Gun owners are undoubtedly one of America’s most heavilyregulated groups.
For example, each time that you buy a new firearm there are forms to fill out and records to be made. At the very leastyou can always count on confronting the federal government’s formnumber 4473 for each new firearm purchased. But, in most cases, thereis also some combination of state and local forms that must be completedbefore your newly acquired gun can be taken home. Then again, there arethose among us who live in particularly enlightened communities where,in addition to requiring that forms be filled out, also demand waitingperiods, permits, references, justification, training courses, andsometimes I suspect a letter from Mom. I am told that there are more than 20,000 laws in this country atall levels of government that are directed at regulating the purchase,possession, transportation, and use of firearms.
That is a lot of laws!Unfortunately, only a few of these laws have proven to be of any valuein fighting crime. The few laws that have been of any value to societyare characterized by the fact that they are directed at the criminalmisuse of firearms and not at simply making life difficult for theaverage law-abiding gun owner. I suspect that if all of the uselessregulations were laid end to end the only thing that they would lead tois some bureaucrat’s job security.
The point that I am trying to make is that gun owners as a group (Iam including hunters) know what it is like to live under governmentcontrol. In addition to existing controls, gun owners are constantlyfighting off the efforts of various elitist groups that have committedthemselves to accelerating the evolutionary process of gun control withthe ultimate goal of bringing about the extinction of that species knownas the Great North American Gun Owner. Because of their need to constantly be on guard, America’s gunowners have been able to develop a very sober attitude about excessivegovernment regulation. They are able to see with greater clarity justhow a creeping bureaucracy smothers individual freedom for the sake ofsome mythical greater collective good. I believe that the key topreserving individual freedom in the future may very well depend ongroups like America’s gun owners. Because as technology advances,our right to keep and bear arms will no longer be a separate issue, itwill become entwined with our other basic freedoms facing the samecollective assault. It will be up to America’s gun owners to soundthe alarm because we should be among the relatively few groups toclearly see the danger ahead.
Exactly what does the future hold for America’s gun owners?Controls and regulations like nothing you have known in the past;however, everybody will be affected and everything will be involved. Itis a future with the built-in potential for being oppressive far beyondanything that you could presently imaging. The future may very wellproduce an America where no one will be able to hide from the eyes oftechnology. The words in the preceding paragraph are strong, perhaps evenhysterical. I sincerely hope that they are eventually proven to be moreparanoid than prophetic. But, the technologies that I will bediscussing from this point on can easily be perverted so as to totallysmother individual freedom. The future that I am concerned about is oneof several possible futures. Unfortunately, I believe that it is, atthis time, the most likely.
What do the big bankers dream about? They dream of a”cashless society”, an economy absolutely devoid of currency,coins and checks. They desire only plastic and the electronictransfering of funds. To the financial bigwigs of our time, Utopiawould consist of fortunes recorded on tape. From a purely businesspoint of view it’s not hard to understand why bankers dislike allof that paper and metal. Checks and cash are cumbersome, expensive, andvery time consuming to process. Checks, in particular, are viewed bythe financial elite as a real pain in the you-know-what, because of theseemingly unlimited number of errors associated with them. It is easyto see why bankers have been drooling over the most recent advances incomputer technology and communications.
The hardware necessary for atruly cashless monetary system is nearly here. Is it really possible for the average citizen to go about his dailyroutine without the benefit of dollar bills, quarters, dimes, nickelsand even pennies? Yes! The speed and capacity needed to process thehundreds of millions of transactions that take place each day in thiscountry are just around the corner. To truly understand how rapidlythis technology is advancing, we need to go back a few years. It was in the early Fifties when the first true electroniccomputers were built. State of the art back then usually meant amachine large enough to fill one or more huge rooms. I understand thatat one university, graduate students were required to shuffle up anddown banks of vacuum tubes pushing shopping carts filled withreplacement tubes. The average citizen and small business man did nothave access to these early machines, only governments and largecorporations could afford to buy time on them. Then came transistors,integrated circuits and chips among the many other innovations.
Theresult: in a mere 30 years, you can now go down to your local departmentstore and for a few hundred dollars, purchase a computer that you caneasily hold in your hands. The astonishing thing is that some of these compact contemporarymachines, now available to anyone, offer a calculating capacity and rateof speed that exceeds the monster machines of 30 years ago. The speed atwhich this technology is advancing has also accelerated greatly. Somuch so, that the state of the art computer that you buy today willundoubtedly be made obsolete by some other company’s offeringwithin a year or two. The keys to making a cashless society work are capacity and speed.Today’s typical computer is capable of approximately seven millionmathematical operations a second and the most advanced machines are evenfaster.
