President Joe Biden’s push to change the rules regarding “ghost guns” and put serial numbers on gun parts may be hitting a major roadblock. Relying on the Supreme Court’s Bruen decision in June, a West Virginia federal district court judge ruled on Thursday that it is unconstitutional to ban guns without serial numbers. That is hardly the end of the story, however, as federal judges in Texas and North Dakota seem to have no problem with requiring serial numbers.
The West Virginia judge, U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin, isn’t some wild-eyed Trump nominee. He was nominated by Democrat President Bill Clinton.
Goodwin followed the reasoning of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote in his Bruen opinion: “Government must demonstrate that the regulation is consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.” It wasn’t until the 1968 Gun Control Act that all guns had to have unique serial numbers.
Democrats have pushed for serial numbers on all parts of guns, saying it’s a way to protect public safety and prevent violent crime. “This rule will make it harder for criminals and other prohibited persons to obtain untraceable guns,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland claimed in August. “It will help to ensure that law enforcement officers can retrieve the information they need to solve crimes. And it will help reduce the number of untraceable firearms flooding our communities.”
Biden’s expanded use of serial numbers is aimed at stopping the production of homemade guns, now called “ghost guns” by gun control advocates. Homemade guns have been around since even before the United States became a country, and it was never terribly difficult to make a gun with simple machine tools. But now their production has become nearly impossible to regulate. With 3-D metal printers, people can now make weapons that are indistinguishable from those purchased in stores.
But, in any case, despite what people see on TV shows such as “Law & Order,” serial numbers on guns don’t help law enforcement solve crimes.
In theory, if criminals leave registered guns at a crime scene, the serial numbers can be used to trace the weapons back to the perpetrators. Similarly, Biden claims ghost guns have “no serial numbers, so when they show up at a crime scene, they can’t be traced.”
But in real life, guns are only left at the scene of a crime when the gunmen have been seriously injured or killed. With both the criminal and weapon present at the scene, police can solve these crimes without registration. In the exceedingly unusual instances where registered guns are left at the scene, they aren’t registered to the person who committed the crime.
Police in jurisdictions from Hawaii to Chicago to Pennsylvania to New York that have had registration for decades can’t point to any crimes they have been able to solve with it. Even entire countries such as Canada haven’t had success.
New York and Maryland spent tens of millions of dollars compiling a computer database that contained the unique ballistic “fingerprints” of each new gun sold over 15 years. But even these states, which strongly favor gun control, eventually abolished their systems because they never solved a single crime.
Despite Biden’s claims, his new ghost gun regulations are no more useful. Combined with Biden’s zero-tolerance policy for any paperwork mistakes by gun dealers, his new rule is quite nefarious. Biden wants to put gun dealers out of business if they make any paperwork mistake, no matter how trivial or inconsequential. With each part of a gun having a different serial number, just transferring a barrel from one gun to another requires redoing all the paperwork on both guns. He is adding significant costs to gun dealers and manufacturers and increasing the likelihood of mistakes that would put them out of business.
There is a possible argument for using serial numbers for tax purposes, to allow for easier proof of whether a gun has been taxed. The 1934 National Firearms Act imposed taxes on certain weapons such as machine guns. But licensed dealers can still make sure guns are properly taxed when sold, just as sales taxes are imposed on items at any other store.
Why do Democrats keep pushing a policy that costs so much and has no crime-reducing benefits? Someday, knowing who owns guns will help them to target their confiscation efforts. Mass registration will set the stage for future gun bans, but in the meantime, the courts may finally be bringing some sanity to gun control regulations.