17 January 2013

Reasonable Gun Control? Let's take a look

I haven't posted in a awhile for various reasons, including a major change in venue for me and my family.  But with all that is going on related to firearms I can't help but post some of my thoughts.

I'm behind the commentary curve, only having commented in other blogger's posts, but I want to address a recent press release from Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg (yes Mayor Michael Bloomberg) School of Public Health:  http://www.jhsph.edu/events/gun-policy-summit/information-for-media/ (h/t to Sebastian)

I want to address each of the items in turn, since some merit further discussion, and some don't. My comments will follow each quoted talking point.

  • Establishing a universal background check system, which would require a background check for all persons purchasing a firearm (inheritance exception).
This is an attempt to close the supposed "gun show loophole".  Currently the federal government exercises its regulatory muscle in the form of background checks from federally licenses firearms dealers.  It is required to have an FFL in order to purchase or transfer firearms across state lines.  This is seen as an acceptable regulation, by most people, because it falls under the federal government's ability to regulate inter-state commerce.  By requiring universal background checks, including for private sales between private citizens within the same state, the federal government should not be able to argue under the commerce clause anymore.
  • All sales would be facilitated through a federally licensed gun dealer. This would have the effect of mandating the same record keeping for all firearm transfers.
This is an extension of the above item except now they are not only requiring private individuals to conduct background checks, they would not allow private citizens to engage in firearms commerce at all except through a federally sanctioned middle-man.
  • Increase the maximum amount of time for the FBI to complete a background check from 3 to 10 business days.
 A better solution would to increase the efficiency and staffing of the NICS program so that background checks didn't take longer than 3 days.
  • Require all firearm owners to report the theft or loss of their firearm within 72 hours of becoming aware of its loss.
Again, I don't know where the federal government would derive its authority to enact this, but it is also reasonable that a citizen should report the loss or theft of a firearm, if only to ensure he is protected should it later be used in a crime.
  • Persons who have a license to carry a firearm must still be subject to a background check when purchasing a firearm.
This is an interested proposal, since they do not propose a national licensing scheme for handguns.  However, if a state requires a license to carry a firearm and conducts regular background checks during renewals, this would be an excellent way to reduce the load on the NICS system and decrease the number of background checks that default because of the 3 day limit.  I think this is completely COUNTER productive.
  • Persons convicted of a violent misdemeanor would be prohibited from firearm purchase for a period of 15 years.
This is crazy.  If a person is caught in a minor altercation, which can happen to anyone, and they were convicted of a Class C misdemeanor - which usually results in petty fines, they would be precluded from owning a firearm for their defense for FIFTEEN YEARS.  This is crazy talk.
  • Persons who committed a violent crime as a juvenile would be prohibited from firearm purchase until age 30.
 Again, crazy talk - especially since many court records for juvenile crimes are sealed or purged.  I'm not sure how this would be enforceable.
  • Persons convicted of 2 or more crimes involving drugs or alcohol within a three-year period would be prohibited from firearm purchase for a period of 10 years.
 So a person who gets into a minor physical altercation resulting in a Class C misdemeanor can't own a firearm for 15 years, but a person who is a habitual drug user and is only caught an convicted once in a 3 year period can? This makes COMPLETE sense (NOT)
  • Persons convicted of a single drug-trafficking offense would be prohibited from gun purchase.
I'm guessing it would be permanently/til death/etc... since no time frame is proposed.  Drug trafficking offenses are quite broad in the scope of prosecution these days and this could preclude a person who had a small amount of marijuana crossing the border with Mexico as a teenager from EVER owning a firearm.
  • Persons determined by a judge to be a gang member would be prohibited from gun purchase.
I have tried to re-write my response to this one several times. WTF??? So how would this be determined? Belonging to a gang, although wrong and maybe reprehensible, is not currently against the law.  If one can't be convicted of being a gang member, how will a judge be able to determine, officially, who is and isn't a gang member? Will there be due process? Will there have to be evidence presented?
  • Establish a minimum age of 21 years for handgun purchase or possession.
So first is was alcohol consumption. Now its owning a handgun (which by the by is the rule in most states already).  Can we just have the discussion already? How about we raise the age of majority to 21. You can't vote til you are 21. You can't join the military til 21.  If we are going to limit a legal adult's ability to exercise a right, let's just fix it so they aren't adults anymore.  Any takers?
  • Persons who have violated a restraining order issued due to the threat of violence (including permanent, temporary and emergency) are prohibited from purchasing firearms.
 The biggest problem I have with this, again, is the FOREVER part.  Because everyone knows that there have never been instances where emergency or temporary restraining orders have been filed because someone disliked another person rather than posing any real threat.
  • Federal restrictions of gun purchase for persons with serious mental illness should be focused on the dangerousness of the individual.
Johns Hopkins University and the "world's leading gun policy experts" do know that "dangerousness" isn't a word, right? How would they propose we determine a mentally ill person's "dangerousness"? Will that be a subjective determination by the mental health care provider? Will there by a government issued chart that grades "dangerousness" on a scale of 1 to 10?
