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More on UBCs and Registration

Some good discussion happening on the previous thread, perhaps because we had some dead air this past Friday and I’m late posting today. I thought I’d add a few more ideas to the discussion.

In theory I like alternative background check systems, such as BIDS. If every person who was prohibited from owning firearms was an armed robber or murderer, I wouldn’t be that concerned. But a lot of people are prohibited for relatively trivial non-violent crimes, and BIDS would require putting their personal information, useful for identity theft, out there in public. Encryption isn’t going to help, because if a lot of people have keys, it’s only a matter of when, not if, a hacker compromises those keys. You could reduce the amount of information in the system, to make theft of the information more difficult, but then you’re running a stronger likelihood of a false positive.

Ultimately, I’m not that concerned that the government knows I’m a gun owner. It’s difficult to hide that anyway, and there’s a lot of non-governmental avenues by which an unfriendly regime could determine I own, did own, or was at least interested in firearms. I am much more concerned about the government knowing what I own. In thinking about any system, the great object is to prevent this. If the government knows you are or maybe were a gun owner, as long as you have a plausible, legal way out of that status without having to tell the government, you have deniability. If they know what you own they can come take it whenever they want, and there’s nothing you can do. Turn them over? Say no, and you’re a criminal. Tell them you sold that gun years ago? Criminal. You’re not allowed to do that. Had it dump into the lake on a canoe trip? Well, “Lost and Stolen,” you know. It’s registration that enables confiscation. To accept it, means accepting the anti-tyrrany purpose of the Second Amendment doesn’t exist.

Background checks poll well. Registration not as much, but it still polls better than it should. The only way you’re going to turn the numbers around is by informing people what the transfer restrictions proposed by our opponents actually do, such as making it illegal to take a friend shooting to see if he or she enjoys it. I think the the argument that universal background checks are also universal registration is also worth using, but to do that you will have to explain how we already have partial registration via the 4473. Not many gun owners realize that a fairly comprehensive registry could be built in a matter of years just based on the contents of the ATF warehouse in West Virginia.

For those interested in how to beat gun control at the ballot, I would strongly recommend Dave Kopel’s piece “Against All Odds” that appeared in America’s First Freedom. It accounts how we beat a handgun ban on the ballot in Massachusetts in 1976. Then we were able to outspend our opponents, but it also was a huge grassroots effort. GOAL commanded 2000 volunteers to defeat the ban, and that’s the kind of manpower we’ll need to defeat Bloomberg’s transfer ban and registration scheme as this whole sad struggle moves forward.

20 Responses to “More on UBCs and Registration”

  1. Mike says:

    Distributing the key widely is unnecessary by making use of public key encryption. See:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public-key_cryptography

    The process would look something like this:
    Encrypt each entry on the list using a private key kept under close guard at the NICS headquarters.
    Distribute the encrypted list and the public key to anyone who asks for it.
    When you want to check if someone is on the list, encrypt their information using the public key and compare it to the entries on the encrypted list.
    If it matches then you know that someone with that same information is on the list and the sale is denied. If it doesn’t then you know that there is nobody on the list with that identity and the sale can proceed.

    I’m over simplifying somewhat but the basic structure of such a system would look something like this. The advantage of this system is in not requiring any communication with a central server except for occasionally downloading an updated list and not maintaining any record of who was checked against the list. You can sit and look at the list all you want and you can’t decrypt it to get the identity theft information without the private key that you don’t have.

    • Sebastian says:

      That’s entirely possible. I was planning on doing another post at a later date on anonymizing checks systems. That’s a bit different than BIDS, which I think has the right idea (anonymity), I just think the implementation is bad.

      • TS says:

        BIDS addresses the registration angle, but it doesn’t address them criminalizing the private sale and even handling of guns. Under a BIDS system, they could still push for and succeed at imposing the crimes around the gun culture that they passed in Washington.

        • Sebastian says:

          That’s a good point. What you really need to prevent is all those sales being routed through FFLs. If you force that, it’s registration in fact, if not in name.

    • Mike says:

      Actually there is a much simpler system than what I just described. Create a hash of the ID information then check against a list of prohibited hashes Thus, no compromise of a key can allow decryption of the list because you can’t decrypt a hash. Implementation subtleties like this are a good example of why cryptography and wine don’t mix.

      • Sebastian says:

        Yeah, if you use hashing, you solve that problem. But you’d have to make multiple hashes. You’d have to hash Name and DOB. You’d probably also need Name, DOB, and last four digits of a social too. If someone shares the same name and DOB with someone on the list, they’d hash the same. You’d want to offer the option for more uniquely identifying the person.

        You can think up systems. The problem is, politicians are kind of dumb, and this isn’t really a problem they understand or are interested in solving. So any system we come up with will probably have to be based around NICS, or something very similar to it.

