Hundreds of Millions of U.S. Guns are Unlicensed and Untraceable

Hundreds of Millions of U.S. Guns are Unlicensed and Untraceable
Hundreds of Millions of U.S. Guns are Unlicensed and Untraceable

Arizona -( In the hysteria about 3D printed guns, the words “unlicensed and untraceable” are thrown about promiscuously and irresponsibly. They are used to imply disaster is upon us, that some new scary threshold has been breached.

They are scare tactics based on ignorance. Most of the 400 million plus firearms in the United States are unlicensed (unregistered) and untraceable.  It has been that way for decades, hundreds of years. It has not made a significant difference in the crime rate. It will not make a significant difference in the future. Separate from gun licensing, there are background checks at retail purchase for most guns in the United States. Only a few states require background checks on private sales of guns. Background checks do not make a difference.

The number of guns in a state do not predict homicide rates or violent crime.

“Unlicensed and untraceable” is scary only if you think most guns are “licensed (registered)” and that “traceability” has anything to do with preventing crime.

National registration of guns has been illegal for decades. Only a few authoritarian states require registration of firearms. Those states are California, Hawaii, Maryland, and New York. The registration schemes in Hawaii and California apply to all guns. The requirements for registration of long guns are fairly recent.  Most guns that were unregistered before registration was required remain unregistered, and are grandfathered in. New York required registration of handguns only. Recently they required registration of some semi-automatic rifles. The law has been ignored by over 80% of the people affected. Maryland has required handgun and some semi-automatic firearm registration for a few years. It does not require registration of most long guns.

A few U.S. territories, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa require gun registration. Puerto Rico requires gun registration. The District of Columbia requires gun registration. Gun registration is effectively gun licensing.  Gun registration has meant nothing.  The District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico have higher murder rates than any of the United States. Registration of guns is a failed crime-fighting theory. New Zealand and Canada repealed gun registration schemes as expensive and ineffective. New Zealand repealed long gun registration in 1983, Canada in 2012.

There are a few minor registration schemes around the nation. Some states desultorily attempt to keep track of some handgun sales by requiring handgun sales to be reported to state police. Few people have bothered with such antiquated systems. People in the United States move from state to state. Few register their guns when they move.

The vast majority of states do not register guns. There are over 400 million guns in the United States. Over 300 million guns in the United States are not registered. Most were never required to be registered.

After 20 years of ownership, guns are generally untraceable. Guns are sold, inherited in estates, or traded without a paper trail.  Over 20 years, one percent of guns may be stolen. Once a gun is stolen, it is untraceable. The only thing gun tracing does is track the gun to the first person it was sold to at a retail level. This does nothing to fight crime.

Gun tracing is the bastard child of Lyndon Johnson's attempt to put into place a national gun licensing and registration scheme in the 1968 Gun Control Act (GCA).  The National Rifle Association worked hard to prevent national gun licensing and registration. As a compromise, the nation got the intrusive, expensive and ineffective GCA. The GCA requires record keeping at the point of sale, for the purpose of tracing the gun to the first retail sale.  What is the point of that? Almost no crimes are solved with gun traces. A gun trace finds who the gun was sold to a number of years ago. It solves nothing. “Traceability” is a failed crime-fighting theory.

Hundreds of millions of guns in the United States are untraceable. If means nothing. Hundreds of millions of guns are unlicensed. It means nothing.

People have been making guns at home for hundreds of years. They are not required to be registered.  There are likely a few hundred thousand homemade guns in the United States. So? A few hundred thousand homemade guns are a drop in the bucket to the hundreds of millions that are factory made.  A few hundred made by 3D printing is even less significant.

Another term that is promiscuously used is “undetectable”.

We did not have metal detectors until the 1950s, at the earliest. Crime rates were about the same as they are today. If people needed to keep weapons out of jail cells, prisons, or, occasionally, a court room, they searched people as they went in. The TSA has found four 3D printed guns over the years. 3D guns have mass and take up space. They are *not* undetectable. Undetectable is just another scary buzzword.

The concept that you can keep criminals from obtaining guns by regulating the access of everyone else is flawed from the start.  It cannot be done in a free society. Even prisoners make their own guns or smuggle them into prison. With 350 million unlicensed and unregistered guns already in the country, it is an impossible task to stop a few prohibited possessors from getting guns by restricting access to everyone else.