However, before a cashless monetary system can be imposed onsociety, the speed at which computers work will have to reach the levelof the current world record holder, the human brain. The human brainraces along at about one billion operations a second. But, experts inthe field are confident that computers will not only be able to matchthe speed of the human brain, they will in time surpass it. How longwill it take to reach the magic billion mark? Ten years or less! Thisis the time frame; ten years and the few technical barriers left will begone.
However, all of the other elements needed for this brave newworld exist now. Some of these elements will soon be deployed whileothers have been around for years. The question now is, how will this cashless system work on theindividual level? In the future when you go into a store to purchase acopy of Guns & Ammo, exactly how will you pay for it? You won’thave any cash; instead you will hand the clerk (if there is a clerk)your “smartcard” and the transaction will be completed in amatter of seconds. What is a smartcard? A smartcard is something likea credit card except that it has a permanent memory that contains vitalfinancial and personal information about you. The secret of this card isa small computer chip embedded within it. When the card is insertedinto a terminal, it tells the terminal who you are by providing yourbank account number from its electronic memory.
This smartcard willalso provide the information needed to identify you and this allows themerchant’s terminal access to your account. If everything checksout okay, you are who you say you are and your account has sufficientfunds, the amount needed to cover your purchase will be deducted fromyour account and credited to the merchant’s account. Actually, my simple explanation grossly understates the potentialof this smartcard system. By increasing its memory, it can not onlyfunction as a checkbook but also as a credit card, a savings passbook,security clearance card, drivers license and so on. There is really nolimit.
The smartcard is not some futuristic vision; it exists and is inuse today. The army is experimenting with an early version of thisplastic and silicon marvel. What the army has done is replace thefamiliar G.I. identification card with the smartcard in a few cases. Ifthe army likes the card, a soldier’s ability to lose himself in themilitary’s notorious bureaucracy will become a thing of the past.
Perhaps the thing that will be the most impressive part of thesmartcard system is the security. The card will contain, in itspermanent memory, some information about some physical characteristicunique to you. A good example would be a fingerprint, although I doubtif fingerprints would be used in this case. Several possible methods ofidentifying the legitimate owner of a card have been proposed. I willdiscuss just one of those methods; it is the one that fascinates me themost, although I do not know if it will become the standard means ofidentification.
That method is the “retina scan.” The retina is the light sensing tissue at the back of the eye. Itcan be viewed optically and used to identify people in much the same wayas a fingerprint. Each person would have his unique retina patternrecorded in his smartcard’s memory and also at his bank. Everyterminal would have a retina scanner as one of its basic components.This identification system would work this way. You hand a merchantyour card, he then inserts it into a terminal.
You are then asked tolook directly at a small lens (this lens would probably appear like abutton on the terminal). This lens is the retina scanner and it willread your retina in a fraction of a second. Now if the retina patternthat the scanner reads is the same as the one in your card and alsoidentical to the one in the account that has been called up, fine, youare in. However, if these three retina scans do not match up perfectly,your card will be rejected and the police notified that an illegaltransaction has been attempted. This system seems to be nearlyfoolproof. I cannot see how your typical credit card thief can beat it. As for personal transactions at home, no need to worry.
You canstill have your garage sale or pay off your football bet by using yourphone. Laws will be enacted requiring all phones sold to be equippedwith terminals or you will be able to use a public terminal much like apay phone. It is even possible that televisions will be outfitted sothat you can conduct business via cable. Originally the smartcard concept was developed for credit cardcompanies as a way of combating the considerable fraud problem that theyface. Because it is nearly impossible to forge such a card and uselessto steal one, you can expect to have one or more of these wonders inyour wallet in the not too distant future. When the smartcard system, or a similar system is deployed, it willobviously tell anyone or any government agency with access to thebank’s new super-fast computers exactly where you are spending yourelectronic money. A large part of your right to privacy will be gone.But, in most cases, no one should know exactly what it is you arebuying.
