Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Background checks

I have been asked in e-mail by someone who is actually interested in a debate, rather than trolling, about my stance on background checks for gun purchases.

On the one paw, I realize that there are some people in our society who -- for whatever reason, and like it or not -- have no business being allowed to buy, or possess guns. That is a simple fact of modern life.

On the other, the current NICS system is rife with fail. Until I got my CHL every single gun purchase of mine that went through NICS was delayed. Why? They couldn't tell me.

A friend of mine, currently a serving officer in the United States Army, was unfortunate enough to have his name used as an alias by a school-mate who happens to be a felon. The result? Denied.

How many people does this happen to every year? Enough that NICS has started maintaining a Voluntary Appeals File.

In addition, NICS is one stroke of a pen away from being a National Gun Registry. The Brady Bunch, by way of Frank Lautenberg, have attempted legislation to do this very thing several times already, and will -- no doubt -- continue their efforts to do so.

NICS was presented to the American people as only affecting those who should not buy firearms, and was hailed as actually being good for lawful gun ownership.

However, NICS has been altogether too free and easy with its data to people like Mayor Bloomberg, who then take that information and use that information freely and happily provided by NICS to try to cram more gun control down the throats of lawful gun owners.

NICS is, at best, ambivalent towards gun owners and gun ownership; and as the Brady Bunch, Frank Lautenberg, Mayor Bloomberg and others continually attempt to add caveats, addenda, amendments, expansions and more to the NICS system ... it's only going to get worse.

So, the question is: How to prevent the purchase of firearms by those society deems forbidden to do so, while preserving the privacy of lawful gun owners and preventing any sort of listing activity?

I propose a battery-powered scanner containing an algorithm and capable of reading bar-coded and encrypted digits. This scanner would decrypt and read the bar-code, use the contained data to work the algorithm and -- depending on what the result was -- illuminate one of three lights.

If the result is one of a series of numbers -- for fun, let's say it's a Fibonacci number -- then a red light is displayed on the reader.

Any other number, and the green light comes on.

If the encryption is bad, the encrypted numbers are wrong, or the bar-code is simply not capable of being read, then a yellow light.

When you apply for your drivers license or State identification card, you are checked for a criminal history or psychiatric adjudications. If you have one, your DL or ID gets the code for a red light.

Everyone else -- and I mean EVERYONE else -- gets the code for a green light.

Since these battery-operated card readers will have only the tech necessary to read, decrypt, and compare numbers -- no antennae, no data ports, no memory, no means whatsoever of storing or transmitting information -- you should be able to sell them for ten dollars at Wal-Mart and make enough of a profit to defray the costs of adding the bar-codes IDs.

You want to buy a gun, you walk into a gun-store, swipe your card, green light means you buy what you want and carry it whenever and however you want.

That means open carry, concealed carry, SBR's, NFA's, AOW's, in-State, out-of-State, whatever you want, wherever you want, however you want.

Red light means that you don't.

Simple as that.

You wind up convicted of a crime of violence by a jury of your peers, when the judges sentences you, he takes your DL or ID, drops it into a shredder and you get a paper licence from your local DMV -- which gives the conviction information time to enter the system, and your local DMV time to find it.

Same if you get adjudicated as being mentally incompetent by a jury of your peers.

If the card-readers are inexpensive enough, and are guaranteed not to store or share any information, then a good percentage of private citizens will buy them and use them in their personal gun sales -- a fact which should let the gun-grabbers un-kink their sphincters regarding the so-called "Gun Show Loophole".

Hah! I made a funny!

Anyhoo, you asked, there it is.



Well Seasoned Fool said...

Excellent idea!

Alan said...

If they're a danger, what are they doing out of jail?

Chrystoph said...

Well thought out, and easily implemented. I like it.

Add legislation that requires them at gunshows, and you close most of the grievances.

I doubt you can get casual gun sales to use a system like this, but most gun stores would probably scan someone gratis.

ExGeeEye said...

I will know that the Republic is safe when:


3. The idea of releasing a person onto the street while denying him, under color of law, an otherwise lawful means of self-defense, is looked upon as n act of barbarous cruelty, let alone a violation of his rights as a human being.

If your perp, ex-perp or maniac cannot be trusted with a firearm, then you shouldn't be letting him out where he could find, say, a car. Or a stolen...firearm!

There's my buck-o-five. GMTA, Alan.

Kristopher said...

Someone will break the encryption scheme within a year, and start selling bogus cards that show green.

Anonymous said...

"Someone will break the encryption scheme within a year, and start selling bogus cards that show green."

Possibly, but that carrying or making a "purpose broken" card like that would itself be a serious-ish crime, I should think.

