There are those that advocate complete registration of firearms with annual verification by the police. Those people have not done the arithmetic. It’s not even math, it’s simple arithmetic.
The exact numbers are unknown but the estimates are that there are about 200,000,000 firearms in private hands in this country. Again, exact numbers are unknown, but it is estimated there are about 80,000,000 gun owners.
The identity of each gun owner would have to be verified otherwise just like in Chicago where the cemeteries are full of registered voters a similar thing would happen with gun registration. Assuming this takes five minutes per gun owner this would consume a total of about 400,000,000 minutes or about 6,700,000 police man-hours per year.
The gun owner addresses would need to be verified every year as well. Otherwise the straw purchaser would simply give false addresses while living in a different state or live out of their motor home. Assuming some sort of efficient “address verification visits” are done to a specific area of town each day and the rural areas don’t dominate, and the gun owners are home when the police visit this is going to take something on the order of about 30 minutes per verification. This will consume about 2,400,000,000 minutes or about 40,000,000 police man-hours per year.
And if, on the average, each of those gun owners moves once every five years then the addresses would need to be updated in the system. Assuming it takes five minutes per address change this would mean it would require about 80,000,000 minutes or about 1,300,000 police man-hours per year.
Assuming it takes five minutes for each gun to be removed from its case, the serial number read, and put back in it’s case that would mean it would consume about 1,000,000,000 minutes or about 17,000,000 police man-hours per year.
This brings the total to about 65 (6.7 + 40 + 1.3 + 17) million police man-hours per year for this registration scheme to work—assuming all the gun owners were reasonably cooperative. Or about assuming 2000 man-hours per man-year this is, without any addition support or management personal, about 32,500 people involved full time. With salary, benefits, office space, and equipment this probably will come to about $100,000 per year per person. This means it would cost at least $3,250,000,000 per year.
There are about 10,000 murders committed with firearms per year so each of those murders could have 3.25 full time additional investigators and prosecutors instead of the registration scheme.
The above is a very low estimate of the costs and ignores the following issues which increase the costs and decrease any benefits dramatically:
- Known felons cannot be required to register their firearms (see Haynes v. U.S., 390 U.S. 85)
- The potential for police corruption will be very high
- The Canadian experience with firearms registration showed that millions of gun owners will not register their firearms
- If registration would work then why didn’t the government try registration with recreational drugs or alcohol during prohibition?
- Registration to exercise a specific enumerated right is likely to be struck down as unconstitutional
- There will be thousands of gun owners who insist the bullets be registered before the guns and deliver those to government buildings, equipment, and employees before bringing in their guns
Update: Linoge, via email, pointed out an error in my arithmetic. I had minutes in a case where it should have been hours. This bumped the total up dramatically.
Update2: Because of additional input from the comments I fixed some typos and added words to point out this is very conservative because it assumes no additional supervisors or support staff.