Schneier on Security
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March 29, 2007
Mennonites and Photo IDs
Mennonites are considering moving to a different state because they don't want their photo taken for their drivers licenses. Many (all?) states had religious exemptions to the photo requirement, but now fewer are.
The most interesting paragraph to me is the last one, though:
And in Pennsylvania, Dr. Kraybill said, a law requiring photo identification to buy guns has prompted many Amish hunters to hire non-Amish neighbors to buy guns for them.
Sounds like the photo-ID requirement is backfiring in this case.
Posted on March 29, 2007 at 2:54 PM
• 67 Comments
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Someone will always find a way to circumvent policy and/or security.
"Sounds like the photo-ID requirement is backfiring in this case."
Are you really positing that we should not require photo ID from gun buyers?
Just because some people are trying to circumvent ID requirements by using straw purchasers isn't a strong argument for eliminating the ID requirement. This very isolated exception is not an exception that proves the general rule to be a poor one.
One can easily argue that laws against murder do not prevent murder, yet that is not proof that we should eliminate laws against murder.
There's been some heated discussion in Quebec recently on a similar issue. Formerly, it was legal for Muslim women to vote without showing their faces if they could identify themselves in some other way. I'm not sure what methods of identification were considered acceptable alternatives. The rules were recently changed to require them to show their faces, amid the kinds of objection you'd naturally expect. An assortment of links here:
I didn't intrepret the message to mean
"eliminating the ID requirement" to purchase guns. People will obtain what they want by whatever resource thy have available to them.
Having someone else buy a gun for you in order to avoid the ID requirements is called a "strawman" purchase, and is technically a felony.
Robert Heinlein observed in a 1973 novel, "When a place gets crowded enough to require ID's, social collapse is not far away. It is time to go elsewhere."
Isn't it only a strawman purchase is the final recipient is unqualified to own the gun?
Thank you. I have never heard of or read about the term "strawman"
One legal reference site defines "straw man" as, "a person who acts by receiving a title to a property, business right, or interest of any sort on behalf of another person, who for any reason cannot do such acts directly." (http://www.legal-explanations.com/definitions/straw-man.htm) This may be mainly a US law reference and other jurisdictions might have their own terms.
So a Mennonite doesn't need a photo ID to drive or purchase a firearm. The incidence of crimes committed because of these lapses is low. This says something about the whole ID system and security in general.
Part of the solution is to attack the problem at the root. Many strict religions teach their children to do right -- by their standards, although they're often more just than the rest of us -- and punish them very harshly not only when they do something wrong, but also when they start to stray down the wrong path.
This is sort of like Ben K's Heinlein quote, except we can apply it at a broader level. I have friends who work for district attorneys and they note routinely about how difficult it is to prosecute people in the US. People drive drunk or shoot people because they think they can get away with it, often because the legal system is disproportionately developed. Some of the billions of dollars poured into police departments and lawyers may be better spent on education and promotion of better parenting. True, there are always bad apples in the bunch and this works much more easily in a smaller society. However, the growth of a society does not excuse us from trying or justify reliance on the use of other means.
Mennonites are Mooninites, just a more conservative order.
You're broaching a very significant point. In the US, people are very fond of the idea of the "strong arm of the law." It's the more prisons and absolute power to cops mentality.
You'll find that many of the European countries don't share this and I firmly believe it leads to a more peaceful society. Other side affects of this extreme law and order situation are things like rampant police brutality and uneven sentencing.
This all results in less security. I think the European model displays the benefits of less is sometimes more.
It might make sense to allow photoless IDs but place restrictions on them -- you require an additional ID to purchase guns, they aren't sufficient to purchase alcohol or tobacco.
I live in upstate NY, where there is a significant Amish population. I also know a Hunter Safety Instructor, which means he teaches anyone who wants to hunt how to do so safely (i.e. without injuring themselves or another human being). He noted after the first few classes that he taught how unusual he thought it was that so many Amish children were enrolled in the class, and how many of them were girls. He also found it surprising that the Amish girls were often better shots and knew how to handle their firearms more safely than the non-Amish adults. I think if the Amish (and Mennonites) choose to find a way to purchase a firearm without a photo ID, fine. All the photo ID does is help the authorities prove who shot up the school after the fact anyway (you can ask the Amish all about that one...).
Amish don't have electrical power or telephones. But I knew an Amish guy who had a telephone booth installed at the edge of his farm. Amish don't own and drive cars either. But this same Amish guy had a nice Jeep Grand Cherokee parked behind a shrub row at the other edge of his farm. He never drove it but sure did ride in it a lot while his neighbor drove.
