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Reader Taylor W. writes:

This coming weekend I’ll be participating in a hackathon (a long software coding competition fueled by nothing but energy drinks), and I will be working to build a proof of concept computer system (along with proposed legislation) to allow for “universal” background checks, while protecting civil liberties and privacy. Sounds impossible, I know, but trust me I’m a scientist! Well, a computer scientist, but close enough, right? As part of this plan, I wanted to get a list of the core objections that the pro-gun side has to universal background checks, which I will attempt to address. Being a gun owner myself, I have my own ideas on why people oppose it, but would love to get a short synopsis or bullet points on where the resistance comes from from a renown firearms publication . . .

And before you start a witch wabbit hunt, I swear I’m not a Fudd. My proposal will actually provide less information to the FBI/ATF than the current background check system does, but will also lead to considerably fewer straw purchases. Everybody wins, right? We’ll see I guess.

Thanks for any feedback you are able to provide, and I’ll be sure to send you a follow up on results after the hackathon.

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    • Please explain how performing any type of background check on Person A prevents them from simply handing the gun to (potentially prohibited) Person B immediately after leaving the store.

        • Easiest answer to that, people stop reporting guns stolen. Even if they’re ligitamately stolen who would report it knowing that a) they’re never going to see it again anyways, and b) they’ll lose their rights for being the victim of a crime…

        • Easiest answer to that, people stop reporting guns stolen. Even if they’re legitimately stolen, who would report it knowing that a) they’re never going to see it again anyways, and b) they’ll lose their rights for being the victim of a crime…

          • “Easiest answer to that, people stop reporting guns stolen. Even if they’re legitimately stolen, who would report it knowing that a) they’re never going to see it again anyways, and b) they’ll lose their rights for being the victim of a crime…”

            Are you aware that there have been laws introduced in several states to criminalize that exact behavior (“Stolen guns must be reported within ‘X’ number of hours of their loss”)? These laws actually make the victim into a criminal if they don’t report the original theft promptly.

            I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time to run an inventory on the contents of my gun safe a couple of times every day. And I know a few folks who would need assistance to just get an inventory of their guns COMPLETED in a single day!

      • It can’t, and that’s one of my primary objections to background checks (BGCs).

        Other objections:

        – BGCs were originally intended and “sold” as a way “To prevent people who shouldn’t have guns, from getting guns.” By this logic, any person who already owns at least one gun should never be subjected to another BGC, but that’s not how they currently operate the system, is it? Over and over again, people who own multiple firearms have to subject themselves to another BGC, wasting time (and in some states, money) for no reason.

        – BGCs are not accurate enough to do what they are supposed to do without infringing on honest people’s rights. Not only do they sometimes allow prohibited persons to get a gun (as we have recently seen), there is a constant stream of false positives that prevent people with NO convictions from buying. Many of these have to go through the appeal process to get reversed, and even then, they might be flagged again during their next attempted purchase. I know it’s not a big deal to anti-gun-rights folks that a honest person is prevented from buying a gun — but it should be. Sometimes if you re-state the concept as a voting or free-speech problem then folks get the idea, but usually, they just blow it off. It’s a fairly basic concept: make sure a system works as designed and intended before you expand it — and they haven’t.

        – BGCs are one of the most visible symptoms of of the “Guilty until proven innocent” changeover that is slowly replacing the original “Innocent until proven guilty” bedrock of our social system. The fact that gun owners must depend on the government to “declare” them innocent or worthy does not sit well with honest citizens who wish to purchase a gun. Again, sometimes drawing a parallel with voting rights or free speech gets the point across.

        – Getting government permission to buy an item that is ultimately a check on government overreach/tyranny makes no sense to most folks who properly understand the background of the Second Amendment, but many non-gun-owning folks do not understand this concept (or refuse to acknowledge it publicly).

        – If anything, BGCs should be applied as a “OK to buy guns” box checked on the state driver’s license or state ID card, or alternatively, as a bright red “NO GUNS” line on the bottom edge of the DL/ID. Many folks will still have a problem with even this level of government involvement, but at least the Feds are kept out of it (or limited to the edges), and a failure to voluntarily produce ID tells the seller that something is not right when the sale is initially discussed. There is no delay, no third-party involvement, no additional fees/costs for the buyer/seller, and the transaction can take place at any place and time. In states that print an NTN/BGC number on the state-issued concealed weapon permit, this type of system is already being used as a certified “good guy/gal” (or at least, “not currently a scumbag” card) for private guns sales, and I’ve used it often, both as a buyer and a seller.

      • I give ‘NineShooter’ an old fashioned “A+++++” for that great posting. 🙂


      His logic is a fail out of the gate. Unless he is magically going to create an algorithm that can identify a purchasers intent, a background will never stop a single straw purchaser, thus no reduction. I

      Find some other Statist to defend, this one is a lost cause.

    • When an idea is that dumb, I think name calling is appropriate! The straw purchase is already a federal crime. No fancy computer app is going to stop someone from doing it, they do it because they are criminals

    • It is probable that one cannot be a “computer scientist” and an idiot at the same time. He does, however, admit to being ignorant of the topic his programming is attempting to address. Let me edumacate him some wittle bit.

      “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.”

      Background checks, universal or otherwise, INFRINGE. Unless you can create some bit of computer code that somehow magically avoids that little pitfall you are just participating in the government usurpation of our natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms.

      The Second Amendment (noted above, please read carefully) has no provision for the government to create, maintain, or enforce a list of persons who, in the opinion of the government that the Second Amendment was intended to enjoin from such activity, should not be allowed to exercise their right to keep and bear arms. To admit or allow the government such authority is to degrade the Second Amendment into worthlessness. To assist in such a process is to agree to the repeal of the Second Amendment.

      A computer programmer should know, as a basis of GI-GO programming, that computers are very literal and every single bit of code is interpreted by the computer EXACTLY as you write it. Apply that same logic to the interpretation of the Second Amendment and realize that you are on a fool’s errand in attempting to assist the government in creating such a useless, unworkable and unconstitutional program for Universal Background Checks which will NEVER on any reliable basis check the backgrounds of the very people you think the government has the authority to prohibit from owning firearms. Straw men are criminals and know that they are doing is (unconstitutionally) prohibited and are buying weapons for persons who know they are (unconstitutionally) prohibited from owning same. No computer program can resolve the issue of criminals doing crimes and the only people who will be affected by any such programming will be, once again, law-abiding gun owners/purchasers.

      If you grant the authority to create, maintain and enforce a list of persons the government itself determines should not be allowed to exercise their natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms, HOW WILL YOU KEEP YOUR NAME OFF THAT LIST? (Emphasis intentional.)

      • Is it possible to run someone’s name to verify they have no felonies without recording their firearm purchase? Then deleted the record of the search afterwards?

        • PLEASE! Re-read the text of the Second Amendment and try to understand it. It stops with a definite period/full stop after “…shall not be infringed.” It doe NOT continue with “…shall not be infringed, unless you are a convicted felon.” or any other qualifiers giving the government permission to castrate it’s intent.

          I’m sorry if that makes you uncomfortable, but that is the way it is written and the way it was intended. The only Constitutional way for a felon or any other undesirable to be deprived of their RKBA is for another armed citizen to confront them in the act of violating the rights of others and take that weapon from them, with prejudice. Prior to that breach of civility they have exactly the same Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms as everyone else.

        • That’s what we need, really.

          A simple go/no-go check, that does not record any firearm or serial number, and is free for the public to use.

          Anything else is open to abuse.

        • Deleting all record of the check itself? As someone else already answered, no.

          Without recording their firearm purchase? Yes. Absolutely. Just make a system that doesn’t collect that information (it’s checking backgrounds, after all, not registering guns).

        • You fail to grasp the fact that there is NO delete that actually removes the information recorded. Secondly as per federal law ALL federal firearms sales are required to go through a NICS background check this information is automatically deleted after a prescribed amount of time BUT the record of sale and the form you have to fill out are REQUIRED to be kept by the FFL holder and CAN be taken ANY time the BATF decides they want them. These forms have ALL your information and anything else needed to come to your door and demand you surrender your weapons. There is already a standing list of gun owners and what weapons they have legally purchased.Even if ti IS in violation of federal law.

        • The only way I can think off offhand is some sort of “good citizenship” ID, like a social security number or driver’s license. It could be suspended or revoked based on various criteria. I’m not saying I advocate this, but you asked an honest question. One of my problems is “various criteria” would, as always, morph over time and start to color outside the intended lines. Further, in order for this to not track firearms purchases, it would have to be used for many things in order to bury the data in white noise. Say, buying a car (drunk driving convictions could be grounds for revocation), a background check to work at a daycare, etc. The only thing transmitted to the authorities under checks would be “is this ID valid (i.e. not currently suspended or revoked)”, not the nature of the transaction or its purpose.

        • As part of this guy’s “take all gun owner’s guns” whose real purpose he may or may not be aware – does his program come with some calls to classes called “boating accident?”

      • As we in the computer field have said:

        “The best thing about a computer is that it does _exactly_ what you tell it to do. 🙂
        The _worst_ thing about a computer is that it does _exactly_ what you tell it to do!” 😐

      • And cue all those constitutional scholars and lawyers out there. The supreme court has a role in all this (yes, also part of the constitution) and have identified when rights can be limited and how much. Heard of laws called slander, defamation…those are limits to the first amendment. Ever wonder why nobody tries to litigate that the NFA is unconstitutional? Because there are limits to the second amendment as well.

        Before you go nuts and call me names…you have no idea of my perspective on his question. My perspective is on some of the comments and their lack of knowledge of how the US Constitution works.

        • Yet as I type this there is currently a bill in the House moving to de-regulate silencers, part of the NFA. The Constitution, and any laws related to it, can be changed, for good or for ill.

        • Last I checked, the first amendment applied to speech directed at, or regarding, the government.

          An employer can still fire you for calling him a (insert nastiness here), and someone can still sue you for defamation of character. Those have nothing to do with limiting your speech re the government.

        • And cue all those constitutional scholars and lawyers out there. The supreme court has a role in all this (yes, also part of the constitution)…

          Much to their surprise and chagrin, I’m sure, the Supreme Court Justices are not our Supreme Overlords. They do not define Supreme Law. The Constitution is the Supreme Law of the land. The Constitution does not give the Supreme Court authority to define law, or to infringe upon that which the Constitution says shall not be infringed.

          The Supreme Court usurped authority of extra-constitutional “judicial review”, via Marbury v Madison. They have been subverting the Constitution ever since.

          Just because the Supreme Court says something doesn’t make it true, right, or Constitutional.

          …and have identified when rights can be limited and how much.

          No, the Constitution and logic identify those limits. One’s individual liberties and rights end where another’s begin.

          Heard of laws called slander, defamation…those are limits to the first amendment.

          Such exercises of rights otherwise protected by the first amendment are not legitimate, because they cause harm to another. The second-amendment analog to slander and defamation would be using a firearm to commit murder.

          Otherwise, the mere exercise of the second amendment-protected right to keep and bear arms is not subject to limitation, because it does not cause harm to others. (The offended sensibilities of the perpetually aggrieved are not legitimate harm.)

          Ever wonder why nobody tries to litigate that the NFA is unconstitutional? Because there are limits to the second amendment as well.

          No, because they simply don’t have the stones (or funds) to challenge it, and we are a long-suffering people:

          Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

      • “It is probable that one cannot be a ‘computer scientist’ and an idiot at the same time.”

        You’d think so, but I’ve worked with more than a few people who manage to fit quite comfortably into both categories.

        Don’t forget, “computer scientists” gave us Microsoft Bob,, Windows ME, and Apple Maps…

        • ““It is probable that one cannot be a ‘computer scientist’ and an idiot at the same time.”

          You’d think so, but I’ve worked with more than a few people who manage to fit quite comfortably into both categories.”

          I’m kind of infamous professionally – I’m in the biz – for asserting that being a CS-heavy person can make you stupid. Specifically, the particular, peculiar thinking required in doing CS, or worse in “programming”, is both crippling in other contexts and tends to take over.

          Ironically, one of the founding thinkers in CS named Dijkstra was himself infamous for asserting that using BASIC – a programming language – inevitably and irretrievably corrupted the users’ ability to think.

          A former boss of mine in the business of building highly-engineered, software-intensive systems would flat out not hire CS grads. Ever.

          In practice it’s an example of the “kid with a hammer” problem. There’s particular, peculiar thinking required to program or etc. They are kind of like, literally mental gymnasts. However, handsprings off a horse doesn’t make you any good at mopping the floor, taking a hike, or etc. (To abuse an analogy.)

        • When the engineering majors make fun of your lack of interpersonal skills, you’ve got a serious problem. I’m convinced that whatever gives people the mental ability to code at a high level comes at the cost of the ability to interact normally with others in a social setting. This obviously is a generalization but I honestly can’t recall one CS major that I met in college that I would consider “normal”.

          And as a side not, intelligence is often a strange thing. I knew 4.0 GPA engineers that I wouldn’t have hired to cut my grass, much less actually work as an engineer. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that someone’s ability to program or make certain calculations doesn’t always translate into solid reasoning or decision making skills in the “real world”.

