Television entertainment shows keep pushing a myth by gun control advocates that a gun registry is an effective way to solve crime. Their reasoning is straightforward: If a gun has been left at a crime scene, the registry will link the crime gun back to the criminal. This episode from Chicago PD makes that exact claim (Season 6, Episode 17, March 27, 2019).
Nice logic, but reality has never worked that way. Crime guns are very rarely left at the crime scene. The few that are have been unregistered — criminals are not stupid enough to leave behind a gun that’s registered to them. When a gun is left at the scene, it is usually because the criminal has been seriously injured or killed. These crimes would have been solved even without registration.
Licensing and registration also haven’t worked in Pennsylvania or other places. During a 2001 lawsuit, the Pennsylvania state police could not identify a specific crime solved by the registration system from 1901 to 2001, though they did claim that it had “assisted” in a total of four cases, they could provide no details.
During a 2013 deposition, the Washington, D.C., police chief said that she could not “recall any specific instance where registration records were used to determine who committed a crime.”
During testimony before the Hawaii State Senate in 2000, the Honolulu chief of police stated that he couldn’t find any crimes that had been solved due to registration and licensing. The chief also said that his officers devoted about 50,000 hours each year to registering and licensing guns. Registration and licensing divert police from traditional, time-tested law enforcement activities.
Canada and other parts of the U.S. haven’t had any better luck. From 2003 to 2009, 1,314 out of 4,257 Canadian homicides were committed with firearms. Data provided by the Library of Parliament reveal that only a third of homicides involved firearms. Of the identified weapons, about three-quarters were not registered. Among registered weapons, the person the gun was registered to was someone other than the person accused of the homicide. In just 62 cases — only 4.7 percent of all firearm homicides — was the gun registered to the accused. As most homicides in Canada are not committed with a gun, these 62 cases correspond to only about 1 percent of all homicides.
Of course, the real Chicago police have also been unable to point to real cases where registration has solved crimes.
For other examples of media bias against guns, see here.