Right? Unfortunately, this probably will not be the case. TheUniversal Product Code (another labor saving and efficient idea) will beable to tell the computers what products you are buying. The Universal Product Code (UPC) is a system of productidentification and control that has been in use for several years. It isused primarily at supermarkets now and undoubtedly you have seen itsmost prominent feature. This prominent feature is the code itself andcan be found on nearly every packaged product in the supermarket.
Ifyou are not sure exactly what it is that I am talking about then look atthe cover of this magazine. You will find a small white rectangle withmany vertical lines of varying widths on it along with a few numbers.When this coded information is passed over a holographic laser scanner,at some store’s checkout counter, it will tell the store’scomputer that this is a copy of Guns ; Ammo magazine. The code willalso reveal the exact issue purchased and call up the most recent pricefrom the computer’s memory. I know of at least one supermarket chain that has gone over to theUPC system.
Each store in the chain is able to produce a constant flowof information about which products are selling as well as keepingextremely accurate records concerning the store’s receipts. Thedata produced by each store is also channeled to the computers at thechain’s central offices and as a result it has been possible toknow exactly how to restock each store the following day. The only bitof information missing in the UPC system is who is buying the product.
But, add the smartcard to the UPC setup and it becomes technicallypossible to know who is buying what. Let’s not forget about other systems that are also inoperation. There is what’s known as “direct deposit.
“This is an arrangement that has your employer sending your wagesdirectly to the bank. You never see a paycheck. In addition you canhave “automatic bill paying” along with the direct deposit.This service can automatically pay some of your bills for you.
No cash,no checks, everything is done with cool computer efficiency. Oil companies are now experimenting with totally automated gasstations. When you drive up to one of their new computerized pumps, yousimply insert a credit card into the appropriate slot. If the cardchecks out okay, you then are free to fill up.
No expensive humanattendant is needed. One recent development that makes me a bit uneasy concerns lawenforcement. In San Jose, California the police department hasoutfitted its patrol cars with computer terminals. If you should be sounfortunate as to be pulled over in this Northern California city, thepolice officer will be able to feed your license number as well as otherbits of information about you into his terminal. The computers at cityhall will respond and tell the officer if you’re wanted foranything or if you are driving a stolen car and so on.
What makes me uneasy is the fact that with the proper hookups,computers around the world can talk to each other. Should thissituation develop, it could result in you standing with your legs apartand your arms outstretched on the roof of your car while the officersits in his vehicle reviewing your life history. The potential forabuse in this application of technology is considerable. There is one interesting bit of information about the precedingexample that may be of significance. It certainly adds to my uneasinessabout this particular example.
The current police chief of San Jose wasone of only a couple of police chiefs to actively campaign in favor ofCalifornia’s Proposition 15 in the 1982 elections. Nearly everyother police chief in California went publicly on record against thenotorious anti-gun Proposition 15. If you are a gun owner in Illinois you are undoubtedly familiarwith the Firearms Owner’s Identification card (FOI card). Illinoisrequires that all persons wishing to own or purchase a firearm orammunition to first obtain one of these cards from the state’sDepartment of Law Enforcement in Springfield. The purpose of the cardis to make it more difficult for the criminal element to obtain gunsthrough legal channels. As you can well imagine there are manythousands of FOI card holders in Illinois, and keeping track of them allwould be impossible without the aid of modern technology.
So, what youhave in Illinois is a master list of all of the legal gun owners andtheir guns. You can imagine how much a list could be abused by anti-gunofficials. Recently some anti-gun city officials tried to obtain such alist from the Illinois Department of Law Enforcement. Shortly after the village of Morton Grove implemented its notorioushandgun ban, its neighbor Evanston, Illinois followed with a nearlyidentical law. But, Evanston went a little farther than Morton Grove.The police chief of Evanston contacted the state’s Department ofLaw Enforcement and requested a list of all of the FOI card holdersliving in Evanston. He said that he only wanted to notify the cardholders about the existence of the new law. Oh sure! If you believethat then drop me a card, I can make you a real good deal on someleft-handed screw drivers.
Fortunately, the state refused to supply thelist. I included this example from Evanston because it clearlyillustrates just how dangerous computer lists can be. But, withtechnology advancing as fast as it is, anti-gun bureaucrats, like thosein Evanston, may soon be able to get the information that they wantwithout having to go to the state capital for it. Nearly everyone should now be familiar with the “automatedteller” at their local bank. These human substitutes again requirea card and the customer’s private identification code or accountnumber. Bankers love these machines because they make transactions moreefficient and are much more cost effective than human tellers. Recently a New York bank installed automated tellers and alsoradically altered the ways in which depositors were allowed to conductbusiness with the bank. The new rules allowed only large depositors toenter the bank to transact business with human beings.