    • “Background checks will never eliminate straw purchasers.”
      The easiest, and probably most effective, means to eliminate straw purchases is to get rid of background checks all together.

    • You put a lot of very vague terms and ideas into the original post, perhaps intentionally so.

      Please tell us something slightly specific so we have something to go on.

      • Well, the intention for the vagueness of the original post is three-fold

        a) Cyptography confuses 90% of people and bores the heads off of the remaining 10.
        b) Different people have different levels of technical understanding, so an “all or nothing” approach to describing the system is the only way to make sure people don’t get incorrect ideas about its implementation.
        c) I actually have two concepts that I am considering, but will only likely have time to build one, so I’m weighing the pros and cons and getting feedback on concerns to determine which approach will address more of them.

        If you *really* want technical details I can spell out the two proposals here using a lot of long paragraphs packed with acronyms, otherwise I’ll have it in a much more consumable and understandable form by the end of the weekend.

      • Well, the intention for the vagueness of the original post is three-fold

        a) Cyptography confuses 90% of people and bores the heads off of the remaining 10.
        b) Different people have different levels of technical understanding, so an “all or nothing” approach to describing the system is the only way to make sure people don’t get incorrect ideas about its implementation.
        c) I actually have two concepts that I am considering, but will only likely have time to build one, so I’m weighing the pros and cons and getting feedback on concerns to determine which approach will address more of them.

        If you *really* want technical details I can spell out the two proposals here using a lot of long paragraphs packed with acronyms, otherwise I’ll have it in a much more consumable and understandable form by the end of the weekend.

        • “..f you *really* want technical details I can spell out the two proposals here using a lot of long paragraphs packed with acronyms,”

          Kinda….. I am curious to see the underlying logic applied to the problem. It think it would be interesting to see your beginning point and the subsequent breakdown into smaller programming blocks and the logic applied to each.

          Which leads me to the second half of my curiosity: with such obvious, and in many cases well through out and even better explained, pushback against the idea why you would choose to continue forward. I admit I am curious to see the attempt to apply technology to this problem, but to go into it knowing you are just writing complex code for the sake of writing complex code, seems kind of masochistic to me. I can say that because I suck at writing code so any writing of code seems masochistic to me.

          • *** The threading logic is a bit funky right now. This is intended as a reply to ‘Chip in Florida’s comment above, ***

            I am admittedly a bit of a masochist. My day job is running a company working to address and fix systematic corruption in the government and financial systems of developing countries. Complex code to solve even more complex problems is my bread and butter.

            Alright, here’s the overview of each idea:

            Solution 1: a system based around certificate authorities and client side encryption.
            You go to a website if you are planning to sell a gun to someone. You and the recipient of the transfer sit down and fill out their personal info, and the seller info, and the transfer details (the gun serial number, make, model, etc.). You can do multiple guns at once if you want.

            When you hit “submit” to the background check system a few things happen.
            – In your browser (in javascript), a new RSA keypair is generated with a cryptographic random number generator
            – All of the information that should not be shown to the government (everything apart from buyer PII, used in the background check) is encrypted using the private key.
            – A Certificate Signing Request (CSR) is generated, where certain fields (common name, most likely) contain the unencrypted information (the buyer information), and an additional field for encrypted information is included. This field contains the information that was encrypted with the private key above.
            – The CSR (and NOT the private key) is sent to the government server.
            – Using the unencrypted data (the buyer information) the government performs the background check
            – If the check comes back clean, return a signed certificate with the same information (including the encrypted information they can’t see), to the user. (The government will just need to act as a CA, which does not require storing each request).
            – The browser saves/downloads the private key and signed certificate to the seller’s hard drive

            After this, the seller holds on to both files as their “receipt”. The key can be password secured, so you can toss it on dropbox or email if you want, it’s fine. If the gun sold is used in a crime, and the ownership is tracked to the seller (which is done by bouncing between FFLs currently anyways), it is their responsibility to produce the receipt certificate and private key, which they can then use together to decrypt the previously encrypted data, proving that they truly did have a background check done on the buyer at the time of the transfer.

            This system would be voluntary, but the accompanying proposed legislation would make not performing a background check when selling a gun later used in a crime much more severe (probably an accomplice charge). So it won’t be required for things like trips to the range with friends, or giving a gun to a family member or friend if they need it, but will much more highly incentivize having them done when selling to parties you don’t know.

            Solution 2: The government maintains an OCSP system on people approved for buying firearms

            You go into your local CLO’s office and state that you want a gun purchase certificate. They get your information and, if you pass the background check, they give you a certificate and private key. (similar to above, but they know the private key in this case, which is not great, but is alright, since it isn’t being used to protect data)

            Whenever you go to buy a gun, you give these files (either via USB, or even a 2D barcode on the back of your license/carry permit) to the seller, and they cross reference it with your ID, and then submit it to the federal system.

            The system responds with validation that they did in fact issue the certificate, AND have not revoked it since.

            OCSP allows for revocation of signed certificates, which in this case would mean that the holder of the cert committed a violent crime that prohibits them from buying more guns or something of that ilk.

            Once that check is done, the gun can be sold, no other questions asked.

            Current thoughts

            Obviously both systems have pros and cons. The first doesn’t require any prerequisite steps for a buyer, but allows anyone to perform checks on anyone else, and does give more information to the government, albeit encrypted, as to what the purchase entailed. The latter won’t track that information, but as a result makes a “paper” trail from manufacturer to criminal impossible to trace, and involves more work on the buyer, but less on the seller.

            So that’s why I’m looking for feedback. Both systems solve the core issues at play, but they differ when it comes to the other implications.

            • Taylor W.,

              It seems like both your proposed solutions could be partially overcome by the simple process of the government logging IPs that access the server that provides the certificates. IP access = trying to buy or sell a gun. Either the buyer or the seller would have to use their computer, which would provide a clue that a transaction was taking place.

              Also, requiring a visit to the CLEO office means you have been recorded on video entering that office and making the request (in my experience, virtually all cop-shop locations are video-recorded, or at least the building access points are), so that would be a non-starter for folks who truly want anonymity.

            • Your first concept seems to go way beyond what’s necessary for a “background check”. If all you’re interested in is verifying that the buyer is not a prohibited person, why would you need any information about the seller or the firearm? Other folks have proposed much simpler solutions in the comments here that would solve the “Is this buyer prohibited?” problem.

              “This system would be voluntary…”

              Maybe at first. But governments don’t do “voluntary”. If such a system existed, it would be made mandatory almost immediately.

            • “… and the transfer details (the gun serial number, make, model, etc.). You can do multiple guns at once if you want.”

              This is the primary failure point. Why are the details of the firearm in any way relevant to the transaction? You are running a check on the person buying, not the firearm itself.

              First, this is the primary resistance to UBC, the registry.

              Second, for your exercise in coding, removing this data set, its collection and management, should simplify the coding requirements.

        • Taylor W.,

          While I appreciate a good technical solution as much as the next nerd (and I mean that in a nice way), I still think we’re playing into the anti-gunners’ hands here, by accepting the premise that the average gun buyer should have to PROVE they are “worthy” by getting the government’s “blessing” before any private sale can proceed. It’s supposed to be “innocent until proven guilty”, not the other way around.

          Please see my suggestion in a longer post (somewhere above this one; it’s somehow been moved around) about using the driver’s license or state ID to convert the BGC system to a “scarlet letter” for the felons, vs a required blessing for the millions of honest average gun buyers (and one that can be suspended by the .GOV at a moment’s notice simply by claiming “technical difficulties” or “the server is overloaded”). Which has already happened with the basic BGC system several times.

        • NineShooter,

          “IP access = trying to buy or sell a gun. Either the buyer or the seller would have to use their computer, which would provide a clue that a transaction was taking place.”

          Not necessarily. Someone, such as Taylor in particular, could create a simple auto-querying app, which asks for your status every hour +- a random 10-20min on the weekends, and randomly 1-2 times each week during business hours. Give it a single button click to skip the current pending interval for when you make a transaction and transactions become indistinguishable among all the non-transaction traffic.

          “I still think we’re playing into the anti-gunners’ hands here, by accepting the premise that the average gun buyer should have to PROVE they are “worthy” by getting the government’s “blessing” before any private sale can proceed. It’s supposed to be “innocent until proven guilty”, not the other way around.”

          While I agree with you, it’s innocent until proven guilty, and that background checks of any sort likely represent an undue burden, I do not believe this is playing into the anti-gunners’ hand; 1.) the courts are generally fine with background checks, guilty until proven innocent, and all the 14th amendment violations. 2.) the public at large already believes we NEED more background checks.

          So what Taylor is proposing is to create a proof of concept for something which would be a dramatic improvement over NICs. This actually works against the anti’s in that it directly addresses the two points I called out above; 1.) This SHOWS the courts that there are less restrictive ways of achieving what NICs does, with out such a POC the courts are more than happy to accept that NICs is as light weight as it gets. 2.) It pacifies the general ignorant public, because then we have their ‘needed’ background checks.

          It sucks, I know, but that is reality.

        • My civil liberty issues about background checks aside, I just want to point out that they already have a Web based background check system for FFLs and like a phoned in FFL based NICS checks the serial is NOT transmitted. Why if they were really going to do something like you propose Taylor, why wouldn’t they up the bandwidth for public checks on an existing system? Why reinvent the wheel? IP tracking prevention and more “anonymous” logins could be added to that system.

          Now on the other hand while the serial isn’t transmitted with the buyer’s info, the serial is on the 4473 that is kept at the FFL until 20 years or they go out of business, which they then go to ATF. If you think that .gov hasn’t violated federal law to build an illegal database of the records they have on file should look at the cases of Edward Snowden, Lois Learner, and Hillary’s classified emails for .gov respect for following laws placed on them (would love to also put a political right example but none recent are popping in my head, maybe the NSA thing since IIRC it started under GWB, but neither side is immune to it and why we need the 2nd Amendment for its most radical application)

        • Why don’t you just post your code here after you’re done with it. Half of us will have no problem reading it.

          • “Why don’t you just post your code here after you’re done with it. Half of us will have no problem reading it.”

            Or, similarly, post a punch-list of the technical, operational, and rights / ethical problems with universal background check. Really, the objections fall into those three broad buckets, and there’s a lot of repetition. There’s less than a dozen, really, in each.

            IMO, something technically sufficient isn’t that hard – more than a weekend hack, less than a grad-degree level new tech implementation followed by a few $millions in productization-equivalent effort, then a few $10millions in deployment / implementation.

            I’m interested because with a technical solution in hand, even hypothetically, it kind of clears the decks for “but operationally, it does not good”, and “why is this your business anyway?”

            Personally, I am not a fan of legislation by other means. For example, I think, rather than abuse the language to push what he wants through the law as it stands, “Musket” Morgan would do better by proposing – excuse me, recruiting a US citizen to propose – a change to that language, so it plainly ways what he wants.

            Issue examples… Technical:

            – You can’t do a UBC system w/o making or making absurdly easy a universal registration system by stealth. (In my prior comments I propose that you probably can.)

            – ect.


            – Statistically, it doesn’t do any good.

            – etc. (There’s about 15 of these, all killers. I simply doesn’t help. Neither does universal confiscation help so much, either.)

            Legal / ethical:

            – What part of “… shall not be infringed.” is unclear?

            – etc.

            IMHO, not sure like a proof but pretty darn sure, “universal background checks” has three attractions for the advocates:

            – It looks like something is being done.

            – It makes life harder for “those people”, you know, the ones who want to own guns, who are Bad and Wrong for that and generally also for other things. Their constituents love it when “those people” are abused for being different.

            – It’s a means to universal registration, because why should anyone do anything we don’t know about (and approve) anyway?

            – (Bonus) Sneaking this through further erodes the notion of rule of law.

            I am particularly interested in what I’ve called the “operational” objections above, because they pretty much mirror “operational” claimed gains for a universal background check system.

    • Mr. Zimmerman , since you’re a computer scientist you may be able to help me .
      Why is my computer constantly showing LB38 n codes in the s4444 sequences at regular intervals of 7 , 12 and 16 ? Could I be experiencing a trackload sub lett on my hard drive ? Are there any quick fixes to this via a mod download and could I just as easily reboot my

    • This times 1,174.

      Background checks actually CREATE straw purchases. Background checks are the ENTIRE reason straw purchases even exist. This is like saying that you can eliminate crime by criminalizing more things.

      I didn’t expect an oft repeated anti gun talking point “New Law X will cut down on straw purchases” to be on TTAG…

    • Let me save you some design time and provide with the code of an application that will be 2A compliant. 🙂

      public boolean CanPurchaseFirearms(FreeCitizen somebody)
      return true;

      See, this is easy. No need to look for requirements.

  1. Sorry. I don’t support any form of “universal background check,” especially considering how this current administration pushes the limits on and exceeds its authority without consequence.

    I won’t support this in any way, shape, or form.