  2. asdf says:

    No need to encrypt at all if no records are kept. (That’s a big if…) All of the information that would be useful for identity theft is already out there in plain text for anybody to see anyway – arrests and convictions are a public matter.

  3. Dave says:

    One more goose step on the way to confiscation.

    BIDS is a compromise proposal that capitulates to our enemies and gains us nothing. NICS compromised background checks in lieu of a waiting period, which I’m not certain that there were votes to pass. Let’s assume that there were votes to pass NICS and that the compromise was well intended. Now, here we are a generation later talking about what to compromise next.

    People on blogs and forums have their knickers all in a twist to try and find something; anything to mollify our enemy’s thirst for conquest.

    Negotiation and compromise is only possible with creatures capable of rational thought. Our enemies are not. All the compromising in the world won’t stop them from their next attempt to ban something. Instead of compromising more of our freedom, we need to focus on rolling back and repealing the restrictions already on us. Probably the best foot forward I’ve seen on this is Oregon Firearms – http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?ca=460577b0-6ce7-47bb-bbfe-f2bf744c74fc&c=2fdd0a30-7dd8-11e3-baa2-d4ae5275b546&ch=30c71c10-7dd8-11e3-baeb-d4ae5275b546

    The governments, law enforcement and our enemies don’t take the background check process seriously because they’re playing the long game; chess to our checkers if you will. They know that they have the names, addresses and presumed location of the weapons, or the ability to imprison the residents if the weapons aren’t there. So why bother with this silly process until they have the “tools they need” to initiate confiscation?

    We have underestimated the threat these sub-human, so called ‘gun control proponnents’ pose for far too long. Once “their side” began to even speak out loud the idea of “swatting” known gun owners, it turned from a political disagreement to them trying to kill us. It’s not just an academic or political debate any more.

    Private sale registration is a “gateway” prohibition to confiscation. Confiscation means that the other side is simply no longer willing to engage in the political process – just like swatting known gun owners.

    • Sebastian says:

      The Brady Bill was a long fight through the 1980s. The “Instant Background Checks” were a compromise to avoid background checks with waiting periods. Background checks were probably more broadly popular when the Brady Bill passed than they are today.

      You don’t always have a choice between winning and losing. Sometimes you have to take not losing as much. If they had the ability to pass a sweeping gun ban in the 1990s, do you really think we had the votes to beat the Brady Bill? Hint: we didn’t.

      We didn’t have the votes to beat the Assault Weapons Ban either, but did have enough to water it down and get an expiration on it, and thank god too, because otherwise we’d still be living under it.

      I’d really rather not compromise on this issue. Hell, I’d be fine with machine guns in hardware stores for cash on the barrel. But this looks like a “loose big” or “lose a little” situation to me.

    • Mike says:

      I don’t suggest that we just give them this for free, remember where we are at, they’ve lost on gun bans, they’ve lost on concealed carry, they’ve lost on safe storage, the only thing they have any traction on is background checks. They are playing the long game by trying to spin that into registration which they can use later. We have to play the long game too. By giving this up in a way that is relatively unobtrusive and cannot be perverted into registration or confiscation, we can defang the one argument that the gun banners have any hope of winning on. In exchange, we demand (and with a Republican congress we can get) universal concealed carry reciprocity and interstate transfers. The effect of having concealed carry becoming increasingly normal on the culture has been enormous. If we can normalize concealed carry in the few places where it is still prohibited we will win a cultural victory that will set gun control back decades.

      • Sebastian says:

        I don’t either. I would expect such a trade to be part of a larger easement on gun rights. Basically, I want a bill that the antis will oppose, but they will oppose at least partly because it destroys one of their most powerful tools for deceiving voters into voting for more gun control than they otherwise would if it were sold honestly.

  4. Jeff Dege says:

    My concern over universal background checks is that it reverses the presumption of innocence, with respect to firearms ownership.

    Currently, simple poessesion of a firearm is a neutral act. It’s presumed legal, unless certain conditions apply.

    If a universal background check creates a paper trail, then simple possession becomes a criminal act, unless that paper trail exists.

    In other words, this puts every gun owner in a position of having to prove his innocence, rather than the State having to prove his guilt.

    • Sebastian says:

      I don’t like them either because they a) have a high false positive rate, b) cost money, c) are absolutely useless in keeping criminals from getting guns. But we’ve been arguing this since the 80s, and the public still likes background checks. That’s still the root of this.

  5. Jim Jones says:

    “Not many gun owners realize that a fairly comprehensive registry HAS BEEN BUILT just based on the contents of the ATF warehouse in West Virginia.”

    I fixed for ya! They outsourced the task to the British. That way, they have plausible deniability when it comes to violating the law that prevents the building of the registry. This is part of the reason why they want background checks on private transfers as well. Once they have it, there are no more unknowns.