It's probably less effort to purchase an under the table gun, if the encrpytion is good.

I LOVE the idea that it's point of sale system with no database back to intrusive busy bodies.

Trent said...

What happens if the yellow light comes on?

Tim Covington said...

Even if the devices are moderately expensive, it offers a business opportunity at gun shows. Buy one, set up a table, and offer to verify purchasers at $5 a purchase.

LawDog said...

What happens if the yellow light comes on?

That's rather up to the seller of the gun, isn't it?

Trent said...

That's rather up to the seller of the gun, isn't it?

I like the way you think.

Kristopher said...

Possibly, but that carrying or making a "purpose broken" card like that would itself be a serious-ish crime, I should think.

Even illegaler than a felon buying a gun?

Gee ... I don't see a deterrent here. I mean, the felon might get in trouble or something.

I prefer the 19th Century old west solution. A long prison sentence or a long rope. If he survives a decade or two of prison, a suit, an ounce of gold, transport, and a firearm.

If he re-offends, wash rinse, and repeat.

tpmoney said...

As I said previously (and as Alan and a few others have said), if a person is dangerous enough that they shouldn't be allowed to have a firearm, they're dangerous enough to not be allowed to wander the streets.

perlhaqr said...

Since I regularly get called crazy for wanting to leave people alone unless they're doing something which actually harms another person, I'm not sure I'm comfortable with that "unless your peers find you crazy" clause.

Anonymous said...

Did you ever think of running for office?

Anonymous said...

You said;;;;Same if you get adjudicated as being mentally incompetent by a jury of your peers.
No such thing in the United States of America. That is old english law.
Your thoughts are correct .... to simple for gov work

Gay_Cynic said...

After some thought, I think I'll come down on the "if they can't be trusted with the vote or a gun, they shouldn't ought to be running around loose".

We've gotten much to casual about the whole "felony" notion.

Daran said...

Without a way to revoke IDs / certificates there would be a lively trade in lost/"lost"/stolen IDs. Unfortunately not an easy problem to solve.

Anonymous said...

I would argue that unless you have been hospitalized for your "crazy" you should be ok to purchase a firearm.

This is loose for a reason. A lot of psychiatrists/judges (in more "liberal" states) think that if you want to own a gun you're 1/2 way nuts to begin with.

EgregiousCharles said...

On first look, I think this is an excellent and actually practical plan.

Kristopher makes the point that someone will break the encryption. At this point, actually "breaking" any of the serious encryption algorithms is totally cost-prohibitive, if given a reasonably sized key; and if you're willing to wait 60 seconds for a cheap scanner to process it you can use an enormous key.

However, you could copy a "green" bar-code from someone else's ID. That said, there's nothing but illegality stopping the use of fake IDs in the current system, either, so it's not a real issue with this replacement system.

It would be possible to add a tiny extra bit of security by encrypting the owner's name, and having the scanner display that; that would mean the fake ID needed a barcode that matched the name. Note that the state, which issued the barcode, will be able to match barcodes to names anyway.

Dad29 said...

Well, a stolen DL could present a problem, eh?

F'r example--I do NOT check my wallet daily for my DL. (Nor has it ever been stolen, so...)

The other problem is that there will be several States which refuse to join the network. I live in one. It won't join b/c the network will do exactly what you SAY it will do, and the majority-LeftOWackies here will not allow success.

Tirno said...

To make it secure more secure, you'd need a three factor system: something you have (a card), something you are (a physical description with picture) and something you know (like a pin number).

Thus, you scan the bar code, add the provided pin number, then run it through the decrypt algorithm. The device should output the name of the person as written on the card, any denied rights flags appropriate to the reader's need-to-know (can't buy or possess alcohol, can't buy or possess firearms, sex offender level, can't file a lawsuit without court permission, work authorization, citizenship status, military rank and status, whatever is determined by due process of law). Then you can check the picture and physical description against the person presenting the card.

Thus, we can have a gun-seller's scanner, a hirer's scanner, an alcohol seller's scanner and a VA scanner, all able to verify the validity of the proffered ID without checking a central database and providing the limited violation of privacy necessary for public good.

Tirno said...

Actually, the problem of lost/stolen IDs can be fixed with the addition of a pin code.

Append this pin code to the bar code before running it through the decryption algorithm. If the output is not the first and last name printed on the card then:

1) The bearer is not the right owner of that card
2) The card is forged
3) The bearer is not smart enough to remember his pin code, thus failing the intelligence test for owning a firearm.

You could even have specialized devices (or even a smartphone app) that could check other things than the firearm purchasing, like immigration status/work authorization.

We should assume that someone will crack the algorithm, though, so the last feature should be some kind of ID serial number that can be checked to see if it had ever been issued, or revoked.

