Blockchain and Gun Control
Despite comprising just 4.4% of the world’s population, the U.S. is home to 42% of the world’s civilian-owned guns.
In fact, The United States has more guns than people, in part due to the Second Amendment of the Constitution which protects the individual’s right to keep and bear arms. In the wake of The Santa Clarita School shooting, in Southern California, we at Shyft Network believe it is time to start iterating around enforcement of existing gun registration laws to ensure that gun ownership is taken more seriously, with enforceable accountability on ownership put in place.
In the U.S., the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is the only tracing facility for guns used for crime. Their mission, as stated on their website is to “conduct firearms tracing to provide investigative leads for federal, state, local and foreign law enforcement agencies”.
Pursuant to the Gun Control Act (GCA) of 1968, the U.S. Attorney General is authorized to administer firearms tracing. However, gun tracing is only permitted after a gun has been used and there is a bona fide criminal investigation. Tracing is a systematic process of tracking the movement of a gun from its manufacture or date of import to the present. The ATF processed 443,388 trace requests in 2018, compared to 48 in 1988. While there has been some success reported, the current solution is slow and expensive. Trace turnaround times took anywhere from one to nine days, and The ATF’s budget for 2018 was $1.3 billion.
Faced with the problem of rapidly growing demand for tracing services, and mounting costs, we must find better ways to drive down processing times and reduce costs in the war against gun crime.
Fortunately, there is a relatively new technology that could be used as infrastructure to make the tracing process more effective. It is a relatively new technology called blockchain, which can be described as an expanding list of records, called blocks, that are linked together using cryptography. By design, a blockchain is resistant to data modification and therefore acts as an immutable record keeper. It is a publicly auditable, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties and state upgrades to datasets securely, efficiently, and verifiably. Most importantly, using blockchain as a base-layer infrastructure to a gun registry would provide a more secure, faster and cost saving framework.
Many people believe that we can reduce gun-related tragedies by doing more to control who can buy guns, record and track gun ownership, and ultimately hold accountable those owners whose guns are responsible for crimes. As a complement to ATF tracing services, the use of blockchain would help reduce gun-related crimes by more efficiently tying individual identities to ownership of specific guns, reducing gun owners’ ability to get away with gun related crimes. A decentralized database can be used for immutable record keeping to track all aspects of the gun distribution process and ownership rights. Necessary governmental organizations and law-enforcement agencies could have full or partial access to records (since encryption will be required to protect individual data), and a decentralized node infrastructure could ensure transactions and record updates are immutable.
In March of 2018, Thomas Heston, a public health professor at Washington State University, published a white paper in the International Journal of Scientific Research titled A Blockchain Solution to Gun Control, which discussed the possible use cases of blockchain in regulating firearms purchase and usage tracking.
Heston proposed the idea of a blockchain-powered electronic gun safe, which would store and track the information of individuals who own firearms. When a person sells a gun to another person, meaning that the gun is moved from one safe to another, the transaction would be recorded on a blockchain that is immune to hacking and editing.
For Heston’s plan to work, it would need to gain widespread acceptance. One or two states with blockchain gun databases won’t do any good, since anyone with a federal firearms license can buy or sell a gun across state lines in the U.S. This presented a problem with Heston’s model, given that if not all states participate off the bat, the solution would be largely ineffective.
Legislative pushback against blockchain-supported gun control doesn’t seem to be hinged on the technology itself; it’s more of an opposition against gun control in general. We believe that there’s a middle ground where blockchain can be leveraged to reduce gun violence without curbing the individual’s right to bear arms.
“Details can be worked out. We just need to get politicians to soften partisan ideas, which aren’t working, and embrace technology,” Heston explained. “Blockchain tech provides privacy, security and a reliable database that researchers can use to figure out workable improvements to our current dysfunctional and dangerous system. Researchers need a good database to start treating this as a public health issue. Give them the tools they need!”
We also see a role for Shyft Network to play in this solution. Our network provides a decentralized identity framework which allows individuals to create a digital, blockchain-based ID supported by verified, regulated identity validators and custodians, such as banks and government agencies. As use of Shyft Network grows, individuals can add additional identity touchpoints into their Shyft Wallet, layering in digital activities that could serve as a reputation and creditability score. This score could supplement background check processes that are used today for gun ownership. As an example, use of Shyft Network could one day improve the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) by layering in additional credential attestations and augmenting existing risk profiling frameworks.
To prevent future gun-related violence from happening and decrease the number of innocent victims in the U.S., we need to use all resources available so we can stay one step ahead of the would-be criminals. Violating individual rights by restricting access to guns by authorized citizens is not a solution, but making sure the principles of today’s background checking and gun registration systems are applied in airtight, hack-proof environments seems like a no-brainer.
At Shyft Network, we’re hoping that once we the people are finally fed up with all this senseless gun violence, we can come to bipartisan consensus about effective improvements that both protect the innocent and maintain the individual’s right to bear arms. Hopefully one day we’ll be ready to experiment with technologies like blockchain in government agencies.
This piece was written by Shyft Network International CEO, Bruce Silcoff.
Shyft is building the world’s first modern, secure, multi-stakeholder Blockchain-based trust network that enables KYC/AML attested data transfers. Join our Telegram (https://t.me/shyftnetwork), follow us on Twitter (https://twitter.com/shyftnetwork), GitHub (https://github.com/ShyftNetwork) and other channels found on https://www.shyft.network