A better, much more effective approach, is to monitor the small number of people that are so dangerous as to be prohibited from obtaining firearms. Parents should be responsible for their children. People who are shown to be a danger to others can be visited and checked to see if they have weapons. If people can show they have become responsible members of society, their Second Amendment rights should be restored.

Instead of innocent people asking the government for permission to purchase a gun, a list of those who are prohibited from having a gun should be made public and updated in real time. Then the public would have a chance of determining if the person they are selling a gun to is on the list. That has a possibility of making it a little harder for those prohibited from possessing guns to obtain them.

The idea that any eight year old could print a gun at home with the push of a button sounds scary. It is not based in fact.

If an eight year-old can load a program, select the proper material, print and assemble a gun, find the proper ammunition and load it, they can operate a file and a drill press.  Does a several hundred dollar 3D printer make more of a difference than a couple of hundred dollar drill press or lathe and some files? It does not.

The only reason 3D printed guns are hyped is because ignorant people, who are afraid of guns, have some knowledge of computers and printers. The idea of 3D printed guns give them a little bit of understanding of what most makers have known for decades.  The people concerned about 3D printers have no understanding of casting, welding, drill presses, lathes, files or hammers.

The hype about 3D printed guns only highlights the ignorance of those determined to have a disarmed population.

If you want a disarmed population, repeal the Second Amendment, declare most firearms ownership illegal, and gin up the prisons and labor camps. I suspect armed resistance would occur. That cure would be far worse than the current disease.

People who push for strong restrictions on gun ownership and use often believe that because they do not wish a gun, all the costs of heavy restrictions would be paid by others. That is a mistake.

At present, a person who dislikes guns can avoid committing suicide or having an accident with a gun simply by not possessing one. If armed resistance to gun control occurs, the resisters will not be hunting police. They will be hunting those who politically pushed for a disarmed population. They will have guns. Those who pushed for disarmament will not.

©2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.

Link to Gun Watch

About Dean Weingarten:Dean Weingarten

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

  • 51 thoughts on “Hundreds of Millions of U.S. Guns are Unlicensed and Untraceable

    1. There may not be an official national registry of gun ownership, but if you look at recent tactics in cases where law enforcement seeks to compel a person to testify against their target of another investigation, they have been using marijuana legalization and the database of medical marijuana users, and apparently cross referencing it against nics backgrounds forms to get a warrant, and then charging those gun owners with illegally acquiring and/or possessing firearms. In exchange for their testimony those charges are dropped, and the fact that they are violating both hippa laws, and Policing what amounts to a firearms ownership database stays under the radar a little longer.

    2. Somebody supposedly once said “We cannot invade the US, behind every blade of grass there is a rifle”. How many blades of grass are there ? And we only have 300 to 400 million weapons ? My conclusion here is that we need more rifles ! Even if we have to import them from Russia and China ! We need more !!!!! AND WE NEED THAT GD WALL DECADES AGO !!!!! And we need a government that once again follows the RULE OF LAW, not the whims of the Commie politically correct. And we need to audit the Federal Reserve to find out how much they stole from us, and to whence it went. And we need to audit our gold reserves because we may some day soon find that our fiat dollars are not worth the paper Rothschild prints it on. And an honest assay will determine how many gold plated tungsten bars have been inserted into the batch. Not too many people know that tungsten weighs very similar to gold, and when gold bars were borrowed out of Fort Knox, they were replaced with gold plated tungsten bars that were crafted by high tech laser technology that could duplicate a bar made of tungsten and then electroplated with a thin layer of genuine gold. Our entire gold supply has to be re- smelted, assayed, and poured into brand new 440 ounce GOOD FOR DELIVERY .9999 pure gold bars. And the next step will be to create new gold coins with a portion of our gold, and thin plastic bills with the gold impregnated into it. This latter type of currency has been termed AUREM. Since the value of gold fluctuates hourly, and sometimes by the minute, none of this new money should have a face value. A plastic bill could contain 1/50th of an ounce on up to 1/20th of an ounce. One tenth ounce gold coins are already made by the US Gov but they have $5 stamped on them. How silly is that ? About as silly as American Silver Eagles containing one ounce of pure silver with a $1 face value. Silver coins and plastic bills could also go once again into circulation, and our existing clad coinage could stay for the small change, although the face value greatly exceeds its melt value when you examine the $1, 50 cent, 25 cent, and 10 cent coins.

