A national firearms registry has been one of the goals of the gun control movement for decades, and Democrats like Texas congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee have already offered up legislation this year that would not only create a database of every registered gun owner in the country but make it publicly available for anyone who wanted to see if their neighbor or employee was one of those deplorable gun owners.
That bill is likely not going to get to Joe Biden’s desk, but it’s indicative of the desire on the part of anti-gun Democrats to keep track of those Americans exercising their Second Amendment rights, and unfortunately Lee isn’t the only member of Congress working on a gun registration bill.
Thanks in large part to a Democratic senator from Oregon, a group of cryptographers from Brown University in Rhode Island say they’ve come up with a way to build a registry that’s both decentralized and encrypted. From WIRED:
They envision a platform that can be deployed nationally while also being fully encrypted and decentralized. Rather than a consolidated federal repository, each county would control its residents’ firearm data. Yet officials anywhere in the country could still query the system, as they would a regular centralized database, for information about people or guns located elsewhere. Led by Brown’s Seny Kamara, the researchers started the work in 2018 after staffers for US senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) reached out about whether such a project might be feasible.
Gun registry databases are so controversial because gun rights proponents see them as a prerequisite to outlawing more firearms. The National Rifle Association has also long fought registration, arguing that criminals often use illegally trafficked weapons and aren’t going to license them. Proponents of a national gun registry say it would make it easier for law enforcement to trace guns, as they already do cars. They also say that comprehensive registration would make it much more difficult for people who are legally barred from owning firearms, like those who have been convicted of domestic abuse charges or served more than a year in prison for other types of crimes, to acquire them. The new research proposes a method by which the US could reap the benefits of a database without fear of intrusion or overreach.
Um, no. A registration requirement itself is intrusive and overreach. How the database is set up is a secondary consideration to the bigger issue of the government attempting to establish the database itself. As long as any national registry can be used, it can be abused as well, and criminals still aren’t going to register their illegally obtained firearms.
Seny Kamara, the lead researcher on the project, says that under the plan proposed by the Brown researchers, the database would be voluntary at the county level, but ultimately that’s not up to him. It would be up to lawmakers to determine the rules governing the registry, and I don’t see anti-gun Democrats going along with any plan that allows counties to opt out.
We’ll see soon enough, I suppose. It sounds like Sen. Wyden wants to use this idea as the basis for his own gun registration legislation.
“Far too often, lawmakers write bills without having a good grasp of technology, especially when it comes to encryption,” Wyden told WIRED in a statement. “My view has always been that making good public policy depends on knowing what is possible on the technical side. So when I had the idea to create a new kind of secure gun registry, I was hoping Professor Kamara could give me a gut check on whether this was a harebrained idea or not.”
Technologically feasible? Yes. Harebrained from a political perspective? Also yes. Second Amendment supporters aren’t going to get on board just because the system is decentralized and encrypted. Just because something is encrypted doesn’t mean it’s not hackable, but with Democrats like Sheila Jackson Lee demanding that any national gun registry be open to the public for viewing, does encryption really matter that much anyway?
There’s also the fact that a large number of counties would simply refuse to participate in any kind of gun registry on a voluntary basis, and I suspect that even if Wyden’s forthcoming legislation removes the option to participate or not, there would be many counties across the country that object or passively resist any mandate to comply.
The Brown University researchers may have shown that a decentralized, encrypted gun registry is possible, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea or feasible from a practical standpoint. Any such registry would be resisted by tens of millions of gun owners as well as their local sheriffs and county governments, which would make it useless for its supposed intended purpose. Anti-gun Democrats may embrace Wyden’s proposal, but I predict resistance and widespread non-compliance if it were to ever become law.
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