Why “Mass Noncompliance” With Firearm Laws Is A Losing Strategy

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The city of Boulder, Colorado made headlines in the wake of an “assault weapons ban” passed in May 2018 – not due to the ban itself, but the large number of citizens engaging in “mass noncompliance” with the law:

Only 342 “assault weapons,” or semiautomatic rifles, were certified by Boulder police before the Dec. 31 deadline, meaning there could be thousands of residents in the scenic university town of 107,000 in violation of the sweeping gun-control ordinance.

“I would say the majority of people I’ve talked to just aren’t complying because most people see this as a registry,” said Lesley Hollywood, executive director of the Colorado Second Amendment group Rally for Our Rights. “Boulder actually has a very strong firearms community.”

Mass noncompliance with new firearms restrictions is hardly a new trend – recently, the state of New Jersey passed a law reducing the legal size of firearm magazines from 15 to 10, without a grandfathering restriction for existing magazines – and thus far, no residents have turned their now-illegal magazines in to police…

Two sources from within the State Police, who spoke to AmmoLand on condition of anonymity, told AmmoLand News that they both do not know of any magazines turned over to their agency and doubted that any were turned in. They also stated that the State Police also engaged the AG’s office for guidance on how to respond to inquiries such as ours. They were unaware if the Attorney General has returned to their request for guidance.

All the local police departments that AmmoLand contacted stated that they have not had any magazines turned into them.

…and New York State has been dealing with mass noncompliance ever since it passed the NY Safe Act in 2013.  This was particularly intriguing in the case of the #OneLess movement and (possibly illegal) destruction of an AR-15 rifle, as previously covered by FMShooter:

Under the NY SAFE Act, all new AND existing “assault weapons” had to have been registered with the state no later than April 15th, 2014.  Pappalardo’s rifle clearly has a pistol grip and a muzzle brake (or flash hider, barrel shroud, or compensator, if you want to be specific), making it a “banned” item.  New York State’s rate of compliance with the SAFE Act is about 4%, making the odds very high that Pappalardo was illegally owning and possessing his rifle in the first place.  

Even though it is the correct strategy, mass noncompliance of firearms laws is still ultimately a losing battle, for the simple reason that Bloomberg and his ilk are playing the long game.  Even though a lot of these laws are virtually unenforceable, previously law-abiding gun owners are now criminals (possibly felons), with the weapons they own slowly decaying in number over time.

Door-to-door confiscation is is almost certainly not happening – the last thing anti-gun politicians want is violent resistance.  But gun banners don’t need to bother with confiscation – they can just let noncompliant individuals off without seeking them out, safe with the knowledge that the 1) can’t legally use their weapons anyway, and 2) the supply of these firearms will slowly (but surely) disappear.  In response to Pennsylvania protests of a similar Pittsburgh law, PA Gun Blog summed up the gun grabber position succinctly:

“They’ll be happy to have you defy the law, and keep your guns in your safe. They just need to wait you out. In a generation there will be no gun culture. That’s how they’ll win. They’ll never cross the line enough to provoke violent resistance. They don’t have to.”

The 1986 Hughes Amendment is the perfect example of this policy in effect on a national scale.  Closing the NFA registry on fully automatic firearms, the count on these weapons has slowly decayed.  In 2016, The Truth About Guns stated that the number of pre-1986 “transferrables” to be “a little over 182,000” ten years before the article, and currently at 175,977.

30 years after the Hughes Amendment was passed, and not only has the supply of NFA grandfathered full autos dwindled, the prices have gone through the roof, and will continue to do so as the firearms are used and slowly become non-functional.  The below example from Gunbroker.com for a “pristine” MP5 in the registry has a minimum bid price of $21,000… for a firearm sold to law enforcement for under $3,000:

Image courtesy Gunbroker.com

3. Our parent company has had this in our safe since 2011. It came from a collection and has never been shot since we have had it.
4. Why are we selling it? We have many in-stock that are dealer samples as well, but we shoot them. This one is so clean, the owner of our company said NO to shooting, and put it away since it came in from the AZ acquisition.

After the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban (foolish in its name, goal and even more so in its implementation), grandfathered “pre-ban” firearms and magazines soared in value.  If the law did not have a “sunset” clause that led to its disappearance after ten years, these items likely would have followed a similar path as the above NFA firearms, albeit in far larger numbers and with far more “home workarounds” than NFA firearms.

Even though these laws stigmatizing legal gun ownership are already bad enough on the state level, residents still have the option of moving and/or buying a second home in a more gun-friendly state.  At the federal level, these laws give legal gun ownership no escape – possibly quite literally, in the case of Senator Dianne Feinstein‘s proposed 2019 Assault Weapons Ban redux:

For now, we can only trust what the AWB press release calls the “key provisions.” The ban, in its current state, will not affect those who currently own the banned firearms/magazines. However, these firearms/magazines will no longer be allowed to be made, imported, nor transferred (sold/purchased/given).

For the other items on the proposed ban, it is not yet clear whether they will be “grandfathered.”

New assault weapons are dead on arrival with President Trump in office, and the failure of the 1994 ban cost Democrats so heavily that they could only gather 40 votes directly after Sandy Hook in a Democrat-controlled Senate, forcing then-Senator Harry Reid dropped the AWB out of fear that it would “jeopardize more widely supported proposals.”

However, there will come a time where a more permissive legislature and President could force these bills to become law.  More mass noncompliance would all but be assured, but it wouldn’t be enough to slowly chip away and stigmatize legal civilian ownership of these weapons.

So what is the winning strategy?

Obviously, the no.1 winning strategy is to defeat these moronic bills before they ever become law.  The NRA, like them or not, are the best line of defense for gun owners.  Still, public perception needs to be challenged.  These bills have a lower chance of survival no matter the political climate if the politicians and big money gun grabbing billionaires pushing them are properly labeled as evil hypocrites pushing policies that will not apply to them – ad hominem attacks on anti-gun interests are a must to aptly combat legislation.

If that fails and more obstinate gun laws get passed, perhaps the last hope against these bans is the Supreme Court.  Federal appeals courts have generally not been friendly to gun owners, upholding a multitude of restrictions.  Recently the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld New Jersey’s magazine restrictions, with two Obama-appointed judges ruling against one Trump-appointed judge.

With DC vs. Heller coming down to one vote at the Supreme Court just to uphold legal firearm ownership in the home, anyone in favor of gun rights has to be sure that SCOTUS appointees look favorably upon gun rights…

…lest gun-grabbing legislators criminalize millions of law-abiding Americans.