      • Background checks give any politician the ability to confiscate any firearm that they may in future decide to make illegal. If there were a way to do it anonymously it COULD possibly detect less than 2% of firearms sold to those not entitled to own them (those not convicted of a felony or illegally in the United States) but there is a far more insidious reason that background checks are a bad idea. That being the ability for the government to hold your name and location for future reference. I know as a fact, that the Internal Revenue Service not only reviews the firearms purchase records but also associates them to their master database. I also know that the National Security Data Collection Center has archived ALL of the background check information which was NEVER to be retained beyond the 48 hours it took to perform the checks.
        The reason we have the second amendment to the US Constitution is not for hunting and gathering, it is to protect the First Amendment! The first held our freedoms as being naturally occurring, the second is to protect those rights from tyrannical government, like the one we have in Washington, D.C..

        • I would not be surprised to learn about this data collection, but my question to you is: How do you, personally, know that the government is violating federal law and keeping this data? Have you seen it? Heard a story from your golf buddy who works there?

          Likely anything that occurs at the Utah Data Center (if that is what you mean) is not public. And if the IRS can’t even catch fake tax returns, what makes you think they are recording firearm purchases?

        • Do not forget that it would infringe on our right to “dispose” of our private property as we see fit.

          How would you feel if the government told you who could purchase your home, car, lawn mower, tools, etc… if you are selling them?

          How about the government having the ability to stop your children for inheriting your estate after your death?

          They try these things to some extent…… But this is supposed to be America!

          So nothing you could program should make any American comfortable with the idea.

          Data never truly dies or disappears.

          And who decides the criteria that would disqualify a person from purchasing a firearm?

          How is the criteria changed? What recourse does the affected party have?


      • 1) Its a non-problem. Violent crime is at a 35 year record low and dropping. The “epidemic of gun violence” is 100% media contrived fiction. What we have in America is an “epidemic of agenda-driven reporting”.

        2) At best, this is a gross violation of privacy and a clear double standard – AT BEST. We don’t register people’s ability use any other Constitutional right. That why they’re called Rights and not Privileges.

        3) The radical voices in the government have made it openly and *unambiguously* clear that they intend to ultimately remove civilians ability to own any firearms, and will not stop until that goal is achieved. (For those of you who still say “no one’s coming for your guns” you have not been reading – at all.) With this in mind, there can be ZERO compromise, as the attacks will not stop until our rights have been eroded to the point on non-existence. Give the mouse a cookie… you know the rest.

        4) The idea of universal background checks is fundamentally IMPOSSIBLE without a national firearms registry, which would be an Unconstitutional and punitive measure against people who have committed no crime.

        5) This is feel-good legislation. Great for publicity stunts, but utterly doomed to total impotence in terms of having an impact on violent crime. Most criminals get their weapons by stealing them, or purchasing stolen weapons from other criminals. This system does absolutely NOTHING to prevent that. You wouldn’t even make a dent in the crime rate.

        6) Registration leads to confiscation. Period. Full Stop.
        We have the bill of rights specifically to prevent us from going down these roads. Free people are free, and must be treated as such.

        7) Because F___ you – This is America, and WE DON’T WANT IT.
        The only people calling for this are elites with personal body guards (who are, of course exempt), and those ignorant activists who could not be bothered to do the smallest amount of research before forming an action group to #dosomething.

        • You are the first commenters to actually answer the question he asked. You win 10 internets. Thanks for the bullet points!

        • “The only people calling for this are elites with personal body guards (who are, of course exempt)…”

          That’s because “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” (George Orwell, 17 August 1945)

        • Ethan, that is the best post I have seen on this issue in a long time. You certainly understand very clearly what exactly the “gun rights” war is about. There is nothing to add to your accurate description. The Democratic party is not the party of FDR or even JFK anymore. It is now an anti American socialist party. The media is also anti American and commits treason on a daily basis. Selectively reporting, lying and purposely misleading the American people is a daily act of treason and needs to be prosecuted.

          • We do register voters…. just saying

            The correct analog would be registering votes, not voters. The reasons that votes cast by citizens are anonymous are the same reason that firearms owned by citizens must also be anonymous.

  2. Nobody asked you to solve a non-problem.

    Government should not be able (ever) to pre-empt the means by which a bona fide citizen preempts his rights.

    A fellow citizen should only be able to achieve a tie, at best, in the above struggle as well.

    Either way, it’s no where near your paygrade.

    • Something’s funky in the last month – or two? with TTAG self-editing.

      Let’s try that again:

      Government should not be able (ever) to pre-empt the means by which a bona fide citizen preempts his government from preempting his rights.

      • Thank you for clarifying as I was going bald scratching my head trying to figure out the first draft.

  3. selling w/o a bg check alone should not be a crime. that is my objection.

    if it were said that selling with a bgc absolves the seller of all future liability (criminal and civil), that would at least make some sense. eschew the check and you lose those protections IF the buyer ends up committing a crime AND a jury decides you should be held partly or wholly responsible.

    that you do not pass go and go directly to jail is unnaceptable when almost all personal sales are no-risk


    • Selling a gun should absolve you of any liability for its future use regardless of Bgc or not…just like every other thing you might sell or otherwise dispose of.

      • When a straw purchaser sells a gun to a bad guy that he knows will use that gun to commit a crime, would you have us absolve him of wrong doing?

        If you sell a gun LEGALLY and you believe there is no ill intent on the part of the buyer, only THEN should you be absolved of any responsibilities.

        • What I, you or someone else does with what ever is sold / bought is none of anyone’s business! If you bay a car and drive to work or drive to a fishing hole or the ocean or or or ETC is not anyone’s business Even if that car is used to run someone over and kill them the same is true for gun’s knives, bats, bricks whatever.

        • “…When a straw purchaser sells a gun to a bad guy that he knows will use that gun to commit a crime, would you have us absolve him of wrong doing?”

          Yes. The seller didn’t commit the crime. The person who pulled the trigger is the one to blame.

          The salesman isn’t responsible for the car, or the knife, or the pressure cooker after it is sold so why should the seller suddenly be culpable simply because a firearm is involved?

    • Tell us, Jeremy B.: “What _other_ rights do you want a person background checked before they are _allowed_ to exercise?”

      “Inquiring minds want to know….”

  4. I think the problem most people have is with the record keeping. Come up with a way to not record any particulars about the gun or that a transaction even occurred and you might be on to something. I think you are going to have a hard time selling that trust given that the courts have pretty much wiped their rear with the 4th Amendment.

    • If you don’t record that a transaction occurred, how do you prove that you did the background check? Background checks are almost entirely pointless as it is; removing any record that the check was performed would get rid of that “almost” and make them totally pointless.

      • I think we are in agreement that mandatory background checks, universal or otherwise are pointless, as they do nothing to prevent criminals from obtaining weapons illegally. That being said, a voluntary method that did not require private sellers to depend on an FFL and that simply gave a go no-go response without requiring any details other than the buyers legality to purchase a firearm, would give the seller some piece of mind about a buyer they did not know. This would be strictly voluntary, agreed to by both parties or no sale.

        • Some states record the background check number (NTN) on their state-issued concealed weapon licenses. In my state, showing that you have a CWL works as a certified “good guy/gal” card (or at least, “not a current scumbag” card) for the purposes of private firearms sales. Expanding that system to putting a BGC number on every driver’s license or state-issued ID card would allow the same system to work for everyone, without any delays, additional costs, involving a third party, or recording any aspect of the transaction(s). You might have to give the driver’s license department a heads-up that you want that option on your license a couple of days prior to renewal (due to the time it takes to do the BGC), but that would be the only downside I can see. Folks could prove they saw the BGC-certified license/ID by recording the ID # on any receipt, given or kept.

          A “BGC done” box on the DL/ID might also be useful when applying for certain types of employment.

        • ^^ Still retains the core problem of who, or more probably, what political entity gets to determine and enforce “You are a no-go and are no longer entitled to exercise your natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms.”

          This entire thread has been an intellectual circle-jerk regarding a concept that not only should not be allowed due to being unconstitutional on its face, but should further be PROHIBITED by federal legislation of some sort – oh wait, there already is federal regulation against it, it’s called the Second Amendment.

    • “I think the problem most people have is with the record keeping.”

      Please look up the word “infringed” in your Fink & Wagnel’s. Record keeping is only the first step on a long, slippery slope.

  5. Allow me to #Gunsplain to you some of the problems with “Universal” Background Checks.

    1) UBC legislation provides for neither mandatory home inspections nor mandatory government-access CCTV cameras in all areas of one’s home. There is literally nothing stopping someone from illegally selling firearms in the privacy of their four walls and a roof, just like there is literally no way of catching them afterwards.

    2) UBC legislation does not remove the economic burden from the background check, which is racist. At least, it is according to the people who said requiring a voter ID cost too much money and harmed minorities.

    3) The problems of the NICS system have not been addressed by any proposed UBC legislation; that is the fact that NICS is understaffed, private medical information is not shared with the NICS staff, and people flagged as prohibited purchasers are so rarely even charged with crimes. In fact, the NICS system routinely denies firearms to people who have done nothing wrong, and your proposed software using “less” information would only exacerbate the problem of mistaken identity.

    4) Screw John P. in the photo above, screw everything John P. wrote on that white board, and screw the Georgia Bulldogs. Go Vols.

      • That’s why they are regularly found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court…oh wait, that’s never happened. Want to know why? Because under a strict scrutiny standard that the SC applies to laws like background checks the court regularly finds that the Government’s interest in keeping hands out of criminals via the background check outweighs any burden on the citizen.

        Now we know criminals get guns, but I’m just telling you why BCs are 100% constitutionally upheld. I 100% agree that laws regarding felons (yes, those people that have complete disregard for the laws that most of us think are reasonable…murder, rape, armed robbery) with handguns should be very severe…10 years +. Also crack down and publicize intentional straw purchases. It will help keep shitty people off the street and make people think about making a quick buck.

        But that’s me…just a law abiding guy.

        • That’s why they are regularly found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court…oh wait, that’s never happened. Want to know why? Because under a strict scrutiny standard that the SC applies…

          Kindly cite the part of the Constitution that authorizes the Supreme Court to apply strict scrutiny, or any other level of judicial review, to shall not be infringed?

          Also: since when have the courts bothered with strict scrutiny with respect to the second amendment? We are lucky if we get intermediate scrutiny.

          …to laws like background checks the court regularly finds that the Government’s interest in keeping hands out of criminals via the background check outweighs any burden on the citizen.

          And because the court “finds” something, that something is automatically true? The courts have proven their lack of trustworthiness in this regard, having found constitutional rights to “privacy” and marriage. The courts at one time held that other human beings could be owned, sold, and captured as slaves. The courts have “found” that the right of the state to collect sales taxes outweighs individual property rights, as the basis for exercising eminent domain. The courts have “found” an enumerated authority for the state to tax individuals for failing to engage in commerce. The courts have “found” an enumerated authority for the state to tax individuals for failing to engage in private contractual relationships. Just this week, a court “found” that the vast majority of crime is committed using scary black rifles – even though that “finding” is demonstrably, provably, unequivocally false.

          The same is true here. It is unequivocally false that background checks have any impact whatsoever on the behavior of criminals. We have 20 years of data proving that, far from being “crucial/necessary”, they have no impact whatsoever on achieving any important state interest.

          Whether the courts are making “findings” of fact from a position of ignorance, or are lying through their teeth, their “findings” are equally illegitimate. What black-robed tyrants “find” is worth no more than the roll of paper next to my toilet – and is about as useful.

        • That’s why they are regularly found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court…oh wait, that’s never happened. Want to know why?

          Because too many people ignorant of the 2nd amendment and its purpose supported them. Intolerant majoritarianism plays a part in undermining specific written rights when the populace embraces ant colony polices over individual freedom and ignores what is written instead of trying to change it.

        • Ed, you dog,

          “Because under a strict scrutiny standard that the SC applies to laws like background checks the court regularly finds that the Government’s interest in keeping hands out of criminals via the background check outweighs any burden on the citizen.”

          See comments just above for a better tear down of SCOTUS than I could create.

          The court themselves have decided that they have the authority to apply “strict scrutiny”. Who gave them that right to infringe? The Second Amendment was intended to allow the citizens to defy tyranny in their own government. It is therefore in the government’s interest (strict scrutiny) to keep guns out of the hands of the citizens and background checks give them exactly the tool they need to accomplish this because under that rule only the government determines who becomes a prohibited person who, in the opinion of the government, may no longer exercise their natural, civil and (now no longer) Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms.

  6. The lard ass in the photo supports universal background grounds and then, for some inexplicable reason, mentions he doesn’t “need” assault weapons with “clips”. This is what passes for coherent thought among the anti-gun extremists. Breathtaking.

  7. My core objection to this is my core objection to 4473 forms. Shall not be infringed. It’s pretty clear. How is it that showing an ID to vote is racist but I’ve got to jump through hoops to exercise my 2A rights? Please, abandon this effort towards UBC’s.

    • “My core objection to this is my core objection to 4473 forms.”

      At present, all ATF Form 4473 are kept in the FFL’s business records: the ATF doesn’t get them until an FFL goes out of business; then they, along with all the ‘Bound Books,’ go to the ATF archives.


