How Blockchain Could Help Prevent Another Mass Shooting
I don't own a gun. In fact, I have NEVER owned a firearm.
I may, however, be the staunchest supporter of the Second Amendment in the U.S. who does NOT own a gun.
I can already see this column generating some serious hate mail. But when it comes to adopting and investing in technology that can keep you and your family safer, I think we'll find common ground.
About 40% of Americans do own a gun, or they live in a household with one. But that percentage skyrockets in the traditional red Republican states.
I was raised on a rural vegetable farm and spent most of my adult life in Montana. Gun ownership and hunting are ingrained into the fabric of daily life there. Heck, most of my friends and neighbors looked more forward to the first day of hunting season than the opening day of Major League Baseball.
The phrase, "I'll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands," isn't an exaggeration to the law-abiding gun owners I know.
However, I know that the senseless mass shootings sicken all of us, and that something must be done.
You may disagree, but I believe it is impossible to keep demented criminals from hurting other people. At the same time, I do think we can reduce — though not eliminate — gun violence.
And I think a blockchain-based gun registry is an important part of the solution.
Thomas Heston (not to be confused with actor Charlton Heston, who popularized the "cold, dead hands" phrase) is an associate professor at Washington State University in Spokane. What's notable about him is that he published a research report, "A Blockchain Solution to Gun Control," that I wish every politician would read.
Heston proposes that all gun records — from manufacturer to consumer — be stored on a blockchain-based wallet, just like Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
An Electronic Gun Safe
Every gun buyer would be required to upload their personal information to an electronic gun safe. This would be tied to biometric data such as fingerprints or eye scans.
Whenever that gun ownership is transferred (sold or gifted) to another person, that transaction would be verified and recorded on a blockchain ledger.
These ownership records, stored in blockchain-based electronic gun safes, would be immune to hacking and tampering.
The result: A reliable database that accurately tracks every gun purchase in the United States.
How Blockchain Can Better the
Background Check System
This would also improve the accuracy of background checks, which are currently performed by the FBI through the centralized National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Every year, some 3,000 people pass a NICS background check despite being prohibited from purchasing a gun under state or federal law.
States submit their records on a voluntary basis. And not all states use NICS checks, so the data has been shown to be incomplete. In fact, only 36 states use NICS for all firearms sales. The rest either only use NICS for certain sales or use only state databases.
The lack of a universal system leaves loopholes. Loopholes that could be closed by a universal, but decentralized, blockchain that could record all purchases and verify a user’s identity without allowing complete access to a centralized — and hackable — government system.
Gun manufacturers would benefit, too, by using this electronic gun safe to track inventory and distribution.
Consider this: Criminals are attracted to money, and Bitcoin has a market value of over $200 billion. That's enough money to lure the most brilliant thieves in the world, right?
But note that no single bad guy has been able to hack Bitcoin.
I think it’s safe to say that a blockchain-based gun registry is a safe, accurate and private way to keep track of guns. This would eliminate the gun show and private transaction loopholes that are a major problem today.
This won't solve or eliminate mass shootings. Not even close. But I am positive that it would go a long way to keeping guns out of the hands of people that shouldn't own them.
And keep guns in the hands of my friends and neighbors, who may be the most responsible gun owners in America.