The politics of gun control today clearly indicate that at the federal or state level in Oregon, legislation to either enact new limitations or expand current regulations regarding firearm ownership is highly unlikely.
Accepting this, rather than continue this particular debate, may I offer a proposal which could enhance gun safety while presenting absolutely no threat, real or perceived, to anyone’s Second Amendment rights?
I suggest, either as a state function or created as a nonprofit organization, the formation of an “Oregon Voluntary Firearms Registry.” The concept is simple: Oregon gun owners may register their firearms with the registry, identifying make, model and serial number. The owner would be identified by name and Oregon drivers license number and would furnish contact information (a phone number or email address). This information would be held in a confidential, protected database.
Additionally, all police agencies within the state may participate in the registry by listing weapons reported as stolen, along with dates and agency contact. The serial number of all weapons reported as stolen would be available to police agencies, firearms dealers and any potential purchasers.
The public could see the registry online but obtain only three bits of information by entering a gun’s serial number: whether it’s registered, the date of registration and whether it’s been “red flagged” as stolen. If a weapon is flagged, the contact information for the reporting agency would be presented.
Advantages of the registry:
• A lawful owner with a registered gun would have a third-party statement attesting to ownership. This would facilitate the lawful sale of a weapon by an owner.
• A potential buyer would have, provided by the seller, that certification of registry attesting to the seller’s lawful ownership. Additionally, if offered a weapon flagged as stolen, a buyer would know to avoid the purchase.
• A police agency confiscating or checking a gun would have immediate access to the “red-flag” information. If checking a weapon during a stop or investigation, the flag would help the officer determine appropriate action. When a weapon is confiscated at a crime scene, the agency could quickly determine the weapon’s status. This would facilitate the investigation of both the crime leading to the confiscation and the investigation of the initial theft of the gun. Additionally, the registry would facilitate the return of stolen weapons to lawful owners. Thousands of stolen guns are never returned to their lawful owners.
Public safety impact of the registry:
• There are thousands of burglaries each year in Oregon and one of the main targets of burglars is firearms. A significant black market exists for stolen guns. Without a registry, buyers may inadvertently purchase stolen weapons. The registry would discourage the sale of such weapons and, thereby, discourage burglaries targeting guns.
• The registry would help remove such weapons from our streets by discouraging their possession by individuals who might otherwise be willing to possess such weapons. Additionally, it would discourage efforts by thieves or “fences” to reintroduce stolen weapons into the legitimate marketplace.
The registry is a simple idea. It would be rather easy to develop and implement with today’s technology. It benefits legitimate gun owners. It facilitates the legitimate trade of guns by lawful sellers and buyers. It facilitates the investigation of gun thefts and prosecution of gun thieves. It facilitates the recovery by lawful owners of stolen guns. It discourages the black market trade in stolen weapons and those thefts supporting that black market. It benefits the general public by discouraging burglaries and thefts and by removing guns from the hands of criminals.
It doesn’t address many of the large issues regarding gun safety; however, by benefiting all of us (including gun owners and dealers) and presenting no threat to those concerned with Second Amendment issues, it should be achievable. It’s no panacea, but I think it would certainly help.