      “Go to the sporting goods store. From the files obtain forms 4473. These will contain descriptions of weapons, and lists of private ownership.”
      –Colonel Ernesto Bella: ‘Red Dawn’ (1984)

  8. LOL more baby steps leading up to Hillarys Aussie style confiscation. Nice try, collectivist. The only lists being developed should be all the traitors in DC. When you get that completed you can go back to playing World of Warcraft.

  9. Why should the government need to know that I am purchasing a firearm? Oh, I know that they claim the information is not saved, but I don’t think anyone really believes that. They don’t need my personal information or any information on what I am purchasing period. The only reason I can think of is so they know what doors to knock down at some later date. Any system that you can come up with will be dismantled, perverted and put back together again to meet whatever needs the Federal and/or State governments think that they need and at the same time making it as slow and inefficient as possible while costing at least triple what it started out costing. Thanks for playing though.

    • Time for a little History Lesson:

      Ashcroft Defends Gun Records Plan
      Fri Jul 26, 2002
      By JESSE J. HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer

      WASHINGTON — Attorney General John Ashcroft said Thursday that his proposal to immediately destroy government records of people who buy guns won’t mistakenly help criminals get them illegally. Other “records that are maintained can be used to detect the illegal purchases,” Ashcroft told the Senate Judiciary Committee, responding to a General Accounting Office report released earlier in the week.

      Ashcroft last year suggested shortening from 90 days to no more than one business day the time during which the government keeps records on people who try to purchase firearms.

      But the GAO, Congress’s watchdog agency, said that one-day destruction of records would mean that the FBI, which conducts background checks on people who buy guns, would not be able to go back and check its work to look for fraudulent transactions or mistaken approvals.

      Only seven out of 235 illegal gun sales between July 2001 and January 2002 were noticed after one day, the GAO report said.

      The National Instant Criminal Background Check system, called NICS, electronically checks law enforcement records while gun buyers are waiting to make purchases. Felons, drug users and people subject to domestic violence restraining orders are among those prohibited from buying guns.

      Gun rights groups say keeping the records is an invasion of privacy; gun control advocates say more time for auditing is necessary to ensure that guns are not being sold to criminals.

      Ashcroft said he was trying to balance privacy concerns and the need to maintain the records for auditing purposes — both of which are required by the landmark Brady law that requires background checks for gun buyers.

      But some records are missing or incomplete. If new information shows up within three months that proves the gun purchase should have been denied, the FBI calls local police and has the gun purchaser tracked down and the weapon confiscated.

      The FBI wouldn’t be able to do that if the gun purchase records are immediately destroyed, Sen. Edward Kennedy told Ashcroft.

      “Your proposed policy would be removing an important tool” from law enforcement, said Kennedy, D-Mass.

      However, Ashcroft said NICS would still have the firearm dealer information and government agencies like the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms could still track down illegal gun purchases through those records.

      Going through the records that are maintained by gun dealers would allow ATF and other enforcement agencies “to correct those situations where guns were illegally purchased or inappropriately purchase,” he said.

      Ashcroft also continued to insist that the FBI cannot legally search NICS records to determine whether any of the Sept. 11 terrorist or detainees had bought guns.

      Kennedy first questioned him on the issue back in December, but Ashcroft said he hadn’t changed his mind. “Are you saying the FBI couldn’t look through that to find out whether terrorists bought guns?” Kennedy asked, incredulously.

      “The FBI doesn’t have the authority under the Brady law to use those records for criminal investigative purposes,” Ashcroft replied.


  10. “I do not need an assault weapon with clips to kill a bird”. Do you really think the anti’s are ok with you killing birds regardless if you use an “assault weapon” that takes MAGAZINES not “clips” you dumbass FUDD.

  11. The system would have to be accessible anywhere, even by citizens in rural communities, but secure enough that it cannot be used to create a registry of who has used it to purchase something, and so that it cannot be abused. It would have to be free to use. It would have to be perfect.

    The problem, for me at least, isn’t so much the question of having a background check done on me, though I understand why that irks folks. The problem is the idea that some citizen would have his right deferred because of a lack of access, bureaucratic incompetence, or finances. It’s crazy to me that some folks think I should be able to vote without proving that I live in the district, and yet in order to exercise an equally fundamental right, I should have to jump through hoops. Even if the hoops are low (and come on, NICS is a pretty terrible standard for background checks), they are impediments to the exercise of a right.

    A right delayed is a right denied.

      • A right DELAYED is a right denied.

        We are all finite beings stuck here together on this or the next rock.

        F with my “today”, I have to F with your tomorrow.

  12. How’s this-
    Make whatever background check you are proposing mandatory for the other freedoms that are enumerated.
    Want to practice religion? UBC.
    Want to speak in public? UBC.
    Or this- how about a UBC before you can vote?
    See how restrictive and expensive it gets? A UBC will never be free. They cost money.

  13. The big objection is, to quote DOJ report last Spring, — a universal vackground check cannot work unless it is tied to a GUN REGUSTRATION system. So says the head computer geek at the Bureau of Justice Statistics. I believe him.

    • This x1000

      There is no way to enforce UBC without knowing what everyone has already via some form of gun registration.

    • The is no way to enforce UBC without knowing what everyone has already via some form of gun registration.

  14. As soon as people get over their theological wall concerning the sanctity of human life, maybe we can kill a few birds with one stone. Not only should there not be ANY kind of check to make sure you are a good guy (cause, you know, people are always so honest), but giving a gun to everybody would definitely cut down on overpopulation concerns…

  15. “… to allow for “universal” background checks, while protecting civil liberties and privacy…. would love to get a short synopsis or bullet points on where the resistance comes from ”

    First and obvious issue: Why? Why do I have to ask permission to exercise my right?

    Second and even more obvious issue: How? How is anyone going to know that I sold a gun to John there when it is a private sale between two individuals?

    Having said that, your question is an interesting one from the programming side…

    The big resistance to overcome is the registry idea, that there is a record of X gun sold to Y person. Huge problem, people will not comply with it.

    If you can program a system where person A can run a check on person B, a record of that check is logged (think of it like a grocery receipt) and can be kept in either or both person’s files, but no record of the specific firearm is kept then you might have something. This would allow me as the seller to make sure that the buyer is not a prohibited person, give me a receipt indicating that I did actually confirm that fact so at any point in the future if local law enforcement asks me I can show them the receipt indicating that they were not a prohibited person at that point in time. And there is no registry component keeping up with who has which gun specifically.

    I do have to go back to the first point…. why are you doing this again? This seems like a lot of effort being put into a system that isn’t going to stop even a single criminal from getting their hands on the tools they seek to commit their crimes. Criminals aren’t going to comply, straw purchasing is already illegal, and doing criminal things are already illegal which is why they are called criminal activities.

      • You see the feature in my cunning plan….. there is no record of ‘this’ gun being sold to ‘that’ person so losing your receipt ultimately means nothing. Even if ‘that’ person kept their receipt it means only that at the time the check was ordered the buyer was not a prohibited person. Ultimate end result…. I can not be held liable or responsible for the actions of a criminal because they were not a criminal at the time of our transaction.

    • That’s almost exactly how the system will work. Just far more secure than a paper receipt.

      Also, as for why, it really comes down to my philosophy that technology can solve a lot of problems people don’t normally think about it applying to. We’ve already seen states enact absurd and restrictive universal background check laws, that do literally everything that 2A advocates are against, and more states are going down that path.

      I’d rather be the one making the system, and doing it in a way that protects privacy as much as possible and prevents a registry from being made, rather than leaving it up to the same politicians that decided that a good way to secure the NICS system is for each FFL to have a “code word” that they say over the phone every time they call like it’s the damn 1950s.

      Also, it’s just a fun weekend project and tech experiment.

      • “…Also, as for why, it really comes down to my philosophy that technology can solve a lot of problems people don’t normally think about it applying to”

        I agree.

        This particular thought experiment, however, is not a problem in need of a technical solution. This is a political problem, one that is cause by the tension between freedom and control. The politicians and those that support them want more control and want it at the expense of our freedoms.

        Several others have already mentioned this flaw in your plan, who is the gatekeeper for what information goes into the magic box, who is responsible for the upkeep of that data, and how does the individual to whom that data applies go about appealing errors?

      • Taylor, I notice that you have not responded to, or totally ignored, my carefully crafted comment above. Why? Is there some reason the continued pointing out that this exercise is a direct and blatant violation of the Second Amendment is not worthy of you addressing?

        Perhaps because if you were willing to admit this FACT then you would understand that you are aiding and abetting the enemy and would not be able to partake in your “fun weekend project and tech experiment.”

        • It’s more that there have been over 120 comments made so far and I’m responding to them while compiling code at work 😉

          Alright, I’ve looked at your above comment. There’s not much I can say to it. You don’t exactly go into specifics that I would be able to address with what I’m trying to build, it’s more just a blanket dislike for UBCs.

          I understand that dislike, but it’s not particularly useful feedback for figuring out what your actual reasoning is for disliking it. You reference the constitution a lot, so you have that going for you, which is nice, but having that be the core of your argument is a bit of a genetic logical fallacy.

        • You are very dense, sir. The fact that government infringement of a core natural right is a violation of the Second Amendment is the only valid point in this discussion. Bottom line – this project is prima facea unconstitutional and should not be attempted.

        • What I said stands, using nothing but the constitution to defend your position is a genetic fallacy. It’s the easy way out. It’s saying “because the founding fathers were so smart and knew so much, this is the way it is, and this is the way it must be”. Holds up well in court, but outside of legal proceedings, isn’t a valid way to win an argument.

          Maybe you could say that the reasoning behind the 2nd amendment still applies today and this would go against that reasoning. That’d be a much more well supported argument. As it is you are just waving the constitution in front of people’s faces and saying “SEE?!? DO YOU SEE WHAT IT SAYS?!?”. That’s not going to get anyone to change their opinions.

          Anyhoot, I appreciate your feedback, even the bits about me being dense (tho really I’m pretty chubby, so I’d probably be neutrally buoyant at best), but I’m going to attempt it anyways, because I have the freedom to express my opinions and propose legislation and solutions. Woohoo America!

        • Taylor, your response that simply waving the Constitution and claiming that quoting EXACTLY what it says is not a valid argument certainly clarifies your position on this issue.

          The solution your are after is not a programming exercise, unless you consider the “programming” of young minds filled with mush to have contempt for the Constitution to be in appropriate. The solution you are after, whether you admit it or can even see it yourself, is the repeal of the Second Amendment. If you add ANY government qualifiers to the Second Amendment you have in that moment advocated the repeal of the Second Amendment. This is not rocket science, or computer science, it is fact.

          The ENTIRE point of the Second Amendment was to enjoin the government from having any say whatsoever in who could or could not possess and bear arms. Any attempt by the government to proclaim otherwise is a violation of the Constitution and I daresay any attempt to assist them in this effort, other than by legitimately promoting, by Constitutional means, the repeal or revision of the Second Amendment, is treasonous.

          You are certainly within your rights to advocate the legal alteration of the Constitution, but please be man enough to stand up and say that is what you are advocating. Don’t just hide behind some specious “strict scrutiny” argument. If I may be so bold as to criticize SCOTUS, there is NO QUALIFIER in the Second Amendment that continues along the lines of “…shall not be infringed, unless a majority of the nine un-elected men appointed to the Supreme Court for life decide you scare them.”

    • If there’s no record of specific guns sold then how can law enforcement ever come back to the seller in the first place? I generally buy from private sellers and not FFL’s so very few of my guns have any record of my ownership in the first place. If I were to sell them to another private seller there is no record of my ownership that could be traced to me via the “receipt” you propose.

      • That’s not a problem, is it?

        I don’t see that as a problem.

        It’s a background check, not a gun ownership trace.

  16. The fatal flaw is not one of technology, but one of the fundamental nature of the concept.

    Without registration, the entire thing is a nullity. I can sell a hundred guns a day, and the system will never know about it.

    Registration of firearms has NO purpose beyond facilitation of future bans and confiscation.

    How did Chicago implement its handgun BAN? Through registration. All firearms, including handguns were required to be registered with the city. They simply stopped supplying applicants with blank forms, refused to accept copies, and in any case would not accept any new handgun registrations from anyone but the corrupt cops and even more corrupt members of the Chicago City Council.

    My answer now and forever is, “NO, I REFUSE.”

  17. There are all sorts of gun control schemes that would probably be fine if we could trust the other side. But conceding universal background checks to people who are hell bent on subverting the 2nd Amendment is like ceding Sudetenland to Hitler thinking that would make peace. Do you really think they’ll be satisfied? Do you really think they won’t use those background checks as a de facto registration? That they won’t compile records of who owns what and just where to go to confiscate those weapons when some convenient national emergency arises?

  18. BigBoy called it. The whole “universal background check” scam is nothing but a front for universal gun registration, which is necessary for government confiscation of guns. This is how they did it in Australia, Britain, California and other socialist dictatorships. “Hey, we just want to know where the guns are so we can be sure they are being properly stored/used/whatever.” Then, 5- 10 years later: “Those nasty semi-autos have to be turned in. We know who you are and what guns you have, so cough ’em up or go to jail.”