Whose to say that the gun buying neighbor doesn't lock the gun in his gun cabinet? Perhaps the Amish guy and his gun buying neighbor go hunting together. Is there a law in PA about shooting your friend's gun?
Why not hire people to do Wall Street Journal style pointillism drawings of them?
Nobody has raised this, but...
I don't think they'd have a First Amendment case against this. The harm to Mennonites is an unintended by-product of a legitimate government initiative.
IANAL, but I've followed a number of church/state separation cases. The criteria they use are called "the Lemon test": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...
Do the Amish think the camera will steal their soul? Do we really want people who think a camera can steal their soul to have guns?
"Sounds like the photo-ID requirement is backfiring in this case."
If the policy was to allow religious exemptions for Mennonites so that they could use a state-issued non-photo ID to buy guns, then they would be purchasing the firearms directly. By demanding a photo explicitly, the policy pushes a bunch of people off the radar altogether. I'm guessing that was the point here.
From the article, though, we have this:
"Missouri had an exemption similar to Arkansas’s for more than 30 years. That changed in the security crackdown after the Sept. 11 attacks. Now, those who object to the requirement must still be photographed, but they can have their pictures left off their licenses."
If they don't need photos on the IDs, where they would serve a legitimate security purpose by allowing people in the field to match the ID to the person presenting it, then what are the photos for?
So buttons, zip fastners and photos are out but guns are OK?
Its juat amazing how religious text can be interpreted.
Perhaps people that place such importance on their soul would be more responsible with such a powerful weapon.
Why aren't they willing to have their photographs taken? The Biblical reference to "graven images", IIRC, is a prohibition against worshipping graven images, not a prohibition against graven images per se.
Only total morons assume that criminals buy guns in stores using their own IDs. Checking IDs does absolutely NOTHING to deter criminals.
As always the rulers work to protect themselves by restricting rights of upright citizens (and disarming them, in this case) while claiming that it is all for the protection of citizens from the criminals. Of course, the criminals (both petty, and those in the places of power) only benefit - they're not afraid to get swift justice from an armed citizen.
How people can be that stupid? Every anti-gun pseudo-liberal wanker is a slave at heart. Land of the free, my ass.
Great line, that: "...photo-ID requirement is backfiring" in gun-buying... :-))
It may be worth noting that the rules against technology among the Amish can vary from place to place. The local community decides what technology is banned and what isn't. Quite often you'll see Amish in one part of the country using tractors to plow fields while in others there are no motorized vehicles at all. It's not a one-size-fits-all religious interpretation, although all Amish communities abide by a fairly skeptical and rigorous system for evaluating technology that might be incorporated into their lives -- they tend to see tech as guilty until proven innocent.
Also, there are actually quite a lot of differences between Mennonites and Amish, and lots of differences among different the Mennonites themselves. Some Wikipedia surfing would be informative.
Re: Stealing one's soul
You should re-read the article to which Mr. Schneier linked. These people hold to a religious code that eschews "graven images", which in the case of these Mennonites means that they do not believe it is right or moral to create pictures of themselves. Some religious sects go further to prohibit many additional kinds of art, including drawings of people, music, etc. Whether these beliefs have merit is a matter for individual consideration. What may seem like foolish asceticism to you and I can give great hope and inspiration to others, and what we may count among life's greatest treasure to them seems like wasteful hedonism. Therefore, it is important to respect both the diversity of opinion and other peoples religious beliefs, especially since most of us prefer to have our own feelings and beliefs respected and accommodated. That the Mennonites as a whole seem to live at peace with and within modern society only underscores, to me, the importance of a reciprocal respect on the part of our society.
Why is it that americans have this obsessive notion that they absolutely have to have guns?
They think they need guns to protect themselves from... other people with guns!
Here (in the Netherlands), it is extremely difficult to buy a gun. Only law enforcement and professional hunters can own guns, and in case of law enforcement, every single round must be accounted for.
While it is certainly possible to buy a gun illigally, if you get caught with it, it will land you in jail for a few months.
And you know what? I think we feel safer than most americans. There is no such thing as a high-school schooting here. It is very unlikely that a burglar will be carrying a firearm. Police officers ofcourse carry a pistol, but they can get very severe penalties (suspension and such) if they draw their gun without a very good reason.
Why is it that americans seem to think that it is impossible to have freedom without having guns?
Instead of registering hand guns, let's register hand gun offenders.
I rather watch hot topless chicks at the beach and drink a rum coke than have a gun. Somehow I do not understand how the American feel free.