  • Fully fund federal incentives for states to provide information about disqualifying mental health conditions to the National Instant Check System for gun buyers.
This screams PRIVACY VIOLATIONS to no end. Mental health information about a person is protected by several legal means, including but not limited to HIPAA and HITECH acts. Without any proposals about the protections that would be put in place to ensure that health information wasn't improperly used.
  • A permanent director for the ATF should be appointed and confirmed.
Although I agree, I don't see how this will solve anything. It's not like the ATF has been running around like headless chickens because they don't have a permanent director.
  • ATF should be required to provide adequate resources to inspect and otherwise engage in oversight of federally licensed gun dealers.
I don't know what this means, other than "ATF, DO YOUR JOB". It's not a call for more funding (thank goodness).
  • Restrictions imposed under the Firearm Owners Protections Act limiting ATF to one routine inspection of gun dealers per year should be repealed.
The reason for this protection is that FFL dealers should not be subject to unwarranted searches of their property without reasonable cause.  To be sure, if the ATF has reasonable suspicion to believe a FFL has violated the law, they are able to obtain a warrant to search them more than once in a year.
  • Provisions of the Firearm Owners Protection Act raising the evidentiary standard for prosecuting dealers who make unlawful sales should be repealed.
There's another made-up word, "evidentiary".  I don't have much of a comment on this because I don't know what the standards for evidence are currently, or what they would be absent the FOPA.
  • ATF should be granted authority to develop a range of sanctions for gun dealers who violate gun sales or other laws.
Sanctions? Like they can't buy or sell guns anymore?  If they are convicted of a crime, especially related to guns, they are subject to revocation of their FFL and will likely have their inventory seized and be thrown in jail.  So do we need more? Are they suggesting that the ATF be able to shut down a FFL's business on suspicion and without a conviction?
  • The Protection of Lawful Commerce In Arms Act, providing gun dealers and manufacturers protection from tort liability, should be repealed.
I think there needs to be more tort reform in other areas of our society.  Maybe dealers and manufacturers shouldn't be exempt (although I'm not sure they really are anyway), but I see this is a clear way to try and kill off an industry. Much the same way that tort liability has truly made a disaster of our healthcare system.
  • Federal restrictions on access to firearms trace data, other than for ongoing criminal investigations, should be repealed.
Do they want to make this public information subject to FOIA? What for? Firearms trace data can be used by criminal justice agencies (state and federal) so I don't see what the purpose of this suggestion is.
  • Federal law mandating reporting of multiple sales of handguns should be expanded to include long guns.
Well, I know I don't know everything, but I didn't realize there was a federal law that requires the reporting of multiple handgun sales. As far as I am aware, the ATF has interpreted existing law to allow them to require the reporting of "multiple" firearms sales. They tried to apply it only to border states in the Southwest not long ago.  Again, I don't see how this necessarily does much to help the situation.  A violent criminal can do a lot of damage with just one gun.
  • Adequate penalties are needed for violations of the above provisions.
Glad they at least recognize you have to have consequences for violating these crazy new proposals.
  • Congress should provide financial incentives to states to mandate childproof or personalized guns.
Childproof? I know young children who have opened "childproof" pill bottles.  Young kids have been known to steal their parents' cars. I can't think of anything they could come up with to childproof a firearm that couldn't be circumvented.  As far as the "personalized" guns idea, it is crazy.  They are suggesting that you have to put in a code, or enter a fingerprint, or other ridiculous ideas to use a firearm.  Let's not admit that most defensive incidents that require the use of a firearm take a matter of seconds.
  • The Federal Consumer Product Safety Commission should be granted authority to regulate the safety of firearms and ammunition as consumer products.
By the CPSC's own admission, their goal is "banning consumer products if no feasible standard would adequately protect the public".  So essentially they are hoping to use the CPSC to ban all firearms, since their above suggestions wouldn't make them any less lethal.
  • Ban the future sale of assault weapons, incorporating a more carefully crafted definition to reduce the risk—compared with the 1994 ban—that the law can be easily evaded.
This made of "assault weapon" terminology is getting tiresome.  An ASSAULT RIFLE is a rifle capable of switching between automatic and semi-automatic fire.  Assault rifles are illegal to own in the US unless they were made before 1986 and you have registered them with the federal government.  The term "assault weapon" is a new term coined to try and fit as many firearms into it as possible so they can be banned under the guise of being more lethal or dangerous than other firearms.
  • Ban the future sale and possession of large capacity (greater than 10 rounds) ammunition magazines.
I'm going to throw the slippery slope argument out there. I know what you are thinking, "people who argue slippery slope are delusional . Really? Look what happened in NY this week.  They had a ban on magazines that could hold more than 10 rounds.  Now, they have a ban on magazines that can hold more than 7 rounds. Is that not a slippery slope in action?
  • The federal government should provide funds to CDC, NIH and NIJ adequate to understand the causes and solutions of gun violence, commensurate with its impact on the public’s health and safety.
This is fallacy.  "Gun violence" is no different than any other violence.  The gun is the tool or weapon a violent  offender chose to use.  To we perform separate studies of "knife violence" or "baseball bat violence"?  Violence is a human condition. The gun qualifier is misleading and a false flag.
  • The Surgeon General should produce a regular report on the state of the problem of gun violence in America and progress towards solutions. 
Again, how is "gun violence" any different than any other violence?