    That I is why I oppose “background checks.” Also, what part of “shall not be infringed” is so hard to understand?

  19. Well, it isn’t so much how you design it, it’s what the customer, the government, wants for features. I am sure there are many who could provide an absolutely perfect app exactly as specified by the customer. As a contractor, you can either accept the work or not, but you don’t get to dictate terms for the scope of work.

    I’m not sure of the point. Are you being asked by the government or other organization to provide a proof of concept? Is this just a hackathon? Don’t you think we should be repealing legislation instead of adding to it?

    Background checks to practice your civil/Constitutional rights is an oxymoron, isn’t it?

  20. Universal Check? Yes, you should universally check that my money is good before handing over possession of your gun to me. If I appear to be overly nervous, sweaty, jumpy or in a hurry, that is no reason to deny the sale by itself, excepting that I’m being obviously ‘prompted’ by someone else in the store or on the phone.

  21. If this black box that says up or down on a potential purchaser, without creating a registry or otherwise tracking individuals, existed, then sure. The problem isn’t that it can’t be done technically, it’s that government simply can’t resist abusing it, and once your black box is in their hands, their first priority will be to modify to create a registry and track individuals.

    It’s a human issue, not a technological one.

  22. Taylor, I work in the computer business too.

    There is no way to effectively secure the data that will be collected by universal background checks.

    The system is only as secure as it’s weakest entry point. Unless you can secure the end-point where data is entered and then transmitted to the database, the system will be open to use by people with malicious intent.

    “Universal background checks” might as well be called what they actually, are, which is “universal data collection.” Once the data is collected, it’s only a matter of time before gun registration starts…”see how efficient universal background checks are?” “Registration will be just as easy.”

    Taylor, the only people who would get the checks using your system will be people in the process of purchasing a gun. Which means government will have a record of who has been checked and what kind of firearm the background check was for. Wouldn’t be hard for some sort of midnight regulation or law to be passed for your system to be turned into exactly what government wants, which is a tool to track firearms purchases by citizens.

    Also, since this is a central database, and I do know a little about database design and implementation, it would not be hard for someone to change the database so that it start rejecting people for no apparent reason. Remember, the the part of the system that has to be accessed by the people running the database has to be designed to the lowest common denominator.

    Taylor, you may think you’re on an interesting “theoretical” project but as soon as someone does the design work, it is but a small step for someone to appropriate your work and inflict it on the rest of us.

    I strongly suggest, Taylor, that you find a different theoretical concept to work on, because this one should be accompanied by Robot screaming “Danger, Will Robinson, Danger, Will Robinson!”

    • Thanks for the feedback! A few responses to your objections, to see if I can alleviate your concerns:

      > Unless you can secure the end-point where data is entered and then transmitted to the database, the system will be open to use by people with malicious intent.

      That is exactly what I plan on doing.

      > Which means government will have a record of who has been checked and what kind of firearm the background check was for.

      Not exactly. The set of information they will have is . Other information, including gun details, the number of guns transferred, or even if the transfer took place in the end will be opaque to their servers.

      > Wouldn’t be hard for some sort of midnight regulation or law to be passed for your system to be turned into … a tool to track firearms purchases by citizens.

      All the security aspects of the system will be executing client-side, local to the device using the website. This means that the information is secured before it even gets to the government side, AND that the site can constantly be audited by groups like the ACLU and monitored continually for changes that would make it insecure.

      With these provisions in place, and assuming that they are all actually possible, are you still strongly opposed to it?

      • First, thank you for your reply.

        Yes, still opposed.

        You cannot secure the data transmission part. It doesn’t matter if you run it “client side” you still have to transmit and receive answers.

        You also have a centralized database that you admit would have to be monitored. The people who run the database are not necessarily going to be the best and brightest. And the person appointed to administer the personnel who administer the database is going to be some sort of political appointee. Also, which government agency is going to oversee the database? FBI of Ruby Ridge infamy? Or, how about ATF? Department of Justice? Just which of these highly politicized government agencies are you willing to trust with this database?

        Remember, projects such as these are eventually going to be in the hands of people who want guns confiscated and do not think Americans should have the right to own firearms. (think lowest common denominator again)

        You may think this project is the best deal you can make with the devil, when in reality this is a devil that should never have been invited to the table to begin with.

        As for auditing for changes, the ACLU isn’t an agency to be trusted with such oversight. In fact, there is no one alive on earth that should be entrusted with oversight of something that should never have been built to begin with.

    • As I recall from that (godawful) show “Lost in Space” the Robot was always a little bit too late in his warning “Danger, Will Robinson” and Will, along with the rest of the group, seldom reacted in a timely and effective manner. That they survived at all was miraculous.

      I suspect that these comments here “Danger Taylor W., Danger, Taylor W.” will meet with the same reaction.

  23. For the moment, let’s set aside the absolute nature of shall not be infringed, and pretend that the right to keep and bear arms is subject to a social utility test, and apply judicial review to background checks (universal or otherwise).

    Strict scrutiny: are background checks necessary/crucial to furthering a compelling government interest, narrowly tailored to achieve that interest, and the least-restrictive means to achieve that interest?

    First: what is the “compelling government interest”, and are background checks necessary/crucial to furthering that interest? Is it reduction of violent crime? Is it prevention of so-called “prohibited persons” from obtaining/possessing a firearm? In either case, the standard is not met. Only 10-15% of criminals obtain firearms through licensed FFLs – which has remained steady before and since the introduction of Brady background checks. Therefore, background checks cannot be considered “necessary/crucial” to furthering the compelling government interest.

    What about “universal” background checks, though? 40% of criminals obtain their firearms from friends/family/black market, which would constitute transfers that would ostensibly be covered by UBCs. Of course, if you believe that such laws would be enforceable for criminal-involved private transfers, then I have a bridge to sell you. UBCs would be utterly and completely ineffective at preventing such private transfers. Therefore, UBCs still cannot be considered “necessary/crucial” to furthering the compelling government interest.

    Are background checks narrowly tailored to achieve the compelling government interest? Clearly, they are not. They apply to all commercial (and private, for UBCs) transfers, involving all people, law-abiding and criminal.

    Are background checks the least restrictive means to achieve the compelling government interest? Again, they obviously are not. The represent a considerable burden on every law-abiding person who chooses to exercise the right to keep and to bear arms, while simultaneously having minimal impact on the behavior of criminals.

    Background checks clearly fail strict scrutiny; but what about intermediate scrutiny? Do background checks further an important government interest by means that are substantially related to that interest?

    Do background checks further an important government interest? They have been shown to have no impact upon the firearm-acquisition behavior of criminals, before and since implementation of Brady background checks. Criminals and other so-called “prohibited persons” have not been inhibited by background checks in any way, in their attempts to possess firearms.

    Are background checks substantially related to that important government interest? No. 85-90% of criminals obtain firearms through means that do not involve background checks. Of the remaining means, about half are through theft, and about half are from private transfers (family, friends, black market sales) – most/all of which are already tacitly illicit. Merely passing a new law to require background checks on private firearm transfers will not compel criminals to subject themselves to said background checks, and absolutely no enforcement mechanism exists for background checks for private transfers. Criminals are not beholden to laws.

    Therefore, background checks – and even moreso, universal (i.e. private-transfer) background checks – fail even intermediate scrutiny.

    Do we need to test against rational basis? Are fundamental human rights ever subjected to a rational basis test? Even at this absurdly low standard, I would argue that background checks – and especially UBCs – are not rationally related to any legitimate government interest, because nothing about a background check law will compel a criminal to subject himself to a background check when conducting a private transfer, nor is it possible to create an enforcement mechanism for such a law – at least not in a manner that respects all other fundamental individual liberties, such as those protected by the first, fourth, fifth, and fourteenth amendments.

    What’s the bottom line? Background checks – and especially UBCs – have zero impact whatsoever on the behavior of criminals, and the government has no means to enforce background checks to prevent so-called “prohibited persons” from obtaining firearms, in a manner that does not grossly violate several other rights.

    Background checks are nothing more than a burden on the law-abiding (at best), an opportunity to create “paper” felons (by filling out a form incorrectly), and a mechanism to enable the government to impose itself upon the law-abiding, with respect to the manner of exercise of the right to keep and bear arms.

    • Elegantly reasoned and written — deserves to be a post on its own merits. It’s a shame that no one in government seems able to think so clearly.

    • “…because nothing about a background check law will compel a criminal to subject himself to a background check when conducting a private transfer…”

      As an addendum to this statement, wasn’t their a federal court ruling (possibly SCOTUS, I don’t remember exactly) that a criminal, under their 5th Amendment right not to self-incriminate, could not be prosecuted for not obeying gun registration laws? Seems like this protection would also apply to these so-called Universal (unconstitutional) Background Checks.

  24. There is one clear simple reason a system like this will never work. Without REGISTRATION of every single firearm there is no way track all sales. If Joe sells Firearm X to Bill and then Bill sells Firearm X to Sam and no information on the gun was recorded…how can you ever prove that Firearm X ever went through any background checks before the sales? Also…if AFTER this system is put in place how can you prove that firearms already out there went through the check when sold? You could just say “Oh, I sold that BEFORE the system was in place.”

    To track private firearms sales you MUST track firearms themselves to be 100% sure all sales are in compliance.

    Sure, you could setup a voluntary system at first. But do you think for a second the gun grabbers won’t be screaming about the “Universal Background Check” loophole and demand registration to fix it?

      • Thanks El Jefe, but don’t feel like you need to for me. I’m all for freedom of speech, even if it’s being used to call me names. My previous comment here was true – it really doesn’t affect me. If anything it motivates me to prove folks wrong. But I understand the desire to keep a high bar for quality of conversation.


  25. “Universal background checks” is doublespeak for criminalizing the private transfer of firearms. It has nothing to do with keeping guns out of the wrong hands.
    Openly calling for legislation that would make one a felon for loaning or selling a gun to a friend would be a nonstarter so they lie.

  26. Here are my problems with the current NICS system :

    1. Voluntary by state. No requirement to participate. So much state data not supplied.

    2. Lack of similarity in criminal classification. A crime can be a felony in one state, a misdemeanor in another another no crime another all in another.

    3. Huge varieties in mental health records availability. Most places, doctor /patient privilege prevents access.

    4. Easily circumvented by criminals, ignored by madmen.

    5. No will to prosecute straw purchasers or those blocked by NICS check.

    6. Expanded checks will not be funded adequately.

    • Add to your list people erroneously classified as prohibited persons.

      My state requires a permit to take possession of a handgun. All it says is that you passed a background check. The state doesn’t know what you bought if anything. The permit is good for three years, is cheap and usually takes 5 minutes at the sheriff’s office. No permit is required for CCW permit holders, transfers within immediate family, lending a gun to someone without a permit as long as he remains within sight, and rentals at ranges. That’s about as benign as a mandatory background check can be. Nevertheless, it doesn’t stop transfers without a permit, thefts, straw sales, black market sales, transfers to and between prohibited persons.

    • Add to your list that the Second Amendment SPECIFICALLY doe not allow the government to create a list of prohibited persons.

  27. Checking somebody’s background means verifying it against a database of information about that person. I think at this point you’ve already lost most of the freedom-loving Americans who do not want information about them stored in State or Federal databases in the first place. But assuming that ship has already sailed and the information is already there — which we know isn’t fully the case, of course, considering how many times we see people slipping through the NICS cracks anyway and how many non-prohibited persons get wrongly caught up in NICS denials — there’s no way around having to ping that database for a background check request, which in the most limited possible scenario at least means “The Man” is aware that a specific individual is looking to purchase a firearm. Even that tiny amount of potential visibility by the gov is too much for a lot of people.

    This is glossing over the fact that many Pro 2A folks feel any hindrance or delay in the ability to acquire a firearm is unconstitutional infringement in the first place. Forget keeping records, registration, etc and look towards how the Dems feel about voter ID requirements. ZERO restrictions, delays, fees, etc. Owning a gun is a right. Buying a gun should be one as well.

    UBCs also necessarily mean private sales are now illegal. Having absolutely nothing to do with the background system itself and how it works, a HUGE reason people are against the concept is because they fully believe that private party transactions should be legal without a background check anyway. If I want to give or sell a gun to a family member, friend, or stranger I should be able to do so. The law is already such that possessing a gun is a felony if you’re a prohibited party. How about we leave it at that? Regardless of how you come into possession of the gun, it’s a felony if you’re prohibited. Why do the background check? It doesn’t work much of the time anyway. If you buy a gun from an FFL, let’s say they simply have to briefly explain to you what a prohibited party is and you have to verbally confirm that you are not prohibited from owning a gun and have no violent intentions. No transfer paperwork. At that point, you’re innocent until proven guilty like you’re freaking supposed to be in the U.S. and if you’re caught in a lie or in violent behavior then you’re prosecuted.

    Aaaand, who’s to say that people with criminal records shouldn’t be able to buy guns anyway? Where do you set the bar and who chooses? If they served their jail time, aren’t they rehabilitated? If they aren’t, why are they out on the streets? If we can’t trust them with a dangerous weapon (despite easy access to knives, cars, and “illegal guns” anyway), how can we trust them out of jail without a 24/7 government custodian watching over them? You’re either safe to be released into the public sphere or you aren’t. If you’re out in public, you should be able to purchase a firearm. Even a felon like Martha Stewart should have the right to defend herself with a firearm if she wants to. It’s crazy that she’s lost this civil, natural, and constitutionally-protected right.