      1. YES ! And shortly after your doctor gets you to take drugs, then he comes out with a questionnaire from the government. “Do you have any guns in the household” is what they want to know. And if you ask the doctor why they are asking you that question, the doctor will tell you that it’s for your own safety. And now the gov knows whose house to go to when they decide to do the Big Confiscation, using UN troops, no doubt. (These people got to have holes in their heads).

    3. “Instead of innocent people asking the government for permission to purchase a gun, a list of those who are prohibited from having a gun should be made public and updated in real time.”

      This always begs the question “who keeps the list?”

      Who would you trust, knowing what we all know now: IRS? FBI? ATF? TSA? How do you keep those corrupt agencies from disarming their political opponents by putting them on the list? We have SEEN what they are willing to do. Any power given to them, even indirect power, is guaranteed to be misused against us.

        1. Did not work well with American Indians. Not that they trusted but they were subjugated. Freedom is mo better brah.

      1. I would assign the job to the credit reporting agencies. I would also make the new NICS available to everyone. Prospective purchasers could check their eligibility without committing a felony. A smartphone app could read iris patterns and fingerprints; no more false positives.

        1. I guess you’ve never had an issue with bad debt being recorded on your credit history in error and the gigantic hassle it is to get it removed. I have and it’s not that uncommon of an experience, ask around. We have precious little privacy as it is now, I don’t want any more of my personal information out there for people to hack into.

    4. I like the idea of publishing a list, or database of people prohibited from having firearms. Both commercial sellers and private sellers could use the list. People not on the list would be eligible to buy firearms even if they hate guns and wouldn’t touch them with a ten foot pole (registering guns gives a totalitarian government a map to gun owners; this list is the opposite and would not aid their task).

      This list could also be used to determine eligibility to vote. “If you can’t be trusted with a gun you can’t be trusted with a vote.”

      1. The problem with this list is similar to the problem of every government controlled list like the “No Fly List” that erroneously places people on it who should not be on it and it’s a PITA to get one’s name removed from it. It happened to Sen. Ted Kennedy among others.

        These lists may also lead to violations of “Due Process” aka, the 4th Amendment, namely taking one’s guns and keeping them without an evidentiary hearing.

        1. I see your point. Maybe a better list would be a list of people eligible to purchase firearms which would include all citizens except those prohibited by law. When one hits the appropriate age they are put on the list whether or not they ever plan to purchase a firearm. The only way to be removed from the list would be a conviction for a felony or to be adjudicated as mentally ill.

          1. How about just no lists whatsoever. They’re unnecessary for law-abiding citizens and criminals, by definition, NEVER pay attention to them! Bottom line, government lists and bureaucrats are USELESS!

    5. I suspect that many of the people terrified of 3D printed guns are confusing a 3D printer with a Star Trek replicator.
      Type in “Assault Rifle” and a complete AR 15 pops out of the little chute.

      1. I have a file for making a hydrogen bomb with a 3-D replicator.
        You can’t stop the signal.

    6. The best example of the government attempting to trace a gun came during the Son of Sam murder spree. It was ideal. The gun was distinctive, relatively new and only a few thousand had been sold. I remember the ATF visiting my gunsmith. Yet the government was unable to trace all the Charter Arms Bulldog pistols. The criminal was caught when someone reported an unusual license plate near the scene of a crime.

      I don’t recall the source but I recall an article explaining that the government is unable to trace most guns after about 5 years from when the dealer sold it.

    7. Dean also said that if someone doesn’t like guns simply do not own one. I take that to mean keep your nose out of my business and mind your own business. No one ask the liberals to talk against our guns or be anywhere close to them.

    8. Guns are really “licensed” or “unlicensed”: owners are.

      Also, the People’s Republic of Massachusetts requires that firearms to be registered, now (I forget the year) including private transfers.

      1. Firearms have had to be registered with the Commonwealth for at least the last 20 or 25 years, the period in which I lived there, and not just at purchase–move in from another state, bring guns with you, they’re required to be registered. Also, need a firearms license merely to possess a gun at home.