So, in summary, my conclusion that this "commission" or whatever they are calling themselves is bogus and they need to work on their mastery of the English language. (which we all probably need help with)

11 August 2011


I never thought a "free" society would consider something like the UK is currently discussing.
Several MPs in the British parliament want to ban the use of social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facbook, if a person is suspected (not convicted) on charges of instigating unrest and riots. Now, let's set aside the whole "suspected" issue.  The first problem that the UK faces is that this would be a nearly unenforceable law.  I've expressed my opinions on the validity of laws that cannot be enforced before.  They are complete and utter....rubbish.  Add in the fact that they want to ban the use of these type of sites to anyone who is SUSPECTED of contributing to unrest, and now you have a totalitarian state who can suspect mischievous behavior of anyone as an excuse for silencing them.

But wait, there's more!

So not only are they wanting to restrict a person's freedom of speech because they are merely "suspected" of causing unrest via the statements they make online.  They also want to force social media companies to take down any images, statements or other content that the British government deems inflammatory causing said unrest and riots.

I guess United KINGDOM never really shed their totalitarian monarchist views of governing.

05 August 2011

Personal Spy Drones = COOL!

Wired has an article about two security researches who presented their personal hacking spy drone at BlackHat this week. And although the idea of a personal drone with some type of surveillance equipment is not new, some of the tools they equipped this drone with are down right awesome.

IMSI catcher to trick cell phone signals into connecting instead of to a cell tower for calls? Check

GPS receiver for pre-programmed flight plans? Check

WiFi for connecting to networks? Check

340 million word dictionary for brute force attacks? Check

The list goes on...

I personally agree with one of the commenters that I would prefer a rotory wing aircraft, such as a helicopter, because landing and takeoff would be easier and require less space, and because you would have much better maneuverability.

Regardless it is a cool concept, just wish I had the cash lying around to make it a weekend project!

04 August 2011


As a big zombie culture geek, I love seeing more zombie culture hitting the mainstream.

Navy Times has a great article about how to survive a zombie attack. h/t SayUncle

Back in May, the CDC posted Zombie Preparedness 101, in response to the hype about the predicted rapture.

The Colorado Springs Gazette has an article about the popularity of zombie culture.