    Bottom line, looking at UBCs as a “make an ideal software system” problem is skipping past a HUGE list — I barely scratched the surface — of ideological roadblocks that don’t even allow pen to touch paper on the idea of UBCs. It isn’t a problem with how they’re implemented, it’s a problem with the very concept of any hindrance to firearms purchase or ownership whatsoever.

    • If a system HAD to be implemented, how do you feel about this one?

      Some states record the background check number (NTN) on their state-issued concealed weapon licenses. In my state, showing that you have a CWL works as a certified “good guy/gal” card (or at least, “not a current scumbag” card) for the purposes of private firearms sales. Expanding that system to putting a BGC number on every driver’s license or state-issued ID card would allow the same system to work for everyone, without any delays, additional time-of-sale costs, involving a third party, or recording any aspect of the transaction(s). You might have to give the driver’s license department a heads-up that you want that option on your license a couple of days prior to renewal (due to the time it takes to do the BGC), but that would be the only downside I can see. Folks could prove they saw the BGC-certified license/ID by recording the ID # on any receipt, given or kept.

      A “BGC done” box on the DL/ID might also be useful when applying for certain types of employment.

    • This is a good point. Most of the people who clamor for UBCs don’t *want* them to work well. Or at all.

      To most of the people that want them, UBCs are a means to their desired ends of making it too difficult for almost anyone to buy a gun and putting the federal government in absolute control of everyone who (by some chance) is allowed.

    • Constitutional issues aside (perish the thought), the greatest value of unrestricted sale/gift/transfer of firearms is that it creates a HUGE number of weapons that the government has absolutely no means to keep track of.

      The correct response when asked about any firearm the authorities may somehow suspect you purchased or own is not “lost in a boating accident”, but “Some guy I met at the range really liked it so I sold it to him for cash. I think his name was John.”

  28. I am actually pulling for a solution like this. The ability for each citizen to have access to a background check network that simply returns a pass/fail designation. I have never sold any of my guns, but if I were to do so this would give me a little bit of assurance that I wasn’t selling to a prohibited person. Here are important things for me:

    1. It would not be mandatory, because that would be unenforceable and onerous
    2. A fail would not require legal action. The gun owner could simply seek a new buyer for the firearm.
    3. A transparent process whereby a fail will only be generated by a very specific set of rules. It won’t include things like people on the “terrorist watchlist” or other nebulous lists.
    4. The option to use a social security number OR a driver’s license number might be handy because some don’t want to give out a SS number .
    5. It ought to be something that can be completed in just a few minutes. Either a person has convictions or they don’t, and computers work quickly.

    I would be fine with a system like this as it doesn’t really give the federal government an actionable set of data. You could choose to run it once for a person even if they bought multiple guns over different times. Plus it would allow private citizens who care about not selling to felons the ability to ensure that’s not what they’re doing, all the while not compelling those paranoid few to engage in the process.

    • It does give actionable data, as it tells the Gov that you’re purchasing at least one firearm each and every time you purchase at least one firearm. They know exactly who you are, because if they didn’t have every bit of information on you already they couldn’t process a background check on you in the first place. So this idea will be rejected out of hand.

      In WA, when private party sales were legal, it was common practice for sellers to want to see a buyer’s valid concealed carry permit. If the buyer has a permit, it means they’ve already passed an in-depth background check, which makes the seller highly confident that they’re selling a gun to a non-prohibited party. Sure, the gov knows you have that concealed carry permit and certainly will assume that you own at least one firearm, but they won’t be notified every single time you buy a new firearm. Even through an FFL, I think I should be able to flash my CPL and purchase a gun with no NICS check. I’ve already been checked.

      Of course this is still making a giant leap and assuming acceptance of carry licensing and background checks and such in the darn first place.

      • I don’t know. I think I’d be OK with something like this:

        1 – The Fed sets up a database of criminal convictions and mental health adjudications.

        2 – Prior to any transaction, the prospective purchaser requests a status confirmation against the database. If there are no convictions or MH adjudications, the Fed generates a unique code that the purchaser can provide to a prospective buyer. The code is good for, say, 72 hours or so. By law, no records regarding the code request are maintained by the Fed. (That’s obviously the tricky part.)

        3 – *** If the seller chooses to do so ***, he can ask the purchaser for his code and can contact the Fed (phone or Internet) and enter the code into an automated system. If the code is still active, the system will confirm the purchaser’s name and DOB, which the seller can validate using a state-issued ID.

        4 – If everything checks out, then the sale moves forward. No further information is provided to the Fed (like the model of firearm in question or even whether the sale was completed).

        Again, however, that’s a completely optional process. Dealers could take advantage of it in order to avoid liability for selling to bad guys, but there would be no prior, legal obligation to complete the check before completing the sale.

        • Actually, I guess there would have to be some kind of record maintained regarding the code request. Otherwise, if a dealer requests and checks the code, then there would be no way to confirm later on that the code was good.

          Still, as long as there is no information regarding kind or quantity of firearms sold or even if any firearms were sold, I’d be OK with it. Those data would be of little value in furthering any confiscatory aims.

        • Actually, Korvis, the government could keep a list of valid codes, without tying those codes to people once they are generated. A code number by itself wouldn’t tell the government anything about who. This is, of course, provided they do indeed get rid of the log of the original check’s info, but you’ve already noted, that is the tricky part.

          One way that might solve that would be to have a front end by a trusted third party actually contact the government for the requests, it could make thousands of random requests of the system in addition to the real ones. The government would end up seeing everyone’s background info requested every week or so, and have no useful information. So now we need to come up with a trusted (by us, that is) third party.

  29. Fine, here is my list.
    1. Background checks HAVE NOT EVER reduced crime. Our current NICS system was implemented in the various states when they became able to, not at the same time. No state experienced a drop in crime when they went online with NICS.
    2. Criminals don’t typically get guns through legal transactions, they don’t even use straw purchasers that much. Even if you managed to magically have an effect on straw purchasers, it wouldn’t impact criminals access to guns in any measurable way. People would just steal more guns or import Venezuelan AK’s from Mexico. Is cocaine legal in the US? Can a criminal get cocaine any time he wants?
    3. Universal background checks can’t be enforced without registration. How do you know if I sold a gun to my buddy if you don’t have a database that says I had that gun?
    4.. Universal background check laws are always insane. They always have stuff about how I can give a gun to my nephew but he can’t give it back to me and stuff about how I can only loan a gun to someone if they take it directly to a target range. If they meant it to not be backdoor registration they would just say I can’t advertise a gun for sale without using a background check.
    5. It’s much easier to keep decent people from getting guns than to keep criminals from getting guns. Counties like Russia, Mexico, anywhere in Latin America, have wildly restrictive gun laws. In those countries, the rule in all those countries is criminals are armed and decent people are not.
    6. If you are wondering why people are concerned about registration, and universal background checks which are just a back door to registration pleas take note that both Obama and Clinton have recently been very specific about their interest in confiscation.

  30. Maybe I’m dense but I’ve yet to see a clear definition of what “Universal Background Checks” actually entails.

    That leads me to believe the phrase is designed to be open-ended, and therefore endlessly abused. No thanks.

  31. The concept of universal background checks is, to my eye, exclusive in nature. It implies that I should be excluded from purchasing a firearm unless it is proved that I am legally allowed. That, my friends, is just flat wrong. I am a law abiding citizen of this country, and if you want to deprive me of my rights, then prove otherwise. Until then, bite me.

    Want something to keep track of on a database? Try “felons convicted of firearms trafficking”. Or how about “violent criminals”, maybe. Keep track of the problem. “Ordinary law abiding citizens who just happen to own firearms” are NOT a problem to be kept track of on a freakin’ database, and I refuse to go along with a system that would suggest otherwise.

  32. Mostly it’s a breach of privacy. You can make it so anyone can run a bgc on someone else, but how do you stop abuse? How do you stop me from running people just for kicks and fingering and smearing prohibited people?

    It’s also pointless. How do background checks do ANYthing to stop crime? How can you possibly stop straw purchases without reading minds? How can you truly prevent them? You can’t! So you burden the lawful for absolutely no appreciable gain. And no “we have to do something!” Has never been a good argument for bad policy.

    • “How can you possibly stop straw purchases without reading minds?”

      Hell, that’s easy. BATFE makes random house calls on persons known to have purchased a firearm.

      Knock on the door. Shows badge through peephole. Door opens. “I’m from the BATFE. We see that you purchased a (insert firearm brand and model here) in the last year. Show it to me.”

      What could possibly go wrong?

  33. Kudos.

    I have noodled on what might make a less-abusive, and prone to abuse “background check” system, including the technology options – even spit-balled some ideas here.

    Behind everything else, the point is more people being free to do as they like: have a gun if they want, and not be killed by some whack-job with a gun, which reduces their choices thereafter. (“Take away everything he has and is ever gonna have.”)

    Thus, “background check” is a candidate solution, not a problem or the intended result. So, really, the problem is designing some kind of a check system that’ll actually mostly leave people alone to do as they like, while actually producing a net reduction in the people killed by whack-jobs or thugs.

    We do “background checks” assuming that something detectable in someone’s background will tell us if they’re likely to shoot up a school or not.

    My candidate solution is an anonymous (encrypted, PKI, public ledger) check system vs. a positive list of everyone permitted to have a gun. The list is initially populated with “everyone.” If you want to exclude someone, make the case, individually, with a separately stored record of that case.

    Properties you’d want:

    – Can’t build a list of gun owners from the list or snooping it’s use.

    – Positive, reliable identify, without being usable for building a stealth database of identity credentials. They gotta demonstrate it knows it’s you, BUT it can’t be usable to build a database of name / DOB / Address identity, finger prints, blood types, retinal scans, DNA signatures, or whatever. NO DATA TRANSMITTED TO THE VETTING SYSTEM THAT IS PERSONALLY TIED TO THE INDIVIDUALS DOING QUERIES.

    – Can’t be used for pocket-veto style denial, like of black people in the Jim Crow south. Or more subtly simply making it so difficult that it is effectively banned.

    – Exclusions are traceable, appealable, on demand by the refused.

    – Protocols for exclusion are visible, consistent, and sponsored. Any protocol for exclusion without a sponsor gets removed.

  34. On the surface, background checks are fine. However, as everyone knows, they are not going to stop even a small portion of gun crimes. Nothing is perfect. Many of the unspeakable high profile shooting occurred after background checks were lawfully carried out and it’s common for guns to be purchased illegally.

    The antis know universal background checks will do virtually nothing. It’s just a gateway law to more intrusive laws that will be inflicted against lawful law abiding gun owners.

  35. I have not committed any criminal activities, especially those involving a firearm. Therefore I should not be penalized for the crimes of others. If the government wants to stop crime, go after those committing crime and leave me alone.

  36. Whenever I see the claim “considerably fewer”, whatever the topic, I immediately ask: How many fewer is considerably? 90%, 10% … And, what is the baseline? How many are there now?

    Practical improvement measures aside. Reducing straw purchasers is a fool’s game. There are likely more -many more – Government facilitated straw purchases, to the greater detriment to the common good, than all of the civilian straw purchases you can detect or prevent with your proposed software. Will your software prevent Government sanctioned straw purchases?

    Not only that, the vast majority of events described as straw purchases are benign. How long do I have to own a gun before I sell or gift it to someone until it ceases to be a straw purchase. If I’m giving someone a gun for Christmas, do I have to buy it 12 months in advance? Are those the straw purchases you’re going to prevent? Straw purchase is just a made-up concept anyway, a lazy approach to describing a planned future transfer of a firearm to a prohibited person. How do you propose to prevent (prevent, not detect after-the-fact) a future transfer?

    My primary objection to expanded background checks is that it will achieve nothing. The background checks we do now achieve nothing. More background checks will achieve more nothing. It’s not the background checks. It’s not the availability of guns. You could order a gun – any gun – from the back of a magazine in the 50’s and 60’s. It’s not the guns that are the problem. That’s why gun control proponents have no valid logical arguments that support their positions. No facts. No logic. No balancing of costs and benefits. Only feelings.

    My second objection (Well,maybe it’s really the first) is that whatever new system you’re proposing, our Government will find a way to misuse it. The misuse will either be written into the law or, if not, the Government will ignore the law and engage in the misuse anyway.

    Whatever your problem, keep the solution out of the hands of Government and you’ll have a better solution.

  37. I confess to not having read most of the comments above. I’m sure many are very insightful. I promise to be brief.

    The 2nd Amendment exists to prohibit the government from disarming the people. The whole point is that the people need access to the ballistic tools to repel tyranny. Without that right, there is nothing to stop a tyrannical (and well armed) regime from infringing on all the others.

    Compulsory background checks administered by a government agency mean we let the government decide who can buy a gun. That same government can deny those rights as it sees fit. The infringement is so transparent, a second grader should be able to identify it.