This isn't about guns. It's about a photo ID requirement which really does nothing to stop crime. It may help verify a body after a crime has been committed, but otherwise will not prevent the crime.
Any good criminal is going to avoid the system and still have access to whatever tools he/she needs to commit the crime. Sure, there are plenty of bad criminals who are idiots. This ID requirement may catch say 5% of them; I can't find good stats on this aspect.
All this really does is force honest citizens to have to give up their identity to function in normal society.
Having worked with Amish in the past as a horse equipment trader, I would trust an Amish person with a gun far more than any other person. Their society is honest and transparent ; partially due to the close-knit nature of their beliefs. I haven't worked with many Mennonites.
As for the "Anonymous" people asking why Americans aren't free without guns, we inherently do not trust our government; nor should we. Stop paying taxes. See how long until the Govt shows up with guns to enforce collection. When the govt, except the military, removes all weapons, so will I. Until this time, I disarmed populace are called sheep and have no means to fight back, should there be a need to do so.
To the guy from the Netherlands:
There are a number of reasons that people in the United States might want guns. Here are a few:
1) Large portions of the U.S. are sparsely-populated rural areas to a much greater extent than you find in most of Europe. People living in these areas often enjoy hunting for food. For example, my father can go deer hunting without ever leaving his own property, and the same is true of many of the neighbors. Also, farmers and ranchers may need guns to protect livestock from wild animals.
2) Self-defense in rural areas. There are portions of the U.S. where the police are distant, again, much more so than you might find in Europe. The idea that a farmer or rancher might have a gun deters criminals from preying on inhabitants of remote areas. There are plenty of places where help is at least 20 minutes away.
3) To enable the people to-- if it ever becomes necessary and we hope it doesn't-- violently overthrow the government if it becomes opressive. Some folks argue this is the most important reason, others argue that this is completely silly reason.
As a final point, high school shootings are extremely rare in the U.S., and they have occurred in other parts of the world as well. And of course our police are also subject to severe penalties if they draw a gun without a very good reason. As are private citizens who use guns inappropriately.
There seems to be some mis-information about gun ownership in the US. For those who are un-aware, when you buy a gun, you fill out a form that the ATF/FBI NICS has to approve. The gun, you, and your background are all checked during the purchase. I believe they are also recorded into a gun registry, it's just not called that.
Many states also have a further set of checks and records to complete, some require full fingerprint scans AT EVERY PURCHASE.
Legal gun owners are better tracked and recorded than most prisoners. Gun owners are already prisoners; they just haven't committed an egregious crime like walking into a school zone with an errant bullet casing stuck in your pants cuff or wearing an empty holster.
I suppose in order to see what value registering a gun (photo-ids or not) have with concern of gun crimes, information about
1) how many gun crimes are committed by a registered gun being used by the actual registered gun owner
2) how many gun crimes are committed by a registered gun being used by someone other than the registered owner
3) how many gun crimes are committed by a non-registered gun being used by a non-registered person.
If (2) is higher than (1), does that mean at first the police are chasing the wrong suspect?
If (3) is a higher number than the others, may be too much money is being spent on the current system.
They've really stretched the definition of "graven image" if they are applying it to drivers license photos.
The contextual verse (one of the ten commandments) was a prohibition against creating or worshiping idols.
Part of the confusion may stem from "man created in God's image" mythos. It's pretty egotistical to assume that any 'being' capable of creating the entire universe (from the incredibly large 15 billion light years to the infinitesimally small) might even resemble a modern human being. What hubris!
A "strawman" is an old english expression for a person who will bear false testiment in court for a fee.
Back a couple of centuries ago courts in England would have men standing outside with a piece of straw readily apparent on their apparel (hence strawman). For a negotiated fee they would go into the court as a witness to either say "That's im gov I sawed him wiff mine own eyes" for the prosecution or "He was at the old cock-n-crow with me having 'is one over the eight" for the defence.
The Judges must have known what was going on as the same men would appear many times in one day in different cases.
"Do the Amish think the camera will steal their soul?"
Probably not, but for Identity Theaft a photo sure is handy...
Maybe they are just ahead of the times on this one 8)
How about, you don't need photo ID to buy a gun, but you do need the ID for ammunition. Your Constitution may give you the 'right to bear arms' but it doesn't mention anything about firing them.
More seriously, we've pretty much got a total ban on privately held firearms in the UK, but somehow crims still manage to get hold of them.
"More seriously, we've pretty much got a total ban on privately held firearms in the UK, but somehow crims still manage to get hold of them."
So you're saying that criminals break the law? Unbelievable! There should be a law against it.
