Dirty Little Secrets of Gun Control
First, much of what follows is from this excellent article.
1) None of the recently passed laws would have stopped ANY of the recent, high profile shootings that prompted them. Every single one of the firearms used in every one of them was purchased from a dealer, with a background check. Many were registered in compliance with state laws. So called "Assault Weapons" bans also would have had no effect, because all of the shootings could have been (or were) accomplished with a semi-auto handgun and ten round magazines - and the Supreme Court has ruled that these cannot be banned.
2) Criminals do not register guns (Dah!) - and they can't be prosecuted for failure to do so (it would be self-incrimination). Only otherwise law abiding citizens can be prosecuted for failure to register. Furthermore, although it is a felony federally and in most states for a prohibited person (mostly felons and the severely mentally ill) to possess or even to attempt to purchase a firearm they are almost never prosecuted. In short, gun laws are seldom used against criminals.
3) Most otherwise law abiding citizens also will refuse to register their guns. Rates of compliance range from 17% (UK Pump/Semi Shotguns) to 32% (Canada - long guns) to 12-30% (Connecticut - "Assault Weapons"). Canada eventually gave up after the cost rose from 2 million dollars to over a BILLION DOLLARS - all to get less than 1/3 of the long guns registered. In any case, most guns remain hidden from government. Of course, these are all estimates (mostly from government agencies in charge of registration) - because before registration, how do you know how many guns are really out there?
4) Registration of long guns is likely unconstitutional. The D.C. Court of Appeals has already ruled so, in a case that is headed to the Supreme Court. Since there is a Constitutional Right to own firearms, government must present a compelling reason why this right is restricted in any way. The court ruled that because they are used in 60% of homicides, handguns registration can be justified, Since long guns are seldom used in crimes, the court ruled that it was both "legally novel" and unconstitutional. Absent a massive change in it's makeup, the Supreme Court is likely to affirm this ruling, ending all long gun registration nationwide.
5) Absent a totalitarian government, gun bans and gun registration do not work. No gun confiscation has ever happened without registration preceding it. This is why compliance is so low. There is no reason to expect that compliance with gun "buy back" or other confiscation measures would be any better. So, how do you make sure all the guns are registered? If you ban them, how do you make sure you get them all? It is at this point that many no gun owners and even political liberals begin to "see the light". In order to really "control the guns" other civil liberties, especially the 4th Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches must be violated. Door to door sweeps must be conducted. Entry must be forced into any home that refuses. Any place that a gun can be hidden must be searched. How is this to be accomplished in America, without provoking a second American revolution - especially when people were rightly outraged over phone "metadata" being collected? Even these measures would not find all the guns, as more than one dictator has learned.
6) In the US, guns are traced quite successfully without registration. Since 1969, all guns sold by dealers have required identification and a record of the purchaser, which is kept at the dealer (called a FFL). For over 20 years a FBI background check has also been required. If a FFL goes out of business, the records are sent to the ATF. In addition importers and manufacturers keep records of where each gun they make or import is sent, as do distributors. It is thus a simple thing to trace a gun from manufacturer to dealer to buyer - all without registration, and usually in just a few hours. The key here is that a crime is required to do the search and only the gun(s) involved are searched. This is quite a bit like the process cops go though to get phone records, which are at least as useful in solving crimes.
7) Some of the recent shootings could have been stopped if the background check database were simply more accurate. Too many felons and too many people adjudicated mentally incompetent are not making it into the database - which allows them to pass the check and buy a firearm - albeit still illegally. The NRA and other gun rights groups have advocated fixing this problem, as have some, but not all, gun control groups - but it simply isn't getting done.
8) Most of the recent high profile shootings could have been stopped if police sent more people in for mental health evaluation. Many of the people who committed these horrible shootings displayed bizarre behavior in public and were the subject of police contact - often tens of times - and yet were never sent to a mental health professional. Had this happened, it is highly likely that, at a minimum, they would have been committed, triggering a lifetime firearms ban. If duly reported, they would never be able to buy a firearm though legal channels.
After we fix the broken background check system by fixing the two problems listed above, and we start prosecuting the majority of those who try to buy guns illegally (instead of the .3% we currently prosecute) we can and should look at "universal" background checks. Until we fix these problems we are only expanding a critically flawed system. That's yet another dirty little secret of gun control.