I’ve heard a lot of concern from the People of the Gun about universal background checks. I’m concerned too. As recent events in Canada have borne out, a registry can all too easily lead to confiscation. But, we’ve missed an important development — the government already has a registry of which citizens have guns and which don’t. It’s called the internet . . .
When you log onto the internet from your home, your internet service provider (Comcast, AT&T, etc.) can track what sites you visit, and how often. The fact that you are reading this entry is being logged. Have you ever Googled something gun-related, like “.45 ammo for sale”? Google, Inc. probably logged that and has a profile of you that says “probable gun owner”. Have you ever made a post about guns on Facebook, even just to mention a day at the range? Facebook, Inc. logged that. Your ISP, Google and Facebook are all American companies, subject to American subpoenas, and they can’t even disclose that they’ve received a subpoena for your internet history.
If you (like me) are a heavy user of Google, you can check what Google, Inc. knows about you right now. Go to www.google.com/settings/ads and look under ‘interests’. Does that describe you pretty well? Does it have your age and sex down? You’ll notice that Google doesn’t publicly list that you are interested in guns because it doesn’t allow advertising based upon “objectionable” content (try using the tool to add “guns” or “firearms” as interests…you’ll find it doesn’t let you). Still, considering the things it lists, is it too far-fetched to think that it knows that you keep a firearm at home?
You might think, “I’ll just browse from the local Starbucks or work and avoid Google.” Won’t work. Key loggers can profile the way that you type, not to mention that if you so much as check your e-mail or Facebook, your identity can be determined by your ISP. The only thing that might work is to avoid the internet entirely (which would probably make Mr. Farago pretty sad) and live in the woods. But, I’m betting that most of you are like me and will continue to use the internet as we have, unwilling to give up the convenience and benefits.
So, what do we do? How do we live in this brave new world where Big Data can reveal everything about us to both companies and the government? We adapt. I don’t see the point in fighting universal background checks or the resultant gun registry anymore, apart from the abstract principle.
Like Alan Gottlieb and the SAF, I’d be fine with allowing the creation of a gun registry if we had to. Not because I’m okay with compromising our rights, but because I’m willing to accept the reality that this particular aspect of our rights is gone and won’t come back so long as we have and use the internet. What should we trade for, and why? There is only one thing worth trading this for: national pre-emption of all state-level gun restrictions and concealed carry.
The fact is Cliven Bundy might be a racist piece of @#$@, but if the confrontation there has shown us anything, it’s this: the only real thing that will stop federal action to confiscate guns is lots and lots of guns possessed by lots and lots of people. All the Supreme Court rulings aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. If Antonin Scalia has a heart attack in the next two years and President Obama can appoint a liberal justice, constitutional gun rights are finished faster than you can say “Heller has been overturned”.
To protect our rights, we need to expand the gun culture into the birthplace of gun control — urban, largely Democratic America. The Armed Citizen Project has done some good work, but it’s not nearly enough. We need the federal government to step in pre-empt all state regulation to protect gun rights (which, ironically, the federal government can do under the 2nd Amendment), and help us get more guns in the hands of more good, trained people.
The fact of the matter is that it is not viable (or legal) for a citizen to carry or even really possess a firearm in far too many areas of the country comprising far too much of the population. Right now, who would bother to buy a gun in Los Angeles? If you live in a house with kids, you may have to keep it unloaded or use a trigger lock regardless of how old or trained the kids are. And forget trying to carry it outside to work or anywhere where it might be useful, no one can get a permit.
This effective inability to possess and carry a firearm breeds a distrust and hatred of all firearm owners. A national pre-emption and concealed carry bill will vastly increase the incentive to train, purchase, and carry a gun.
For an object lesson, look at Illinois. The number of gun purchases skyrocketed after the court struck down the old laws, and crime hasn’t gone up significantly at all. Even if the Court reversed itself tomorrow, how likely do you think it is that Chicago or Illinois would enact the same laws again? Not very. Can you imagine the same thing happening in California, New York City or New Jersey?
Once we start showing that high levels of legal gun ownership deters crime and saves lives (and probably reduces poverty, too by cutting down on the crime rate), we can change the attitudes of the citizenry in places like South Chicago and South-Central LA. Once we do that, we will vastly reduce the likelihood of a roll-back of our rights due to the death of one Supreme Court justice or a reaction to one mass shooting.
Privacy is dead. All our agitating against a gun registry misses the point. If you’re reading this on TTAG, the government can find out you own a gun. The only thing that will guarantee that our country will remain free of tyranny is to take a risk and to try and change the culture of urban America.