What If Obama’s Gun Proposals Become Law?
Limited magazine capacities, doctors inquiring about firearm ownership, finger printing gun owners, banning so called assault weapons, and RFID chips in guns all top the discussion points of the ongoing gun control debate. Most on the pro-gun ownership have challenged these proposals on the basis of Constitutionality, compromising one’s right to self defense, and the ability of a population to defend itself from a government that has clearly overstepped its bounds. I, however, pose a question to the pro-regulation crowd that they have yet to comprehensively answer: Do you understand the landscape of what you’re trying to regulate?
Let’s consider some characteristics of the regulatory landscape. One, the sum total of all organized crime in America has the sixth most powerful military capabilities in the world. Two, 3D printing technology has nearly reached the point where someone can affordably fabricate gun components, and thereby fabricate a gun. Three, one can acquire RFID shielding about as easily as wallpaper. Alternatively, one can extract the RFID chip.
Gun control lobby, do I have your attention yet?
Some years ago, while the “assault” weapons ban was in effect, I sat on a jury for a gun possession case of a Mac-11. Technically, law classifies this as a pistol because the barrel length does not exceed 11 inches; however, it has the capabilities of a fully automatic machine gun. Fully automatic means the shooter squeezes the trigger once and the weapon continues to fire repeatedly until the shooter releases the trigger. The only people who purchase and possess such weapons must pass extensive background checks, pay high registration fees, and have a documented purpose for ownership. The defendant had no such credentials, yet he came into the possession of one. If he had one on his person, you can bet that gang members can get them too. With gun possession prosecutions down 40% in the current administration as compared to the previous, the existing laws on automatic weapons do not deter them. Furthermore, authorities have identified smuggling tunnels that run between the U.S. and Mexico. Considering the border dividing the two nations runs 2000 miles, we can only prudently assume that if smugglers don’t already use these tunnels to smuggle firearms, they certainly could.
3D printing technology has made great strides in recent years. A Texas based not-for-profit research group has successfully fabricated a plastic AR-15 with a 3D printer, CAD files, and raw materials. The gun fell apart after the firing of only a few rounds. However, considering that your smartphone has thousands the times more capabilities than your flip phone of just a few years ago, you can only conclude that 3D printing capabilities will only advance in the coming years. This means that in only a short time, anyone with an internet connection, a 3D printer, and encryption technology –assuming some desire for covertness– will have access to a gun.
Next, we come to the RFID. If we could just imprint every firearm with an RFID chip, that would give authorities a warning if somebody dared to carry a gun to a gun free zone. That would prevent tragedies such as those at Newtown, Aurora, Columbine, and elsewhere. WRONG! Looking passed the obvious fact that responding to that in a timely manner would require armed guards at every, “gun free zone,” something the pro-gun control lobby has ridiculed, an RFID chip would do next to nothing for anybody aware of the fact that the gun has one. If it became law to have one, of course they would know every gun has one. Do you remember a couple of years ago when a penetration testing team began walking city streets offering to tell random strangers their personal information and their debit card account numbers if they could just stand next to them for five seconds? In many cases, the penn testers succeeded. They bought a cheap RFID reader online and connected it to a laptop. When they came within a foot of their volunteer target, their account information displayed on the laptop. The industry responded by issuing RFID shielded sleeves for the cards. If such material can shield a debit card, it can shield a gun. Moving on to the more sophisticated approach, somebody could use an RF reader to measure the SNR of the RFID chip to locate it and then extract it. If said person has an extracted RFID chip, infinite possibilities exist for malicious use. Consider one of the more benign ideas that I can image: kidnap a dog, attach the RFID chip to its collar, and let it loose in an airport terminal. Security would be chasing . . . well, not their tail.
At the dawn of the public Internet, computer security took the approach of trying to minimize access to and knowledge of exploits to breach systems. They soon learned that the discovery of exploits and the development of malware move too fast for a security model based on obscurity. The computer security world pivoted in the opposite direction under the premise that the number of well intentioned hackers drastically outnumber the bad intentioned ones. Now, software tools and packages have known exploits built into them so that penetration testers can look for vulnerabilities and make them known so that security people can patch them. Our public policy makers must learn that similarities exist in the domain of guns. The rules they want will only effectively apply to the people who make the conscious choice to conform to them.
The basic lesson involves the fact that none of the regulations proposed can affect anyone but those who choose to live in accordance with them. Technology that has come online and soon to come online will make regulators analog players in a digital world of crime fighting and violence prevention. Just a few days ago after signing a seven bullet magazine limit, Andrew Cuomo screamed the following. “It’s simple: no one hunts with an assault rifle! No one needs 10 bullets to kill a deer! Too many innocent people have died already! End this madness now!” In doing so he only sets the stage for making himself into a fool who doesn’t understand the breadth of what he seeks to regulate.
The massacres that came at the hands of Adam Lanza (Newtown), James Holmes (Aurora), Seugn-Hui Cho (Virginia Tech), Dillon Klebold (Columbine), and Eric Harris (Columbine) have sparked this gun control debate. Each of those assailants had carefully constructed and premeditated plans of execution. Going to the lengths of accessing a 3D printer, compromising RFID technology, and of course breaking the law all fit the psychological profile of each.
To the gun control lobby, I pose two questions. One, have you thought of how the realities stated in this article affect the regulations you want? Two, if you have, how will your regulations keep bad actors from smuggling, fabricating, modifying, and transporting firearms you seek to make illegal?
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