If you were asmall or average depositor you could only use the automated tellers.The public outcry was so great that the bank was forced to abandon itsnew policies and revert back to a more normal routine. This attempt by a New York bank to place efficiency and profitstotally ahead of human concerns is a good example of the generalattitude held by many of the banking and corporate elite in thiscountry. I do not believe that they consciously wish to set upmachinery that is dehumanizing, but I do believe that our banking andcorporate leaders are often afflicted with considerable tunnel vision and can only see those things that will improve their situation. As you can see, innovations in the fields of electronic finance andcommunications are coming hot and heavy. By making extensive use ofsome of the systems mentioned here and others not discussed, some peopleare for all practical purposes, living a cashless existence already. Exactly how does a cashless society threten the liberty of alllaw-abiding citizens and gun owners in particular? Well, first you needto understand that most Americans basically trust their government.
Theidea that someday our elected officials, fireproof bureaucrats, andtenured jurists could turn on us and impose a totalitarian state represents to the average person an unreasonable degree of paranoia.However, our founding fathers did not feel that such paranoia wasunjustified. This is why the framers of our constitution included somany checks and balances. They wanted to come as close as possible to agovernment whose very structure would prevent the kind of oppressionthat, at the time, diminated the rest of the world. So far the creationof these inspired benefactors has stood the test of time and provenitself to be among the greatest of human achievements. Because thebasic design of our republic has worked so well, most Americans do nottake seriously the idea that it could ever fail form within. Our founding fathers were able to foresee most of the things thatcould destroy the constitution that they were drafting and as a resultincluded protections within the document itself. But, the one thingthat they could not foresee or even conceive of, is the threat posed bytoday’s awesome technology.
The creators of our nation knew verywell that economic freedom and political freedom are indivisible, youcan not have one without the other. They also knew that the right ofeach citizen to privacy concerning his personal financial affairs isessential for there to be true economic freedom. A truly cashless monetary system (with its nearly unlimited abilityto remember the most trivial of financial transactions) is a temptationthat even virtuous administrations would find hard to resist. Forexample, some decidedly liberal administration in the future, with acollective social agenda to impose would be able to tap into thenational monetary network, find the financial support of any individualor group that opposes its Utopian programs and use the power of perhapsthe IRS to destroy that support.
Let’s say that you are a member of a church that opposes thegovernment’s foreign policy or perhaps some of its social programs.Should the opposition of your church become too bothersome, theadministration’s bureaucrats could easily search the cashlessmonetary network and come up with the identities of everyone supportingthe church. Then through the use of various forms of harassment liketax audits, the threatened exposure of publicly offensive transactions(prostitution, gambling etc.) or the just plain freezing of accounts(try to survive for several months with no money) the economicfoundation of the church would be destroyed. For all practical purposesthe church would no longer exist.
Now for the gun owners. With a totally cashless system in place,the sales of all new firearms, ammunition and accessories wouldautomatically be recorded along with everything else. It would be asimple matter for an anti-gun administration to produce lists of new gunowners from the nation’s electronic monetary network. I alsofirmly believe that any administration that would indulge in the kindsof abuses that I have already suggested would certainly seek to fulfillone of the anti-gunners’ fondest dreams–that of national gunregistration. Keeping in mind that all new gun sales would automatically beregistered through the chasless system, the anti-gun bureaucrats wouldthen seek registration of all other firearms.
Many law-abiding citizenswould grudgingly comply with the law and register their guns. But, ofcourse, many others would not. In order to force compliance with thelaw, this not too distant future anti-gun administration would takeadvantage of the fact that all of the country’s information systemswould be fully integrated into essentially one gigantic system. Theycould easily tap into state, county and city gun records in their questto find unregistered gun owners. Any computer list that might lead to agun owner would not be safe. In the past when I have talked to people about the evils of guncontrol I would occasionally run into a gun owner who was unconcerned.
When I would inquire into their ambivalence I would get an answer likethe following. “I’ve got a couple of guns that my dad broughtback from the war as ouvenirs. There is no record of them anywhere. Ifthey start grabbing guns I will simply bury them in the back yard tillthe heat lets up.
