Home Insights The President Won’t Touch It, Politicians Ignore It, Is Blockchain the Key to Gun Control?

The President Won’t Touch It, Politicians Ignore It, Is Blockchain the Key to Gun Control?

by Matthew Harris

It seems that almost every single week we hear about another mass casualty incident at one of our schools, someone’s workplace, or just a random location somewhere in the country. While at this point it would be virtually impossible to eradicate guns in this country, and not something I would support anyway, it’s clearly evident that we have to do something to protect our children and neighbors.

Tweets and press conferences sending “thoughts and prayers” from the President, law enforcement, and other government leaders has become synonymous with inaction and almost a sense of complacency. Sure, bump stocks have been outlawed and various states have passed legislation governing purchases, but what have we really done to change things?

Now, before we go any further, I have to drop in the prerequisite “this is my opinion and doesn’t reflect those of CTN, its editors, owners, other writers, secretaries, etc. etc. etc.” I should also say that while I don’t currently own either a handgun or rifle, I have owned them in the past and have absolutely no problem with you owning as many weapons as you wish, in fact I would fight tooth and nail for your Constitutional right to keep them.

I made the decision to forego ownership simply because I had 5 children and a granddaughter to raise and I just haven’t seen the need to get one since then. However, I do enjoy going to the range and have seriously considered getting a handgun for home protection now that the kids are gone. So when I talk about gun control, don’t think I mean snatching all of your weapons away from you.

No matter which side of this controversial issue you reside on, if you seriously consider the facts, the current system for approving gun purchases and ownership is broken. With so many shootings lately, of course it’s a hodgepodge of people, ideals, political leanings, religious beliefs, mental stability, and legal gun ownership status, but it’s the latter attribute that I want to address.

While blockchain can’t stop a madman or disturbed child from walking into a classroom and blowing away our children or alert us to a disgruntled working that is intent upon taking as many people with him or her before committing suicide, it could definitely be used to perform complete background checks and approve and track gun purchases.

Currently, the Brady Act, or Public Law 103-159, which was passed in 1993, amended the Gun Control Act and added two important factors: a five-day waiting period before a licensed dealer, manufacturer or importer can sell, deliver or transfer a handgun to an individual, and established a “national instant criminal background check system to be contacted by firearms dealers before the transfer of any firearm.”

However, these laws are laughable. For several reasons.

The background check and waiting period requirements don’t apply to private sellers, meaning anyone can sell guns online to people within their state or at local gun shows, of which there are plenty. This also means that anyone, including those legally excluded from purchases, can buy as many guns as they wish from those type of sellers. No waiting period, no background check. If you have the money, state identification, and the seller doesn’t know or have reasonable cause to believe that you’re prohibited from receiving or possessing firearms under Federal law, the sky’s the limit.

Integrating blockchain into the criminal background check would ensure that the check is instant, thorough, and verifiable. Imagine an app that even private sellers can simply plug in a name and state ID number and instantly determine if it’s Charles Manson Jr. attempting to make the purchase.

NICS, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, as well as each state and every single city’s criminal databases could easily be integrated, providing a decentralized database that is indisputable, unchangeable, and private. Backlogs of application requests, a byproduct of an outdated and inferior system, would also be a thing of the past. Something that licensed dealers and importers would surely benefit from.

But that’s just the start of the blockchain possibilities for gun control… and now I’m going to go into territory that is likely to stir some heavy feelings. But it’s time to play devil’s advocate.

Private gun sales should be tracked and monitored via blockchain and every single purchase should be registered on a decentralized blockchain platform. Yes, as I said, I believe in everyone’s right to own a gun. But I do think that every gun purchase should be verified and tracked and that
law enforcement, in cases of prosecution, tax evasion, criminal investigations, and other clearly defined instances, should be able to track who have weapons, what kind they are, and how many they have.

Of course many Americans are strongly opposed to the idea of a “database” collecting information about them, especially when it comes to their guns, but this loophole in the law has to be plugged. The Lautenberg Amendment of 1996 banned those convicted of domestic violence or are subject to restraining orders from owning, possessing, shipping, or transporting firearms, yet they can walk into any gun show and make a purchase.

Let’s take it another step further.

The Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act of 1994 prohibited the manufacture, sale and possession of specific types of semi-automatic firearms with military-style features and large-capacity magazines. According to the law, this included flash suppressors, many weapons with folding stocks, barrels threaded for silencers, and detachable magazines that held more than 10 rounds. However, pre-ban weapons were grandfathered, exempt from the new law.

Since owners of those exempt weapons were free to sale or trade them as they desired, there is no system for tracking where they are. If pre-ban weapon owners were required to register with a blockchain based system and record all sales, it would be easy to perform that background check AND the system could be designed to alert authorities if anyone purchases one of these weapons and is on a watchlist or is otherwise of concern.

Yes, I know this is sort of Big Brother-ish, but something has to be done at this point. Doing the same thing over and over: vigils, thoughts and prayers, benefits, rallies, and empty words from politicians, is not changing a thing. A first step must be taken and sometimes that step is a big one and a little jolting to the core, sending vibrations all the way up to our ears.

I’m not saying every gun in America should be in a database. While that would be nice on many different levels, it would be virtually impossible. Between the outright criminals that wouldn’t do it because, well, they’re criminals, to those that would balk at any sort of possible government oversight, there would still be thousands upon thousands of unregistered and untraceable weapons on the streets. But utilizing blockchain for the private sells of guns could be a huge step forward in reducing the number of criminals and potential mass killers “legally” gaining access to guns.

Take a look around at news headlines regarding shootings. Many of them say that the gun was “legally obtained,” but if you research it a bit further you find that it’s because it was purchased from a private seller online or at a gun show.

Blockchain technology could also easily be utilized to register and track assault rifles. While manufacturing of these types of weapons is no longer allowed, there are still plenty in circulation. Especially among fringe groups and those that have less-than-upstanding intentions. I personally don’t care what your reasoning is, but my opinion is that no one in the general public has any legitimate reason to own assault rifles. They have no viable use for hunting and when it comes to home protection, there are plenty of other options, you don’t need a full on machine gun to protect your family. But, as they are legal to own, if they are going to be in circulation then they should be tracked in a verifiable database.

Yes, this type of system could be abused by the government. Starting an investigation on someone simply because they legally own a certain amount of weapons would be unacceptable. However, a private blockchain system with smart contracts could resolve those types of issues, restricting access to be allowed only when certain criteria has been met.

Any sort of change like this would definitely be met with trepidation, outright criticism and opposition, and of course would take some serious investment and time to complete. But once again, something has to change.

We have to show our children that we’re at least attempting to make changes. I’m not technically inclined enough to design and develop these systems myself, but I have a lot of faith in blockchain technology and cryptocurrency in general, and I think the former has the potential to radically change the way we live and do business.

Do I think a blockchain registration for private gun sales would really change anything? I do. Maybe not in a huge way, but it would definitely shut down an avenue that people are using to obtain weapons they shouldn’t have and to do things they definitely shouldn’t do. Sure, they’ll probably find another way to obtain the gun, but it damn sure shouldn’t be “legal.”

Our children aren’t blind or deaf, they see and hear the news and trust me, they talk about it. I don’t care where you live or what school your children go to, school shootings are on the minds of almost all of them. Classes prepare for mass shootings with drills, even elementary school children are having to be taught what to do, and we prepare with “thoughts and prayers.”

Our children shouldn’t have to live like this.

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