@Nobody you know
"3) To enable the people to-- if it ever becomes necessary and we hope it doesn't-- violently overthrow the government if it becomes opressive."
With light firearms? Or even some combat-grade weapons? Have you looked at what the police have on hand these days? And the Army (hint: PATRIOT ACT trumps Posse Comitatus)?
As for religious reasons to not have one's picture taken: I can't wait for the spaghetti monster church to say something about this.
What is the photograph for?
Why does the state need to have photographs of honest people who legally buy guns at licensed gun shops?
When concidering security you must always question the assumptions. In the case of the USA the population supports the private ownership of guns and is prepared to put up with the 15,000 gun related deaths that occur each year.
So, why require a photograph? Society approves of gun ownership despite the problems it causes, but it wants to maintain an incomplete identity database of those who have bought guns. Why?
I just wish someone would write an ammendment protecting the right to drive cars. Then we could argue about how requiring a driver's licence and registration is an attack on freedom.
On topic- perhaps they just need to formalize the current process. If the neighbor knows and trusts the religious person enough that they are willing to have their own name linked to the gun, that's good enough for me. Trust by proxy.
Seems like the 'insurgents' in Iraq are doing pretty well with primarily light firearms.
In the case of a hypothetical revolution it would be very difficult for the military and police to bring their big guns into play because the people wielding them would be asked to use them against their own neighbors, possibly even their own extended families. That's a recipe for massive demoralization and probably frequent mutinies.
So, do not underestimate the effectiveness of light firearms in the right context.
At least in America, the government is not authorized to rule on the correctness of a religious belief. As long as the belief is held as consistently and sincerely as more conventional beliefs, it falls under the protection of separation of church and state. Admittedly, allowing an Amish person to purchase a gun without a photo id is a loophole big enough to drive a truckload of terrorists through.
I think what's effective in Iraq is not so much light firearms as IEDs. The opperative word being 'improvised'.
When studying martial arts years ago, I was told that many Japanese martial arts weapons are improvised from farm implements from the Japanese occupation of Okinawa, when 'weapons' were banned.
The right to own guns aside, I'm not concerned with my ability to revolt if I need to. I can find plenty of ways of being revolting without a gun.
According to the numbers at icasualties.org, US deaths due to IEDs are about 1260 out of 3245 or roughly 39%. Presumably the other 60% are primarily due to bullets. I could not easily find numbers for overall casuality rates.
Some of the other 61% could be from non-improvised explosive devices, e.g. RPGs.
"As for the "Anonymous" people asking why Americans aren't free without guns, we inherently do not trust our government; nor should we."
A (gross) generalization which helps explain cultural differences between US and Europe with respect to laws and privacy issues:
-Americans don't trust goverment
-Americans trust businesses.
-Europeans trust their goverments.
-Europeans do not trust businesses.
I stand corrected as to cause of US soldiers' deaths in Iraq.
I still feel that light firearms won't be the deciding factor in the next revolution. Information will. In fact, it may always have been. Maybe I'm a naive liberal raised on Ben Kingsley's Ghandi, but I think a revolution succeeds by winning the hearts of a critical mass. Granted, it helps early on if a large proportion of your critical mass have guns as part of their profession.
So back to security- is a government more secure if it takes away its citizens' guns so they can't revolt? Or less secure because those citizens feel they have a reason to revolt?
-Americans don't trust goverment
-Americans trust businesses.
-Europeans trust their goverments.
-Europeans do not trust businesses.
-Canadians trust both their government and businesses.
Australians don't trust business or government. (but don't tend to have guns)
>Admittedly, allowing an Amish person to
>purchase a gun without a photo id is a
>loophole big enough to drive a
>truckload of terrorists through.
No it's not.
Maybe a horse drawn buggy, but I digress.
First, why bother buying guns for a "terrorist" legally? Just go see your friendly neighborhood drug dealer or urban gang.
Second, if you don't live in a Amish community and someone comes up to you and says, "You don't have to see my ID, I'm Amish" DON'T SELL TO HIM. There is still responsibility to be exercised by the store in whether they believe something is hinky.
No rural areas in Europe? I guess you've never been there (probably never left your state at all).
The reason photo IDs have no meaning for gun purchases, is that it's far too easy to buy a gun in the first place. In Europe, and even in Israel, in order to own a gun, you have to know how to use it, and have a justification for your ownership. Having far less guns around makes the black market empty, thus making everyone safer. Making sure gun owners know how to use them, prevent accidents which are far too common in the US. A Columbine never happened in Europe nor in Israel.