After all, they can’t confiscate what theydon’t know about.” Well, if you are one of those gun owners with hidden treasures, youhad better think again. Because, in the future, the anti-gunners andtheir super computers stand a very good chance of finding out about you.How could the caretakers of the government’s gun control systemfind out about a gun that has literally no official past? Simply bywaiting for you to tell them about it. The following sequence of eventswill show how you could tip your hand. Let’s say for example that you have Dad’s old warsouvenir, a P-08 Luger.
The time period for registering all firearmswith the federal government has come and gone. But, you decided not toregister the Luger because not even your wife knows that you have it,let alone any level of government. You figure that when the day comesand everybody else loses their guns via confiscation you will still haveyours.
However, before finding a permanent hiding place for yourcontraband, you decide that it needs a good cleaning. After all, Dad wasa great guy, but not particularly known for his neatness; he certainlynever cleaned his souvenir Luger. So, you make a trip down to the local sporting goods store toselect the stuff (pistol cleaning rod, 9mm brass brushes, patches, etc.)needed for cleaning your handgun. Remember, this is now a cashlesssociety so you pay for these cleaning supplies just as you do foreverything else, with your smartcard. What you do not realize is that the UPC codes for all of thecleaning supplies that you just purchased are a bit different from thecodes of other products. Any produce related to firearms (ammo, spareparts, accessories, cleaning supplies, etc.
) will automatically bedirected to the master gun registration computer in Washington D.C.This master computer will check its memory to see if you legally own thetype of gun for which the cleaning supplies are intended. Since youhave not registered Dad’s war souvenir the computer will show thatyou do not own a legally registered handgun. This information willautomatically be transmitted to the computer at your local policedepartment. When local law enforcement receives this type of computernotification they can, in this new society, use it as probable cause forobtaining a search warrant. The result, in a few days you will be on your way to an allexpenses paid vacation courtesy of the federal government, whileDad’s dirty Luger is sent to the foundry to be melted down into”Jane Fonda for President” campaign buttons.
Perhaps all of these sinister possibilities could be avoided bypassing laws that would prohibit the development and deployment of thisamazing new technology. This approach, although well intentioned, wouldbe wrong. Prohibition has rarely worked in the past and certainly cannot be stopped by legislation.
Besides, it is not the technology thatis bad but rather it is the people or agencies who would misuse it thatare evil. In this case, guns make a good analogy, because as you know,the problem is the criminal abuse of guns, not the guns themselves.Like guns, there is a great deal of good to be had from this newtechnology. Maybe then we could have laws enacted that would limit access tothe cashless society’s enormous flow of personal financial data.In other words, through legislation, perhaps we can protect anindividual’s right to privacy by restricting the access to computermemories in the same manner that your home is protected from illegalsearch and seizure. It’s a fine idea, but I am not very optimistic for two reasons. First, the U.
S. Supreme Court has already handed down a majorruling on the subject. A few years back the question of whether or nota government agency could go to a bank and investigate anindividual’s personal financial records came before the court. Itwas argued that these records were the private property of theindividual depositor and therefore constitutionally protected fromimproper invasion.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court did not see it thatway. The court said that these records are the property of the bank andnot the depositor, therefore the individual’s right to privacy doesnot apply. Secondly, I seriously doubt if any administration couldresist the tremendous amount of power and control that can be had bydipping into the memories of a totally cashless monetary system. Ibelieve that well intentioned laws would ultimately fail to deterbureaucrats faced with such an enormous temptation.
There are other examples of our wondrous electronic present andfuture that we could discuss so as to further illustrate our increasingvulnerability. But, at this point, it would be redundant. I am surethat by now you can see that the future must be looked at with a verysober attitude. We must find a way to protect our freedoms and still beable to take full advantage of the marvels of technology that lie justahead. Is it possible to have it both ways? Yes, I think it ispossible, if one essential element in our society is maintained.
That element is “cash”. The American people must standup and demand that currency, both paper and metal, remain as the basicmeans of settling all debts. We need to also demand that allindividuals and institutions continue to be required to accept cash whenit is presented as payment for a debt. In this way you could still havethe smartcards and the electronic transfering of funds, if you wantthem. As long as cash is around, there will be at least one way inwhich the Utopian do-gooders will not be able to enslave us.