  38. Silly me. I thought we already had some type of background check. Everytime I buy a gun, or have one transferred, by an FFL, I have to fill out a form, then wait around for 15 minutes or so while they run it through a computer. I just assumed the information was being checked by some government agency to see if I had a criminal record. I still assume that, since there are people who cannot pass these checks. And of course there are an almost infinite number of ways such a person can get a gun without passing one, which effectively makes them worthless. When I sell a gun, I make the buyer put all their information on a form, I put mine, brand, type of gun, serial number, time and date of sale. Pretty much the same as selling a car. I have not been having these notarized, though that might not be a good idea. This is to help protect me in case that gun is ever used in a crime and traced back to me. (I also assume that when I buy a gun through an FFL, that they keep a record of the serial number and who it was sold to. There must be a reason why most black market guns have the serial number ground off.

    I also have a CCW, which means the govt knows I have guns, or at least one, and may be carrying it. Now you might ask why, since my state allows you to carry concealed without a permit. Well, sort of. When you read the actual law, there are a LOT of exemptions and exclusions when carrying without a permit compared to carrying with a permit. It should also help with that awkward issue of getting pulled over by a cop while carrying a gun. Just hand him the permit when he asks for your license and registration. There are far to many trigger happy cops out there these days to risk getting killed by one who got spooked by my having a gun. I also believe that information is given to them when they run your plate, before walking up to your vehicle. A criminal is not likely to advertise to the cops that they have a gun.

  39. It’s a right we aren’t slaves who need to ask the government permission to exercise a right l. Especially to buy a gun? What it prove someone might be trust worthy based on their history? It assumes a lot and people can become or stop being criminal. No one should loose Thierry rights for life people can make mistakes. Like addressed in other comment’s it’s registration that would be needed to enforce this unenforceable law. Just scrap the idea it’s a bad bad thing. Sure an option nice app for cell phones but that’s about it.

  40. Requirements:
    – Available to individual purchasers as well as FFLs
    – Instant results: Yes/No only
    – Collect only the absolute minimum of necessary data (to prevent de facto registration)

    The background check should be made by the purchaser, who puts in his information and gets a response that can be printed (or sent electronically) for personal records of seller and buyer and contains only a yes/no and a unique identifier that can be used to verify that the check did indeed take place.

    This can be done on any internet-enabled device by anyone. Information collected should only be enough to identify the purchaser for background check purposes. The background check will not collect data on the firearm itself (or how many are being purchased).

    FFLs will have the purchaser do a check at the point of sale and will keep a copy of the approval for their own records and will have to be able to show one BG check receipt for each gun sold (it’s not ideal from a liberty perspective, but would allow the gov’t to keep tabs on dealers and investigate much like they currently do; they won’t buy in otherwise, and we get nothing).

    Individual buyers, no matter who they buy from, will go through the same streamlined background checking process, which doesn’t force them to tell the gov’t what they bought.

    Make a law requiring everyone to do a check before buying a gun if it makes you feel better — the same people who would have bought illegally will continue to do so, and those who are inclined to obey the law can do so easily, without worrying that the government is collecting a database of who owns what. All the gov or anyone else knows is that you background-checked yourself; whether you bought one firearm, a dozen, or none, and what exactly it was, is irrelevant. If you were legally able to buy at the time, and haven’t committed any violent felonies in the meantime, you’re good to go and that’s all anyone needs to know.

  41. The responses everyone else has given already explains that the reason it is opposed is is overwhelmingly political/moral, not technological. Even if you write the perfect system people wouldn’t trust in the gov to implement it honesty. That said I will give the answers I can think of under the assumption that I did trust the various levels of government to implement it honestly, AND that they had the staff to do so without compromising the system.

    1) Obfuscation of personal ID. You should be able to do the check without anyone on the database side knowing my name, DOB, etc. From a technological perspective I don’t see why this can’t be done, at least in the short-term. Long term is more of a problem, I don’t (personally) know how you address the long term issues, but they would really have to be looked at somehow.

    2) Offline access. You need some mechanism to have the buyer pass the check prior to purchase for those more remote/rural locations which may have spotty connectivity. Perhaps the sell verifies the sale and the check cannot be reused by multiple sellers (?). Here again the buyer and seller should both be unknown.

    3) Database corrections. If you fail the check due to mistaken identity etc, there should be some mechanism to change in the database which, in the future, would allow you to pass without running into the same problem. Here again you should not be identifiable in the database.

    4) Open source client side platform. It is really hard to trust that a web page does all that it claims, ‘behind the scenes’, particularly with regards to #1. Even if you’ve made the perfect black box, other people should be able to look inside and check to see if there are flaws.

    • The only way I would support ANY FORM of UBC system, and I would still have reservations about false positives, would be if it was a simple check of the reported information on the individual you were checking, as to whether or not they had a criminal or mental health history. Such a check should not require that you identify yourself or the reason for the check. It should simply return information on the person being checked and then leave it to you to continue with the interaction/transaction or not.

      This system would be a simple informational database, NOT a government list of people “prohibited” from engaging in any sort of activity or transaction. Final decision to sell or not is between the parties and not subject to further government scrutiny. Best case, no government agency should have any knowledge of WHY you wanted the UBC, not should they have any ability to prosecute you for failing to run a UBC or for ignoring the information so received.

  42. Background checks are a shade removed from incantations and magic feathers in terms of effectiveness. At best, it’s optimism trending toward delusion. At worst, they’re duplicitous step down a slippery slope.

    Bad guys primarily obtain their guns through means other than legal purchase transactions. They’re already buying an illegal gun (stolen property or gun prohibited in that state), or they’re an illegal buyer (felon, fugitive, substance abuser), or the seller is an illegal seller (prohibited possessor, gun dealer without a license). Or they use a gun they stole themselves. When they do utilize the legal gun purchase avenue, it’s with a straw purchaser. Yes, they may sometimes buy a gun from a private citizen, but even that’s done illegally, violating multiple laws in the process.

    All that background checks accomplish is the harassment of law abiding citizens and the control by government of all 2A rights. That’s worse than useless.

    This computer so-called scientist’s bounding confidence in technology’s triumph over human nature, undermines my confidence in his wisdom.

  43. to answer his question and not brow beat the guy…

    1- I dont like that ALL political options for this have not been for Universal Background checks. The option is ALWAYS to make each transaction go through an FFL, and thus make the transaction a federal transaction with the 4473 and a state monitored transaction based on state recording requirements. THAT is not a background check.

    2- Making you go to an FFL also makes you PAY for the transactions. Sometimes as little as $20 bucks, some places I have seen charge 45 or 60.

    3- Would I like to be able to get a BG check on someone I just met that I am selling a firearm to? sure. I just want a Yes/NO. I dont want to call someone. I dont want to fill out huge forms. I dont want to be responsible if the guy has fudged the ID he has shown me or given me a fake Soc Sec Number or whatever.

  44. What’s wrong with it?
    Data shows criminals aren’t getting their guns from the “gun show loophole”, and that the whole concept of a loophole is fictitious. Which means the law to fix it is pure politics.

    Giving into politics is purely to specific politicians benefits and not for public safety.
    We don’t write laws to suit their vanity. That’s just helping them get elected on their ineffectiveness.

  45. Bill 941 squeaked by in Oregon! 32 for, 28 against. So now when I want to buy my long time shooting buddies $100 22, we both have to drive 50 miles or so, to a gun shop which will charge $40, to $60, to verify that we are in good standing with the ass holes up above! Pisses me off? You bet!
    If a gun I want to sell, or buy, was purchased before the bill went into effect, we could simply pre-date the sale, on a receipt. However, that will not work if the firearm was purchased after 941 became law.

  46. Fine, here’e my plan:
    Let’s assume that it is constitutional to deprive someone of their rights. Let’s say that someone who is crazy or a felon has demonstrated that they can’t be trusted with their rights and can by due process have them taken away. Under those circumstances why are we limiting ourselves to their 2nd amendment rights? They should definitely not be allowed to vote, hold public office, serve on juries, etc. It might even be reasonable to say they no longer have protection from warrant-less searches or the right to post thing on the internet. Rights are rights.

    But anyway, what would be the efficient way to administer this? Give everyone a “real citizen” card when they turn 18 and have the right to vote, carry a concealed gun, etc. and when some one goes crazy or commits a felony take away their card. No background checks, no registration, no confiscation.

    • This is as close as we can get. Everyone has a “human being in good standing” card on record. Anyone can check on a person’s status for any reason. And the only thing a person could inquire is whether or not the other person is in “good standing”.

      And even this is patently offensive. It means that no one is innocent until proven guilty. Rather, it means that everyone is guilty until proven innocent. It means that no one can function in our modern society without government’s blessing. Just imagine what happens if being in the wrong political party means revocation of your “human being in good standing” status? … or exercising the wrong speech or religion or …

  47. Because according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than half of criminals who use guns in crimes steal them, buy them illegally, or get them from friends/family. Background checks would catch none of this. But, they would make it easier for someone to confiscate guns from civilians in the future. And no, that is not being paranoid. Clinton said last week that Australian-style gun confiscation (mandatory buyback) was ‘worth considering.’ That’s why universal background checks are stupid.

  48. “Universal” basically means “voluntary.”

    Two thugs in an alley, trading crack for a stolen gun. Think these two felons with outstanding warrants are going to volunrtarily submit to a Federal background check? If you believe that, tell me why, please.

    An illegal alien drives a truck full of guns across our non-existant border. He goes to a Section-8 complex and starts selling the guns to his illegal peers. Again, how many of them are going to rush down to the nearest FFL dealer and do the paperwork?

    An alienated teen gets high on his meds and steals his parents’ pistol. Surely he’ll do the voluntary background check before he heads out to his high school to avenge the imaginary slights he’s suffered.

    A meth-head browbeats his grilfriend into using her clear record to make a straw purchse of a gun for him. Oh wait… that’s already against the law (several different laws, actually) but almost never prosecuted to the maximum extent. Why is that?

    I want to give my nephew a small shotgun and teach him to hunt. I take off work for an afternoon, we both go down and do the background check. We pay the fees, and we’re both registered into the “gun owner database.” Now I can sell or give him my old shotgun and raise and train a new law-abiding gun owner. Both Hillary and Bernie are contemplating gun confiscation; they said so in public. Where will they go, I wonder, to find the information on who owns the guns they want to confiscate?

    Now, tell me how your new software is going to do magic and somehow reduce the crime committed with guns?

  49. Universal background checks are an exercise in expansion of state power and an attempt to end run the Constitution. There is no justification for the state inserting itself in every firearms transaction between individual citizens. None.

    The very next item they will propose if they get the universal background check in place, will be universal registration, after all how else will they know if you transfer your gun to someone else. Once they get registration they will use those lists to confiscate categories of firearms “unsuitable for sporting use” and jailing those who refuse to cooperate. At some point the population will be forced to start shooting the bad guys (government agents), so the sooner people like you succeed in making it easier for the government to do, the sooner we will end up watering the tree of liberty.

    Bottom line universal background checks (closing the “gunshow loophole”) is a bullshit excuse to try to force registration and confiscation. The left is just too stupid to understand that this will shred the Constitution and subsequent to that, destroy the federal government.

  50. Background checks are good, if they’re open to anyone who wants to sell a weapon, because they mean I can learn if the prospective buyer is someone I really want to sell to.

    But all that information in the hands of the government is bad. Records of who purchased what firearm are bad. Records of who sold a firearm are bad.

    So unless this software will take all the information away from the government and give it to a private entity pledged to defend it to the death, unless it will keep no records of who bought or sold anything, it won’t improve things much.

      • Since the Second Amendment does not give the government the authority to create, maintain or enforce a list of “prohibited persons”, the issue of who will actually do the day-to-day operation of the system is irrelevant. It is still a violation of the Second Amendment even if the government hires someone else to do the work. It is illegal to murder someone. It is also illegal to hire someone else to murder that person for you.

        The government cannot make an end run around The Bill of Rights by hiring a private firm to violate your rights on their behalf.

  51. So you are trying to figure out how to search for information about people who shouldn’t be singled out and should not have a record of the fact that they were being searched for or why. . . interesting constraints. I’m with most in saying it shouldn’t be done in the first place, but I’ll play along.

    1) Driven by government issued ID number or SS. Either is sufficient without the other.
    2) When the search is executed it should run the search against 1000 additional random people from the entire population simultaneously to mask the intended person to search.
    3) Only the local machine that requested the search should ever know the ID number being run.
    4) When the result for that ID it should only display on screen until the cursor is moved.
    5) The entire transaction should be done using virtual memory to ensure that no history of the search or results is stored or recoverable.
    6) It should run in minutes. 5 or less. Preferably less. More is not acceptable.
    7) Not required.

    The key here is to have 999 pings to whatever database(s) it searches for every genuine one, to have the genuine inquiry only existing in virtual memory, and only have it displayed on screen. Nothing should ever be stored on the machine that hosts the database should never know which of the 1000 records it is searching is the genuine one. The machine making the request should never store a single bit of the information in physical memory.

    I may be forgetting a few items but as I type this that may be what it takes to make the system acceptable and viable.