    • Sebastian says:

      You have a citation for that? I’ve never heard about them outsourcing it to the British. If they did, that would likewise be illegal.

  6. rd says:

    Why not something like the Coburn plan. If I want to buy a gun privately or from an FFL, I run the background check on me, myself, and I. No muss, no fuss, Minimal Records.

    The FFL bound book and 4473 would still exist. But the private sale records are between the seller and me. Can the future’s Geheime Staatspolizei trace the gun from the manufacturer to me? Maybe, Maybe Not. Especially if it is many years, people move, people die, private bill of sale records get misplaced. Just like today’s system.

    Future Gestapo agent asks about a BG check performed 5 years before. Well, I was thinking of buying a new shotgun on Black Friday, but (gun store) was sold out. I ran one before I went to a gun show in June, and I bought X. Maybe I also bought Y & Z, but can I plausibly lie about it to the future’s jack booted thug? Or I sold it (to someone that died years ago), but I lost the records.

    We’d need to revise the NICS system. But it can be done, and it would gut the Bloomberg UBC push.

    • Sebastian says:

      I’d be OK with Coburn’s plan. The only thing, in that case, that the government would know is that I ran a background check on myself. They don’t have to know whether I actually bought anything with it or not. It would be possible for a seller to verify a buyer’s certificate is authentic without the issuer of the certificate having to know which certificate was being verified. It would just know it’s been verified.

      There are other options too. I plan to talk about those in the following days. This isn’t just in the context of UBCs, but how to make a system that deals with the issue of registration.

      • rd says:

        The way to make any system work with registration is to make it impossible for gun registration to work. Registration does not make a gun safer, or crime lower. Registration does make confiscation workable.

        Ask the Turkish Armenians or the European Jews. Registration led to confiscation; and confiscation led to genocide. Obama’s Chicago neighbor Bill Ayers feels that killing 25 million Americans like me is perfectly reasonable to achieve his political goals. And Bill isn’t the only one that feels that way.

  7. HappyWarrior6 says:

    If you want to cede UBCs to enemy territory, it needs to have our fingerprints on it. Bottom line. We cannot just live with a Bloomberg solution in every one of these states. The media would be all over it and it would be a “solid defeat” for gun rights, right or wrong as that statement would be. Reform it, change it, make them squirm, get the LTCF exception in every state that votes on his ballot initiative. Challenge it as much as possible, but get our fingerprints on it.

    I suspect that strategy would match how NRA would sum this up were this to get enough traction. It’s similar to what NRA did when they supported NICS.

  8. Alpheus says:

    I personally think that we ought to be making the case that background checks are useless and a waste of money, and do nothing to prevent crime. This has actually been on my mind for a while now, actually, and I’m not in a position at the moment to go into details…although I’ll probably try to do so, quickly…but at a minimum, we should convince NRA members and sympathisers that background checks are evil, and then move from there.

    After all, how many NRA members think that background checks are ok?

    Here’s the outline.

    1. Pre-1896 arms, ie black-powder arms (all types) and cartridge guns made before 1896. Why not remove background checks for all pre-1896 designs? It’s not as if they are used heavily in crime.

    2. Rifles. 500 homicides in a year, in a nation of 300,000,000 people? That’s a blip on the radar! More people are killed by clubs than by rifles, are we going to require background checks for clubs, 2x4s, baseball bats, pipes and blunt instruments? Will it do any good if we did? So why bother with rifles?

    3. Which leaves us with pistols. approximately 30,000 people die from these…but of these, 18,000 are suicides. Presumably, most of these were legally purchased well before suicide was contemplated, and purchaced passing background checks. Clearly, background checks were useless in preventing these, so crying out for background checks to prevent suicides is absolutely absurd. It DOES NOT WORK.

    4. Which leaves us with the 12,000 homicides. How many of these are committed by gang thugs and others who have no respect for the law, and have a felony record a mile long? Surprisingly, most of them. How did they get their guns, then? Obviously, not legally–either they resorted to getting someone to “straw-purchase” for them, or they purchased the gun off the black market, or they stole it (or even made it!) themselves. Will any background check system have *any* effect on this criminal underground?

    So how does a background check, in any of the above scenarios, prevent violence? And if it doesn’t prevent violence, then how can the Government be justified in requiring it?

    I would propose that we should push rifles and shotguns the hardest, though: 500/300,000,000/year is a VERY small number, and rifles in particular are tied directly to militia service, so it should be very easy to push, I think. (After all, aren’t anti-gun types always complaining that pro-gun types always seem to ignore the “State militias being necessary for the security of a free State” part of the First amendment?)

    It’s something that I’ve been thinking about…

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