats argue that free voter IDs discriminate against minorities, so they ought to be cognizant of the impacts of such fees. Universal background checks also don’t come cheap. In Washington, D.C., and New York City, checks on private transfers of guns start at $125.

Democrats also claim that 3.5 million dangerous or prohibited people have been stopped from buying guns because of background checks, but virtually all of those denials are mistakes. Usually, someone is stopped from buying a gun just because his name is similar to that of a criminal.

Joe Biden and all the Democrats want to expand the current background checks to private transfers. But relying on birth dates and phonetic similarity of names just doesn’t allow for much accuracy. Incidentally, people are more likely to share names with other members of their racial groups. Hispanics often have names similar to other Hispanics, and certain names are relatively common among blacks. Law-abiding blacks and Hispanics are particularly likely to have their names confused with people whose criminal records preclude them from legally buying guns.

This problem of false positives requires only an easy fix. The government need only follow the same rules that it demands of private companies when they conduct criminal background checks on employees. But instead of fixing the system and requiring the use of basic identifying information, Democrats’ proposals will simply make it more difficult, unfair and inconvenient to buy a gun.

Mr. Booker says that he wants to close the so-called “Charleston Loophole,” but this betrays a lack of understanding of existing gun law. Charleston Church killer Dylann Roof was only charged with misdemeanor drug possession. Even if he’d been convicted, the federal background check system would not have red-flagged his gun purchase. So, there’s no loophole to be closed, unless Democrats are in favor of stripping people of their constitutional rights for misdemeanor drug possession.

Firearm microstamping involves a gun’s firing pin imprinting a microscopic set of characters on bullet cartridges. These characters identify the gun’s make, model and serial number. But this technology has yet to be developed, and such a regulation would effectively bring gun production to a halt.

Instead of adding more fees and inefficiencies, Democrats would be more honest with the American people if they simply tried to ban guns. And it wouldn’t so unfairly and disproportionately affect poor Americans, many of whom happen to be minorities.

• John R. Lott Jr. is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author most recently of “The War on Guns.”

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