On Aug. 19th, Louisville, Kentucky Metro Chief of Police Erica Shields flashed her tyrannical instincts on local television.
Chief Shields’ sanctimonious comments perfectly illustrate an attitude that habitually pops up throughout the gun rights debate: It is your responsibility, the anti-gunners believe, to surrender your civil rights and other legal protections to make enforcing the law easier.
Commenting to a local news channel Shields said that anyone who does not support a new national digital firearms registry is not pro law enforcement, and that all such people “are giving law enforcement the middle finger.”
Her poorly thought-out statement assumes more than a good investigator would dare. The following disclaimer is on the ATF’s website regarding their firearms tracing: “Firearms are normally traced to the first retail seller, and sources reported for firearms traced do not necessarily represent the sources or methods by which firearms in general are acquired for use in crime.”
The ATF clearly acknowledges that firearms tracing produces mixed results, because firearms both voluntarily and involuntarily change hands – a fact that would confound a digital registry as much as the current system.
The logistical challenges of tying a name and serial number together for every firearm in the country is astronomical.
It’s also unclear what impact ATF traces have on convictions. Do ATF firearm traces substantially help convict murderers? There is very little data to support that assumption, or the legal validity of a trace report in a court of law.
The idea that a comprehensive digital database of gun owners would affect violent crime is nothing but speculation.
However, we do have recent examples of how local law enforcement and federal agents abuse the data they’ve collected on private citizen’s gun purchases.
While we have no fact-based reasons to believe a gun registry would benefit public safety, we can be certain it would create opportunities for more misconduct.
Policing a free society is necessarily difficult. And our justice system is adversarial for very important reasons.
We can’t have both fast and easy solutions, and real justice. We need law enforcement officials who will do the hard work and not cut corners at the expense of our civil rights.
Chris Brooks is an armorer and longtime gun-rights advocate based in Southwest Florida.