    • The trouble with your concept is that the pings have no meaning unless they are VALID. Which means there needs to be a record associated with them. I cannot think of any way that you could accomplish this without either A) conducting the pings on a centralized machine that has access to all records, which defeats the purpose since that machine then knows what ping is the real one or B) offloading loads of records to local machines, which is inherently insecure, and more importantly completely impractical.

      • The idea was for all pings to be valid. The requesting machine receives 1000 results and compares them to the one result it is waiting for. With the expected ping being held in virtual memory the requesting PC simply ignores all incoming pings that are not a match. When it does receive the expected ping it simply turns the screen red or green until the cursor is moved. Keeping it as a simple graphics response and only processing a short identifying string the receiving computer could theoretically process the entire transaction using the graphics card on-board RAM exclusively. Only the monitor of the originating PC would ever know which of the 1000 pings was used to create the result.

  52. OK, Taylor W, if you are still reading this far down after all the name-calling, etc, included in the posts above: I object to UBC because they represent a massive intrusion on the individual’s rights in return for a negligible gain in criminal violence protection. The black-market gun-runners dealing in stolen weapons are not going to participate, the thieves are not going to participate, and the evidence is pretty clear that most of the “mass shooters” already get background-checked. Besides which, the “mass shooters” themselves are a statically insignificant percentage of gun-wielding criminals. The actual mechanics of UBC for the occasional private sale are intrusive enough, but if the program is going to be enforceable and enforced to any significant degree even greater interference with individual rights will be necessary, as in gun registration.

  53. UBC is useless without an aboveboard registration system. How do you know if I sold “that gun” to someone if you didn’t know I had it to begin with?

    Old idea, but worth visiting if we must have some sort of background check, even as an olive branch.

    • Another conceivable response would be to put the yea/nay on the back of one’s driver’s license. If purchasing a gun, the seller could ask to see the info. No record of the transaction would actually be kept.

      • Someone else suggested something similar up above in the comments. Their idea was “good standing” written on your DL.

        Basically, when you get your drivers license, there’d be a mark on the back that said “Good Standing”, subject to verification each time you renewed. You just flash that when you buy your gun, the dealer notes your DL number, good to go. The check I guess would be with the DMV. Right now you can check your own DL number in most states DMV portals without a login to see if your license is good or not. It’s not perfect (IP address tied to the gun store) but you could go through a proxy if you wanted.

        Your license could be used for anything requiring a background check. Gun, employment, etc. There’d be so many semi-anonymous datapoints that it would be give anyone who was interested a hard time figuring out what the background check was for. Was it for a gun? Was it because he wanted to become an Uber driver? Was it because he wanted to volunteer at school? Did a nightclub want to make sure the kid was really 21?

        Now, the ATF could visit the store, much like they do now, and check transaction records to find out who bought what. Remember Red Dawn? The Russians asked to see the 4473s, haha.

      • Aside from the fact that not everyone has a driver’s license, and many groups think it is a violation of civil rights to demand that people have and or produce some form of verifiable government I.D. even to prove you are eligible to vote, I am vehemently opposed to any government database that can be used to label me an undesirable person or prohibited from any sort of private activity or transaction, especially if that prohibition infringes on my Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms.

  54. As we’ve seen in Washington, there’s a big problem with “Universal Background Checks” that has absolutely nothing to do with the nature of the check itself, and much more to do with the definition of a “transfer”. No matter what form it takes, a background check is going to be ridiculously burdensome if it must be performed every time roommates leave for work and come home, etc.

  55. “Sounds impossible, I know, but trust me I’m a scientist! Well, a computer scientist, but close enough, right? ”

    A) No, not really.
    B) As a CS person you should be well aware that any information stored (for any length of time) on a network is inherently exposed to unauthorized access. You can play at network security all you want, but a determined attacker will eventually penetrate your systems given enough time. Ever attended a black hat conference? The people in the know don’t even try to defend against attacks, they bring burner devices and pen and paper.

    Presumably your concept has to do with immediate erasure of the inputs to the system, which would be a hard-coded functionality. Trouble is, in order to function you still have to pass that information between different databases (and could be intercepted in transit), and means for some period of time a tremendous amount of information is stored on your server. In addition, in order to work with that information it cannot be encrypted. So now we have a centralized server that contains a treasure trove of personal information that could be siphoned off at will by an attacker. So the trouble with your concept (I am obviously making an assumption as to the nature of it, but I can’t think of what else you would be talking about) is that “immediate erasure” doesn’t really solve the problem of the data being retained. There’s nothing to stop someone from simply building in a back door where the information gets siphoned out to a different server for storage.

    This problem is technical in nature, and is in addition to the major philosophical objections that others have voiced and I feel no need to repeat. Long story short, these are not issues you can code around, they are inherent to the concept.

    • > Presumably your concept has to do with immediate erasure of the inputs to the system

      I see how you would draw that conclusion, but you presume wrong, my friend 🙂

      > In addition, in order to work with that information it cannot be encrypted

      You are right that the information required to identify someone cannot be encrypted, as it must be visible to conduct the check. That does not however mean all information must be unencrypted.

      > So now we have a centralized server that contains a treasure trove of personal information that could be siphoned off at will by an attacker.

      Actually, the system would work far, FAR better (faster, more cleanly, cheaper) without a centralized server containing the information about the checks conducted. Obviously the databases which contain the information used for doing the background check (criminal history and all that jazz) will still be there, but this isn’t adding any more centralized data storage.

      > There’s nothing to stop someone from simply building in a back door

      If the information pertaining to everything about the purchase apart from the purchaser is encrypted before getting to the server, a back door won’t do you much good.

      • “So now we have a centralized server that contains a treasure trove of personal information that could be siphoned off at will by an attacker.

        Actually, the system would work far, FAR better (faster, more cleanly, cheaper) without a centralized server containing the information about the checks conducted.”

        Actually, that’s avoidable right now … unless there is new math that hasn’t been published or new cracking tech like actual large-scale quantum computers or better.

        So, if you could make an anonymous, secure, checkable ledger, what might you do with it for a “background check” system?

        You are correct that protecting the data doesn’t protect from other kinds of exploits, for example, noting that you are pinging the ledger system, from which we can infer that you are one of “Those People.” There are some work-arounds for that sort of thing.

        Then there’s the policy problem: who’s on the ledger and who’s off, and why.

        I do think having a reliable, anonymous & etc. way to check for “permission” would flush out a lot of the denied side issues. “Hey, what’s your problem with an anonymous inquiry system if you’re not trying to build an inventory of all the guns or gun owners?”

        I am not a cryptologist, nor do I play one on the interwebz. I know enough about such things to be more deeply confused than many other people.

        The magic term here is “hash”, which in cs-land is transform which allows you to *compare* whether two pieces of data are the same, without any insight into what they are. Because math.

        The other magic, is “block chain”, which makes a reliable, distributed, encrypted, signed, public ledger. Also, because math.

        With these two things you’re locked out of the data inside the envelope: reduced to activity sniffing & inference kinds of attacks, or back doors before it hits the encrypted state. Let us recall that the “Clipper Chip” requirement a few administrations past was touted as a means to allow end users – parents – to control access to unpleasant content, but it would also, kinda-sorta, provide a mandatory hardware back door into every computing device. By law.

        But they’d only ever use it for good things. Pinky swear.

        Meanwhile, the current CIA, FBI and other officials are on record that end user encryption by mobile devices is a Bad Thing. They can’t get every single thing you sent via email, from Apple, Google, or whoever, on demand, so the world will end or something.

        This has all happened before.

        • Yes please to hashing. ‘Encryption’ (strictly speaking) isn’t the novel question in the UBC puzzle Taylor is presenting. I’m going to repeat myself here but there is absolutely no reason the database needs to have plain text buyer/sell info. Consider the buyer’s info more like a password. You don’t want the database to have the ‘password’, but you want someway to compare it to what the user enters. This just means that denied names are hashed at time of entry as well.
          Block chain could also provide some solution to the IP address problem. Downside of block chain is that because it is decentralized and shared, eventually even those outside of the government will be able to decrypt old copies of the block chain. You have to consider that this tech would (probably) be used for the next 30+ years. Any crypto functions, hashes or encryption, from 30 years ago are worthless at this point in time. Its likely to be the same scenario 30 years from today.
          The main problem is that Taylor seems to be looking for a clever way to keep records that the gov can verify only when they really really need to. Just because something is hashed or encrypted and out of reach today doesn’t mean the info inside can’t be reconstructed sometime in the future. That brings you back to trusting that no current or future administration would ever trying to exploit the data you’re collecting.

  56. I oppose universal background checks for all of the reasons already stated in previous comments. Having said that, here are some of the problems with a universal background check system:

    1. Records Retention/Integrity:
    a. Buyer and seller would need proof of their transaction (a receipt) to defend themselves from future audits and accusations. Many people would lose their receipts meaning they would fail audits and be vulnerable to future criminal charges.
    b. Centralized storage of electronic records of transactions (e-record of the buyer’s and seller’s receipt/s) could be lost, corrupted, altered, or destroyed (whether intentionally or unintentionally) … again making the buyer and seller vulnerable to future criminal charges. More importantly, buyers and sellers would be unable to reference/find their e-record of their transaction if such transactions were supposed to be anonymous and the buyer/seller cannot remember when the transaction took place.

    2. Privacy:
    a. The buyer and seller may not desire to disclose any personal information to the other. The seller would not be able to verify the background of the buyer without personal information. And buyer would not be able to verify the background of the seller — nor whether the firearm was previously acquired “legally”.
    b. Big Brother will record all queries to any background check database whether by phone or Internet, whether “legal” or not. Even if Big Brother did not record the actual audio/data of the verification process (which they will), they would still record the details of the person initiating the query. If calling via landline, Big Brother would log the telephone number and know the account that initiated the query. If calling via cell phone, Big Brother would log the phone number as well as location. If running the query via Internet, Big Brother will log the source IP address as well as the “fingerprint” of the specific computer used to initiate the query. With that information, Big Brother can determine whose account was using that IP address. And if Big Brother goes inside the physical premises that corresponds to the IP address, they can find the exact computer used to initiate the query.
    c. Beyond Big Brother eavesdropping, other parties could be eavesdropping on IP queries or even phone queries for that matter.
    d. A database of transactions can walk right out the door of a central storage facility on a flash drive the size of your thumb. A database of firearms transactions would be worth millions, if not billions, to criminal enterprises who want to know where to go to obtain firearms (either by theft or offers that the owner “cannot refuse”). Such a database could also be worth millions, if not billions, to anti-gun crusaders looking to hassle firearm owners.

    3. Data Encryption:
    a. All encryption algorithms can be deciphered.
    b. Unbreakable encryption requires extensive randomization that must be available to both parties in a communication. If one of the parties is government, then we have no true protection of the data from government. If we have to transmit that randomization electronically to the other party, it is subject to eavesdropping and thus the encrypted data is will be deciphered.

    4. Firearm Transaction Specificity:
    a. If we include unencrypted firearm specifics in a transaction for auditing purposes in the future, that is universal registration.
    b. If we include encrypted firearm specifics in a transaction for auditing purposes in the future, that is still potentially universal registration since all encryption can be deciphered.
    c. If we do not include firearm specifics in a transaction, then there is no way to audit a person’s possession (e.g. determine the “legality” of their acquisition) of a specific firearm.

    And that is all that I could determine off the top of my head. Given more time, I can probably find more problems.

    • Awesome, thanks for the exhaustive list. We have some fundamental disagreements on encryption technology, but beyond that I can see the merit to all your points.

      I’ll see what I can do to tackle each one, either with technology, or proposed legislation, or a combination of both.


      • Taylor W.

        How can you be sure that any encryption scheme is secure? Even if some encryption algorithm was “unbreakable”, how can you be sure that the people who developed/maintain the algorithm will never divulge the algorithm? If an encryption scheme involves a set of keys or something similar, how can you be sure that the people managing the list of keys will not divulge/compromise the list?

        And what good are keys when an eavesdropper can see everything — including the keys — that you send back and forth? And how can you guarantee that every single bit of every single packet sent back and forth has no vulnerabilities or “tells” that render the encryption vulnerable?

        I agree that there are encryption schemes which are secure if someone is trying to decipher a message in a vacuum. But we cannot assume that. We have to assume that Big Brother is going to be recording every single bit going back and forth between someone requesting a secure channel and the person responding to open the secure channel.

        And we are back to the anonymity problem. Even if you want to scramble every single bit of a packet going back and forth with some sort of unbreakable encryption, there are parts of an Ethernet frame that you cannot scramble (e.g. the source and destination IP addresses). That alone tells Big Brother where a packet originated and where it is going.

        And think about the complexity of computers and their operating systems. How could you be sure that someone’s computer doesn’t have spyware running on it — whether of the general variety or some hidden code put in the operating system as a result of a law or court order? How can you be sure that someone doesn’t hack a server and do the same?

        What is the saying, something like a secret isn’t a secret any more if more than person knows about it? I just don’t see how software can control for hackers, hidden code in operating systems, spyware and keyloggers, eavesdropping, and most importantly human aspects that can be compromised beyond technology.