In addition to the pop culture trend, zombies have fully infiltrated a segment of the RKBA community with companies offering zombie related stripped AR-15 lowers, zombie targets (h/t TFB), and tons of other gear.

I, for one, am excited to see zombies become big in pop culture!

Update: A good friend pointed me to this Wired article talking about reseach on the neuroscience of zombies and how to protect yourself with Science (cue Weird Science theme song from Oingo Boingo).

Israel Security Coming Soon...

Saw it over at SayUncle first. The TSA seems to be completely out of touch with reality here in America. 

As the article linked at SayUncle states, the first enormous problem is that Israel's only international airport handles approximately 10 million passengers per year.  Bring that to America and any one big city airport handles twice that traffic each year on its own.  That means longer waits in line while each individual person is "screened".

The second problem is that Americans, especially while travelling domestically, don't tolerate "invasive" questions quite the same as international travelers going to another country.  Add in that if you get picked out of the line because you didn't respond just right to their questions, people will become even more defensive and intolerant of the process.

That brings me to the next issue, which is that the agents the TSA will be using for this $1 billion program (yes I said 1 BILLION DOLLARS) are receiving a whopping 4 DAY training to be able to detect people who have a "nefarious" agenda.  Now, as an auditor you learn very early on in your career that you will NOT be conducting fraud interviews on your own for several years. Why? It takes a lot of interviewing experience to start to be able to detect actual "tells".  People are diverse in behavior, and although certain types of behavior can be indicative of a lie, there are more false positive that there are actual true results. 

Take, for example, an male agent asking a young woman, "where have you been?" (one of the standard questions apparently).  She doesn't look the "agent" in the eyes when she answers clumsily "I have been visiting my grandmother".  Now, in 4 days of training this will likely cause this "agent" to flag her as requiring a full pat down, body scan, and further interviews.  In reality, she is originally from Japan where it is respectful to avoid prolonged eye contact with people in authority positions.

I think this whole thing is going to be a $1 billion waste of tax payer funds that will not make us any safer and will only cost this country in time and money.  Hopefully it falls flat on its face and someone is held accountable for wasting $1 billion in taxpayer money.

03 August 2011

Massive Security Breaches

From Dmitri Alperovitch, VP of Threat Research over at McAfee: Operation Shady RAT.

Also, and article from the BBC.

I am almost shocked at the sheer scope of the attacks and successful intrusions (after all, IT security is still not a priority on many people's list).  Not only were several US government (Fed and local) entities successfully breached, but so were several US companies.  Defense contractors, a real-state firm, an accounting firm, an electronics company, several IT companies, and a construction company were among the known targets that were breached. Some of these breaches lasted for over a year!

Speculation focuses on China as the most likely source of the attacks, which means there would be a high likelihood of State involvement. If this is the case, I wouldn't be surprised if several firearms manufacturers were also breached and don't know it yet.  China's military has been searching for ways to gain a strategic advantage, other than the sheer size of their military, for years.  Being able to obtain new gun designs and schematics that are being engineered for the US military would be a huge competitive advantage, both to the Chinese military, as well as any Chinese arms manufacturers.

Just some food for thought.

29 July 2011

RFID and Guns

So there has been a lot of talk about Chiappa Firearms of Italy announcing that they will start using RFID tags in their firearms to improve manufacturing and distribution accuracy and efficiency. (See TFB, SayUncle, Weerd). This seems like a perfect topic for me to write since I consider myself an Information Security/Assurance nerd as well as a gun enthusiast.

I am not going to address Chiappa's underlying business reasons for deciding to use RFID during the manufacturing an distributing process.  The realizable benefits of using a system like this in an environment such as manufacturing firearms is questionable, but is an entirely different conversation.

I want to address the security/privacy concerns that has the blogosphere on fire.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with Radio Frequency IDendification (RFID), they come in two basic forms: Passive, and "Active". 

Passive tags work in a similar fashion to the old idea of a crystal radio.  There is no internal power source so the tag does not actively broadcast anything.  The power comes from radio signals that a RFID Reader sends outs.  The reader must send a radio signal at the specific frequency that the tag is designed for. Radio signals at the correct frequency cause the tag to react and respond with a feedback signal that contains the stored information.  The best examples of these tags in every day life are in the retail industry where they are affixed to DVD and CD cases, high-end clothing, and electronics.  They are used less for inventory control than they are for loss prevention.