Anonymous said...

In New York State, (I’ll wait here whilst a few readers wretch or whatever… Back already?) until the early 20th century, there were three classes of people that could not vote; Felons, the Insane and (of course) women. You also had to be a resident of the state and at least 18 years of age.

Both felons and the insane* were said to be “disenfranchised.”

Coincidently, being a felon or insane or a non-resident of the state or under 18 (21 for handgun – which also requires a separate license) disqualifies a person from gun purchases there. (Yes – you can OWN a gun if you are under 18, but you can not purchase from a dealer.)

So – If you produce a valid voter registration card, that should prove that you are :
NOT a felon
NOT insane
ARE a resident of the state
ARE over 18.

SO IF (and this is gunna p1ss off SEIU) voter registrations were all proper and vetted to a minuscule error rate, then flashing your voter ID should be sufficient to purchase – at least long guns.

It has the added benefit(s) of getting all gun owners to “enroll” in the political process – and for politicians to be AWARE of that fact. It would clean-up the voting rolls in those places notorious for registration abuse. It would additionally mean that every time ACORN (are they still around?) signs-up a new voter – they are also registering that person for potential gun ownership.

Today, biometrics is at a high enough level of trust to be used in the most sensitive areas of security. Voter IDs SHOULD have some form of “owner-matching” embedded in them already, but I’m sure most have the bare minimum (for instance; mine has my signature circa 30 years ago. Phfft. That’s it. On the other hand, my CCL has a signature, a photo and a thumb print.)

* Insanity is a medical issue, and as such, subject to HIPPA privacy and confidentiality restrictions. Even under today’s rules, there SHOULD be a mechanism for the psych community to notify both the Board of Elections and the body responsible for issuing CCLs in the state so as to deny guns to the insane. I do not know if these mechanisms exist or if they are kept current. That’s a separate-but-related issue.

Justthisguy said...

That is so rational and just, Lawdog, that it will never be allowed to happen.

Justthisguy said...

I think I recall reading that when Idaho was still a young state, they'd issue you a rifle when letting you out of prison.

Old NFO said...

It'll never work LD, it makes too much sense... sigh...

WV-thedeal Yep, it WOULD be the deal!

SewerDweller said...

the problem is, boss, you're assuming benign motives to those who would implement gun control. remember your 'cake' analogy of a few days ago? do you really think people like that are going to let such a system function? they're going to do thier damnedest to fuck it up, if they allow it to exist at all.

Kristopher said...


This ain't a block box decryption problem.

If someone sells a gadget that decrypts something, and you have a sample of a good ID, a yellow ID, and a bad ID, and are willing to take the gadget itself apart, you will break this scheme pretty damned fast.

Anonymous said...

I'm in agreement with the folks who're saying the encryption will be broken; there are folks out there who break encryptions, just to see if they can.

And there are others who try to break it for fun or try to break into other things (again, for fun or to see if they can) without really thinking too hard about what the consequences of success are.

EgregiousCharles said...

Um, Kristopher, no. I'm not sure what you're expecting to see in the gadget.

First, the encryption algorithm and decryption key will both be on ICs, likely the same one. Got an old computer handy? Take it apart and tell me one line of the BIOS code. Got a modern digital cable box? Take it apart and tell me a few digits of the decryption key for a Pay-Per-View channel. The key will be burned in EEPROM, not traced in the leads; that can't even be read with normal tremendously expensive, team of experts, industrial espionage, reverse engineering techniques. Apparently it can be done, but it's a seriously major undertaking.

But second, none of that matters because the algorithm and public key used to decrypt the codes, in the gadget, can both be publicly available. Only the private key used to encrypt the barcodes, which never leaves the .gov, need be secret. With the public key you can decrypt something encrypted with the private key, but you can't encrypt anything that another public key can decrypt. This is the stuff the NSA tried to have outlawed because they couldn't crack it, and the software to do it is still illegal for export. (Everybody has this software anyway, it's not like other countries don't have competent mathematicians and programmers and books on how it's done. Everybody has it, but still nobody can break it.)

Now there is certainly risk of someone in the .gov selling the private key. But we're talking a hell of a lot more expense than copying a good ID or stealing a gun; even if you have the private key, you still need to print the fake ID anyway, so all you've bought yourself is the ability to print it with a different name.

Anonymous said...

I like that, Mr. Dog. It's well thought out, and the technology not only already exists, it is already in use, albeit not for that purpose and not available to civilians.

Now, who does this idea need to get to to be considered by others than a relatively few thoughtful individuals?


Anonymous said...

Folks, the encryption being broken is no more a threat than an Identity being stolen is today.

