Recent developments in firearms finding their way into the hands of criminals and mentally unstable individuals who have subsequently used such weapons during mass shooting sprees has raised many questions for which the solutions must weigh constitutionally enshrined and natural right of self-defense with the use of firearms vs. the rights of the population to remain safe and free from being randomly shot during their respective pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.   

The blockchain may hold a potential middle ground solution that will placate the calls for greater accountability for access to firearms, and the counter-argument which rejects additional regulations to those which are already in place and already deemed as overly burdensome by many.

For a brief recap, the blockchain is a public or private ledger which keeps track of any item, whether virtual or physical as it moves through various owners or holders. Another post on this site suggested the utilization of the blockchain to replace the current antiquated paper stamp system to track mail.

The proposed system would obviously need to be passed into law by congress and signed by the President; however, the general operation would follow thus: the ATF would establish a simple non-public web portal that would link an individual gun owner, his/her SS# and state ID to a kind of ‘weapons wallet’ that would track all weapons transferred to and from the individual. Each new weapon after some date would be required to have a QR code somewhere on it that would be linked to the blockchain established by the ATF. The government should use an entirely new blockchain and obviously it would be centralized.

Upon registration with the ATF, the registrant would be given an ID number which would be entered into the app downloaded from the Android or Apple store. Upon purchase or transfer of a given forearm the simple app would allow a scan of the QR code on the weapon by the transferee or buyer, which would record the date and location of transfer and allow simple tracking of ownership.

If questions arise as to a weapon’s particular history, a potential buyer can request it directly from the ATF, which would strike a balance with privacy rights. Alternatively, the blockchain can have a public version which tracks gun owners by ID number which would not permit personal identification. The buyer need only to match the ID number of the seller to the one found on the public ledger.

This would allow stolen weapons to be easily tracked. A buyer would only need to scan the QR code with the app to get the entire record of ownership of that weapon. Older, non-compliant weapons may be tagged with a QR code, electively, by their owner if so desired. Potential criminal liability may attach to persons who transfer a firearm without having the buyer scan the code into his or her ID number.

Upon registration with the ATF, a background check would automatically be conducted for the right to obtain a tracking app prior to permitting the use of the platform. If the check reveals criminal activity or a history of psychiatric illness, including ingestion of certain psychiatric medication(s), that individual would not be able to obtain the transfer app and any seller would not have a legal right to sell that individual a firearm. This system might eventually replace the state licensing scheme entirely.

A provision in such new law may require the submission of specific negative mental history records to the ATF by medical professionals for potential due process action limiting that person’s rights to own firearms.

The blockchain is a transformational technology, and this system would permit the free exercise of private law-abiding individuals’ 2nd Amendment rights while allowing transferees and law enforcement the ability to track firearms and prevent their movement into the black market, as well as provide a cost-effective method to limit firearm ownership by criminals and mentally unstable persons who should not possess them. In other words, the tracking app would be a form of a license in and of itself, only permitted to be used by pre-cleared individuals.