Active tags, unlike passive tags, have an internal power source, often in the form of a battery.  Active tags are often used for things like remote sensors or tracking.  They are not as prolific and are rarely used for manufacturing or inventory control because they are much more expense.  The best example I can think of for the use of active tags are in animal research where a certain animal is tagged in order to understand migration patterns or other behavior.  Over time the battery will run out and the tag will no longer broadcast its information.

The type of tag that will most likely be used in Chiappa's guns are passive tags.  These tags will likely contain a product number, manufacture date, and serial number ( more on this later). They will use RFID readers at various points in the manufacturing and distributing process to track individual products to strengthen their quality controls and increase the speed at which they are able to produce and ship guns.

So what's the big deal?

Computer and tech geeks have been considering the privacy and security concerns of RFID tags for nearly 10 years. The concerns range from the government being able to track your purchasing habits and movements to people finding out that you went to the local adult video store because your girlfriend was going to be out of town for a couple of weeks visiting her parents.

So what is the risk of any of the above situations actually happening.  RFID readers and scanners generally have to be withing a few feet to be able to have enough power to read the information off of an RFID tag.  That is why you have to walk through the little "gates" at Target or Wal-mart after making a purchase.  Most RFID readers are designed to have an effective range of 4-6 feet (some more expensive tags are designed to be read out to 30 feet with the proper reader).  This means that someone with an RFID scanner would most likely have to be within 6 feet of you for an extended period of time while the reader scanned through all the available RFID frequencies and searched for a tag. It isn't all that unlikely to be that close to someone for an extended time at a restaurant, library, concert or other event where people will be sitting in close proximity to each other for extended periods of time.

If someone is able to sit next to you for an extended period of time, and if they have an RFID scanner, what kind of information would they get?  Well that is where some of the gun community's concern lies.  What if you have a concealed carry permit and the gun your are currently carrying has an RFID tag in it.  A person with a scanner and enough time could potentially discover that you are carrying concealed. 

One aspect I didn't address is that RFID scanners are generally "directional", meaning that the radio waves that it emits are usually sent in one general direction, but they are not able to pinpoint an RFID tags exact location ( you would need to triangulate the position using at least 3 strategically placed RFID scanners.... and... give me a break!).  Take the concert example.  If someone sitting two seats to your righthas a scanner and pulls it out and points it to his left and gets results back that indicate someone is carrying a Chiappa revolver.  The person carrying could be any of the three or four directly to his left, or even a few people sitting to his left in the rows behind and in front of him. All he knows is that someone in the half dozen people sitting near him are carrying a revolver. All in all I don't find that to be an overly threatening situation.

Generally the risk that people will know you are carrying a firearm, or like to buy expensive shoes, or went to your local adult video store, are low and don't pose any significant threats.  That being said, I do no like the idea of wearing or carrying ANYTHING that can aid in identifying me from a distance (yet I still carry a GPS enabled cell phone with WiFi and Bluetooth...).  Chiappa did the right thing by disclosing the fact that they will be including RFID tags.  And despite the fact that I don't believe they will realize any significant gains in efficiency or quality control, it is their right to use them.  Their next step should be to provide instruction on how to safely remove the RFID tags should the consumer not want it after purchase.

So what went wrong in this situation? Quite honestly I think the biggest mistake made here was on the part of the Chiappa distributor here in the US, MKS Supply.   Their response to customer concerns over the RFID tags was to mock and make fun of people who would like to protect their privacy. Instead of chuckling in private but being professional in their response, they chose to call people with privacy concerns conspiracy theorists and overly paranoid.

MKS will not see any of my business because of the sheer arrogance and disregard for their customers that they showed in their handling of this situation.  No loss for them or me really. I thought Chiappa's Rhino was a novelty that might be worth owning, but overall it is not a gun I must have. And MKS also distributes Hi-Points, which I have absolutely no desire to own.

In summary, RFID tags can present privacy issues, but I will not be purchasing an RFID reader to scan every good that I purchase to determine if it has a hidden RFID tag.  And finally, don't buy from MKS Supply. If they handled this PR situation so poorly and have such contempt for a large section of their customer base, imaging what kind of customer service you would get out of them after making a purchase.