        1. having to register firearms you owned previous to moving to mass. is a common mistake. i looked into this and verified with several police officers that were involved with handling all firearm issues for their dept. if you go on and look at the registeration section it specifically says newly aquired firearms must be registered. it lists several ways that someone could aquire a firearm from a dealer or a private sale but everyone refers to newly aquired. any that are legal to own in mass and were owned by you before you moved to mass dont have to be registered. i wrote the sections down and carry them in my wallet but its not close by to me at the moment or i would post the sections.
          you can register yours if you dont believe whats posted on mass.govs own website but why give up extra info you dont have to. mass is tricky and they want you to think you are required to give up private info when you are not. if you read their rules it says in black and white what guns or transactions must be registered or documented. nowhere does it say previously owned guns from before you became a mass resident must be registered it says newly aquired only.

          1. Even if the Mass. law DID require registering all guns when you move into the state (something I would only do at gunpoint) what’s to keep you from simply NOT COMPLYING with said law? Aside from yourself and people you trust with your life, who’s gonna know? And private gun sales? Again, who’s gonna know?

            Now if you go around the neighborhood bragging about all your super badass gun collection, you DESERVE to be busted for non-compliance with the law.

            1. not a thing… only way you coukd get caught would be if there was a break in and police came and went thru the house before you got there..

    9. Wait, you mean to say that 3D printed guns are not really with plastic? You mean to say that 3D printing machines cost tens of thousands of dollars and the software can be just a modification of CADCAM software they have been teaching at local colleges and high schools for at least 15-20 years.
      There are millions of books in thousands of schools and libraries with engineering drawings of firearms, from 1770 Brown Bess muskets to M1911 and even M134 multibarrel electrically powered guns.
      To build a light saber, take a high energy battery [not yet invented] and create a magnetic bottle that will cycle on and off at 2 GHz filled with hydrogen plasma. That battery is available in a galaxy far far away.

    10. Every gun we buy thru an FFL is “technically” registered. It is just like on the internet-nothing is EVER totally and completely gone.

    11. Dean, you missed Michigan, registering handguns since 1927.
      Originally the point was to sell purchase permits for $5, and have the sheriffs refuse to issue permits to people with the wrong color skin. Now, for FFL purchases, NICS has replaced the purchase permitting system, and all that remains is the registration system, which the LE lobby (and copsuckers in the legislature) have opposed all efforts to abolish.

      Angel Shamaya, founder of, moved to Michigan and IIRC his ex-wife reported him for having taken unregistered handguns into the state. He was lucky to escape his short stay in Michigan without a felony record to his name.

    12. This November will be an interesting test of whether or not the United States will be on the road to survival as a Free Nation or on the path to Stalinism. To slow this downhill slide You need to VOTE!
      We already have too many laws written by unelected bureaucrats who have personal political agendas and really don’t care what the majority of US Citizens want which is security for themselves and family and to be left alone by the government. To get rid of this bureaucracy, you need to VOTE. The federal government could be cut by 50% tomorrow and there would be little difference in the efficiency (or lack thereof) of that organization.
      snuffyTN quoted the Second Amendment and the thing to remember is: Without the Second Amendment, the rest of The Constitution is just a sheet of parchment with some eloquent words written on it. To protect our Constitution, YOU NEED TO VOTE!

    13. There IS no “registration” of firearms in this country unless Ur living in some wacko city/state that requires it!!!!!!! And YES, they are traceable back to Ur dealer if U used one when U bought it! I’m an FFL in Texas and a customer’s pistol was stolen from his truck. The ATF traced it back to me once it was recovered.

      1. Just as Dean described……. the FFL/BATF system ONLY can trace any given firearm back to the dealer who first sold it at retail. Suppose your customer had resold that gun to George, who kept it a few years and sold it on GunBroker to someone he does not know. Nor did he bother to keep the information. I don’t…..

        So, the gun was found, BATF traces it to your original retail sale, but it no longer belongs to the guy YOU sold it to. Nor is there any way of tracing it to the guy who had it stolen from his pickup truck after he bought it on GunBroker.

        Suppose that had been used in a robbery and recovered next the dead body of the thief…. it would not trace back to him. It would trace back to you.
        Now YOU have to wade through your Record of Sale books until you find the actual transaction….. if you’re a small time dealer, not too hard. What about the HUGE gun shop out in the county? They’ve got dozens of those filled out every year. WHO must wade through them all? And WHO pays for that time, only to discover that it was first sold as a new gun to Tom….. who had sold it who had sold it who had it stolen…..

        no real registraion. That is what we do with cars. I can take a VIN from any car anywhere and it will trace back to the CURRENT owner, or at least the last guy who owned it and had it licensed. Doesnt matter how many times it was resold on CraigsList in what state. It is what could be called a “live record” because it is updated at every change of ownership.

