Technology does a lot of wonderful things for us as a society. After all, thanks to the internet, people can connect to folks all across the nation. I’ve managed to reconnect with a couple of old Navy buddies, for example. Hell, I make my living on the internet, which is something that wasn’t even an option when I graduated high school way back when.
But technology doesn’t solve everything. It can’t.
Yet that doesn’t stop some from thinking it will. That’s especially true about European tech writers who don’t understand guns, gun rights, or anything else.
In almost 90 percent of the cases, medical, school or legal authorities didn’t note any sign of mental issues in the attacker before the mass murder. Needless to say, in states where no background checks are required, the chance of a mass killing occurring is significantly higher. And even where some form of control is in place, over 60 percent of the alleged nut cases were still able to possess a gun regardless of their prior felonies or crazy behaviors. According to the FBI, at least 3,000 people officially pass the NICS background check required to receive the license to carry a gun despite actually being prohibited from purchasing one under state or federal law. It seems such an obvious thing at this point that a blockchain-based registry may be more than just a good idea, but a necessity.
Of course, now we see the first problem. “[I]n states where no background checks are required” doesn’t exist. There are states that don’t require background checks on individual-to-individual sales, but those are only a small fraction of firearm transfers taking place each year. The vast majority are sold through gun stores which are required by federal law to perform that background check.
That’s just one of many fallacies in this piece, though.
To sum up most of it, it argues using a bit of technology called “blockchain.”
In November 2017, a public health professor at Washington State University, Thomas Heston, published an interesting white paper suggesting a creative solution for tracking firearm information without changing current laws. The idea is relatively simple. Every operation regarding guns, including manufacturing, transferring, purchasing and owning will be tracked and monitored using a blockchain database. Using a digital “electronic gun safe” that is roughly comparable to a digital wallet used to store cryptocurrencies, every piece of information about a gun will be stored safely. This log would have to be “accurate, resistant to hacking, and easily accessible” to those who have the right to access it, such as owners, regulators and manufacturers.
All the information that identifies every individual gun, such as its ballistic fingerprinting or microstamping, will be transferred from vendors to owners every time a gun is sold. The most important part, however, is that the blockchain-based gun safe will also store information about the weapon owner, such as any prior history of mental health issues and/or past crimes. People who pass a background check may own a gun. Those who don’t are prohibited from doing so, and since the system is fully automated, there’s no room for mistakes. Also, as blockchain is decentralized, it is significantly less vulnerable to hacking as each transaction is verified by multiple people. (To learn more about blockchain, see Why Data Scientists Are Falling in Love with Blockchain Technology.)
Unfortunately, our European friend doesn’t understand that it won’t work.
For one thing, if I purchase a gun at a gun store today, then a year from now sell it to my buddy because cash is tight. He pays me in cash, which is legal here in Georgia. Guess what? At that point, through perfectly legal means, the database is essentially useless.
Now, let’s couple in that same gun being stolen. What good is that information in the database now? Once it’s stolen, it can go pretty much anywhere, and no blockchain is going to stop those transactions.
Further, let’s also look at the most recent high-profile mass shootings.
Las Vegas: The killer had no history of mental illness or criminal record. There was no way a blockchain registry would have prevented that atrocity.
Sutherland Springs: The killer shouldn’t have had a gun. On that, we can agree. However, as the Air Force didn’t update relevant information in the NICS database, what good would blockchain have been? Insufficient information being input would still be a problem.
Parkland: The killer shouldn’t have been able to get a gun, but the problem was that law enforcement never arrested him despite dozens of calls. No arrest means no conviction, which in turn means no grounds for denying him a firearm purchase.
Santa Fe High School: The killer used a stolen gun. Registration wouldn’t have done a damn thing.
The problem isn’t that we have insufficient databases. The problem is that we have insufficient understanding of the mechanisms that drive people to do these kinds of things.
He finishes up with this bit:
There are certainly a lot of Americans who love to hear their good ol’ guns go bang-bang once in a while. But as a European, let me tell you one thing, guys: That stuff is dangerous. Even if an agreement on why mass shootings occur or how firearm laws are involved cannot be found, everyone may agree that some solution has to be found to prevent deranged people from owning a weapon. This bloodshed must be stopped, and, who knows? Maybe blockchain can be the answer everybody has been waiting for.
(Note the bolded part)
While the author acknowledges concerns that registration will lead to confiscation, he still thinks this blockchain registration is somehow an answer. The problem is, registration does nothing to prevent misuse of a firearm. It, at best, makes it easier to find the jackwagon who misused it. And that’s the absolute best case scenario.
So no, blockchain isn’t an answer. It’s not even something to be considered. No form or registration is.
But I do hope this author will remember that he wrote this screed the next time he wants to tell some American to but out of European politics.