Shit happens

ord03 said...

Great idea. I also think the ingenious bad guys will break or fake the code.

What scares me is the other purposes to which the politicians will want to put this card/ID.
Scan at McD's, card say 'overweight', no happy meal for you!

Motor-T said...

If we do anything like a background check it should simply be like a glasses restriction on a driver's license. But the presumption should always be with the purchaser. The gov should have to prove that there is a reason to deny the purchase, not give permission.

Of course, after saying all that, Alan is right.

ExGeeEye said...

This story is relevant: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2010/09/29/1725241/pizza-driver-hit-by-bandits-i.html

Two convicted felons carrying pistols attempted to rob a Pizza Hut employee, who killed 'em.

It is my surmise, entirely without evidence, that these two did not obtain their handguns after passing a background check. Neither the current system, nor that proposed by our genial host, would have prevented the perps from obtaining the tools of choice.

Note also that the victim, who de-victimized himself, did jump through all the right-infringing hoops to get permission to exercise his right to arm himself.

My humble solution? Remove the hoops. They inconvenienced no one but this victim, and serve no good purpose whatsoever.

Shrimp said...

ExGeeEye, think of the chiiiildreeeen!!! That would cause calamity and chaos and cussing. The world would fall into unending darkness! There would be blood in the streets and mayhem and hysteria and workplace shootings and shootouts over parking spaces and zombies OMG!!!!!

Or maybe not.

Chuck K said...

Ever read Ira Levin's "This Perfect Day"?

This would be a step in that direction.

Fight Uni!

Deschain said...

Ummm...not to be a douche, but isn't this idea tantamount to licensing? I know, the idea freaks some people out. I'm against the idea of a graduated licensing system, but you DO sort of need a check against people who have been declared unfit to own a firearm by the state. This is actually an extremely complicated subject. I'm going to think about it, but I'ma ask you this, Lawdog. What do you think of the concept of firearms licensing?


ExGeeEye said...

@Deschain: I believe that COTUS 2a is designed to be a check against states declaring people unfit to own a firearm. It has been ignored, or twisted out of its plain meaning, for far too long.

LD, this is my third comment on this page. Sorry. I don't mean to monopolize, much less usurp, your territory.

Deschain said...


But there are people who are unfit to own firearms, as there are people who are not permitted to drive. You're not going to give a paranoid schizophrenic a gun, just like you're not going to give a serial child arsonist a gun. On some rights, there must be a reasonable limitation.

ExGeeEye said...

Then lock 'em (back) up. As seen in the news story I posted, gun laws only inconvenience the law-abiding.

Deschain said...


There are plenty of people out there with, say, paranoid schizophrenia as an example. They have not behaved criminally, should we heave them into prison as well? There are definitely people out there who deserve their freedom, but for mental health issues, probably shouldn't be owning firearms.

Laws only inconvenience the law-abiding, yes. Which reminds me, isn't there a question about being adjudicated 'mentally defective' on the 4473?

ExGeeEye said...

If you don't get it yet:

1. The 4473 is an infringement of our COTUS 2A rights, and ought to be abolished.

2. Anyone, I repeat anyone, who society cannot trust with a firearm, belongs in custody, penal or psycho-medical (or parental, it should go without saying), as appropriate.

3. Read the news story again. This is not a one-off, unique occurrence. Existing, infringing laws do not inconvenience the criminally minded.

Timmeehh said...

Your proposal puts the onus on the law abiding to prove that they are not criminals, before they can exercise the basic human right protected by the 2nd. Therefore I oppose it on principal.

As others have said, if a person is too dangerous to own a gun, they should be locked up.

I find this idea of yours to be further evidence of a "Police State" mentality, which is so common in ALL LEOs.

Deschain said...


Lock up the blind? There are a number of medical reasons for not being permitted to own a firearm, but otherwise do not require specific care or the old heave-ho into prison.

ExGeeEye said...

Now you're just making $#!+ up. Blind people are not prohibited from gun ownership or purchase. A complete list of "prohibited persons" is found here:

For the record, AFAIC, every one of those is (a) an example of someone who should be in some form of custodial situation, penal or otherwise, OR (b) is an infringement of COTUS 2A.

P said...

It strikes to close to "Mark of the Beast"

There will never be a way to control illegal gun use on the supply side, it must be on the demand side.

Possession by a prohibited person is 10 years federal crime. Possession in the act of a violent felony is a 20 year Federal crime on top of the time for the original felony.

Second offense is death or loss of Citizenship and banishment, depending on loss of life.

Any other restriction is "infringement" and there are no "reasonable restrictions" that do not Infringement.

Joel said...

Sounds like an infringement to me. I'll pass.