        And this is precisely what we must NOT allow to happen here. Once gummit know who owns it NOW, gummit can come round and demand it be surrendered. You claim it was stolen? Fine.. WHERE is the copy of your report of sale. Lost in a tragic boating accident? Again, the papers, please. Otherwise YOU HAVE IT and WE WANT IT NOW.

        This is precisely what the likes of Pelosi, Clinton He and She, the kinyun, Bloomburg and Soros, DiFi, and far too many would-be overlords are feverishly working toward establishing. Of course, Dean’s point here is that there are far too may ants have escaped the nest and can never be found and rounded up to put back into it.

      2. FYI: Your use of “Ur” is confusing because you have substituted it for both “You’re,” the contraction and “Your”, the possessive adjective. Just saying.

    14. If armed resistance occurs patriots WILL be hunting police because it is the police who will be the tip of the spear of confiscation. ANY / every police officer who does not resign will be a legitimate target

      Respectfully, article not very well thought out

      1. not the ones you owned prior to moving here only one you aquire while living here. i cant wait to get out.. if you read the forms about registering guns it only says ones newly aquired and nothing about previously owned before you become a mass inmate..

    15. Well, while Mr. Dean Weingarten usually has many good points including in this article, he has the same fatal reasoning that many in both the pro and anti-second Amendment causes have: that in repealing the Second Amendment we would lose a natural right. We do not get our rights from the Bill of Rights generally nor from the 2nd Amendment in particular.

      We have the right to keep and bear arms whether or not the Second Amendment exists. The purpose of the Second Amendment is simply tell government that it has no Authority in in the matter of the right of the people to keep and bear arms.

      Repealing the Second Amendment would simply mean we would immediately need to take up arms against our government and overthrow it and establish a government friendly to our rights.

      And people need to be preparing for that soon for a civil war is upon us and probably in less than 15 years and probably a lot sooner than that and it will be bloody and violent and there will be many factions involved which will include in addition to government, and the people struggling against government, also Rogue elements of military and police, and gangs and others who wish to establish their own Regional hegemonies.

      We are probably not going to have very much choice in the matter however we all need to be prepared for it.

      1. The best way to keep from falling off the cliff of civil war is to stay on the path of Constitutional Rights as codified in the Bill of Rights. To do this, ALL patriots must work hard to ensure we do not allow our great Republic to veer onto the slippery slope of tyranny, which proceeds the cliff of civil war, and which would include gun registration and elimination of our Second Amendment. We cannot lazily and carelessly leave it up to our children and grandchildren to suffer the destruction and deaths of a civil war because we could not be bothered to participate in the political process or to VOTE!

        1. Exactly! So easy to just get our fat lazy asses off the couch and vote. Hell mine comes to the house by mail. VOTE!!!!!!!

        2. @Gentlemen, There is so much to agree with in what you all have written. As to civil war: War is hot, sweaty work. Once commenced there are only two ways out. There is plenty of time to get stuck to that, Briar Rabbit.
          For now, we have several weapons: the vote, political pressure, and fun. Those alined against us, never have and can not tolerate fun. The more gun games the better. Political pressure should be a hobby. Have a ball pressuring your president, your representatives, your senators, and your NRA.
          Find a “not corrupted yet” candidate, host a barbecue for him, and invite your friends to the barbecue (to include their barbecue guns to show off”, and introduce them. Hopefully good things will come of it

      2. ” A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” One sentence, plainly written, easy to understand, was meant for protection against an oppressive government. Come and take ’em.

        1. You used two too many commas. One comma is correct. Three commas is easy to read that the militia shall not be infringed. I like my version, it can’t be misinterpreted.
          A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state ? [YES, therefore]
          “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
          This was to answer Patrick Henry and the Declaration of Independence
          We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security

      3. Dean DID say that IF that 2nd Article of Ammendment is repealed, it would likley lead to war….. based on the FACT that our right to arms is not derived from nor is it demepdent upon that paragraph comprising the Second Article of Ammendment.

        1. You are correct. The 2nd Amendment codifies a natural law or unalienable right that was meant for the Government to understand why they cannot infringe upon it. Repealing 2A would not negate the natural law and unalienable right derived from our Declaration of Independence; namely, the Unalienable Rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness that the Right to Bear Arms protects.

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