If people in Israel can live their lives without a gun (apart from reserve duty), so can any American redneck. Need a gun for a specific use? No problem. Get a license for it (naturally with photo ID). Then, a straw-man should rightfully go to jail, for giving an incompetent person a gun.
Your civil war has ended 142 years ago. Get over it.
The Amish are sincere pacifists, I doubt they'd use a gun to protect themselve, but they do need guns for hunting. They
are subsistence farmers living in fairly isolated areas. Of course they hunt - it's a recreational activity as well as a way of getting meat at lower cost than raising livestock. (That is, it's lower cost if you're fairly good at hunting and don't have to travel far away to hunt.)
Mennonites are not Amish. The Amish are not subsistence farmers; they farm for a living like most farmers. They don't necessarily live in isolated areas; ever been in Lancaster Co. PA? They are not adverse to technology, either. I've seen farm machinery drawn by a horse but activated by an internal combustion engine. And they have become adept at using compressed air to power farm machines. The phone in a booth by the side of the road or similar place is a compromise which allows the farmer quick access to a vet, etc. but keeps it away from the house.
What they are trying to do is to restrict access to the outside world, (no phones near the house, no mains electricity for radio or tv, no tractors with rubber tires that could be used for road transportation) and to promote social activity within their own group only.
It is the local bishop who decides what is allowed or not allowed.
To "Someone totally different": don't know if you were responding to my note (I was, in turn, responding to the guy from the Netherlands), but if so, I hope you'd read more carefully.
Number 1, at no point did I suggest that people should not register their guns, I was merely explaining why some people in the United States might want them. I personally am all for gun registration.
Number 2, I observed that there are larger remote rural areas than in much of Europe-- I certainly didn't say that there aren't any rural areas in Europe! To understand what I mean, consider that the total area of the Netherlands (the country the person I was responding to claimed to be from) is roughly 42,000 sq. km with a population of about 16.5 million, and compare it with the total area of a U.S. state such as Nebraska with a total area of about 200,400 sq. km and a population of about 1.7 million. It is obvious that Nebraska's area of low population density is much more expansive than that of the Netherlands. (The largest metropolitan areas in the Netherlands and Nebraska are roughly equivelent in terms of population size-- though the greater metro area of Omaha is a bit smaller than Amsterdam's.)
Oh, and one other thing for "someone totally different": there have indeed been school shootings similar to Colombine in Europe, for example consider the school shooting in Germany in 2002-- the shooter was a former student who had been expelled.
Note that 18 people were killed in the Erfurt school shooting, vs. 13 in the Columbine shooting. Not that anyone is counting.
The mennonite church hides behind many masks. In Elkhart Indiana the mennonite church wears a mask calling themselves Oaklawn "a mental health center." They suck up government funding to further their cult/sect induction. Once a person is refered say by the probation department they are ordered to attend meetings at this incognito religious organization. I say you can't have it both ways if you can't have your picture on an i.d. don't suck on the government fund nipple.
"A Columbine never happened in Europe nor in Israel."
Have you ever heard of the Dunblane massacre? I believe that was in Europe.
Part of being free is having the ability to defend myself and that's why the system is setup the way it is in the US. When you have a system where the govt decides who has the right to own a gun then you aren't free you are subject of the government and can have whatever "rights" you think you have taken away from you at the whim of whoever is in power at the time.
To all the anti-gunners....
There's a reason why the 2nd Amendment is second, the only thing more important is free speech. The founders of the USA understood something about oppressive governments.
Also, the 2nd Amendment is about more than guns, it's about "arms". There may be a time in the future when the government wants to consider software an "arm". So all you anti-gunners, be careful what you wish for. You have a legitimate reason to run Linux, right?
@GunFreak, Wim L:
I don't have complete figures for the breakdown, but several sources note that 20~25% aren't even combat related, so it cannot be 61% by small arms.
The following site:
lists ALL Coalition deaths together with (in most cases) cause of death, so I decided to take the first 50 as being a suitable random sample. (Obviously 50 is too small to get accurate %ages, but it should give some ballpark figures.) Some were too vague to categorise, so I had to go to the first 65 to get 50 causes of death. This may bias the sample slightly because in about a third of those cases the description hints at small arms fire, but isn't quite clear enough.
Anyway, for 50 randomly selected casualties, the breakdown is:
* Enemy action (62%):
** Roadside IED: 34%
** All other IED and mines: 10%
** Small arms: 10%
** Mortars: 4%
** Plus 2% each (1 person) for: ground vehicle accident in combat (not as a result of enemy weapons), and RPG
* Not enemy action (38%):
** Vehicle accident (ground or air): 18%
** Non-vehicular accidents: 10%
** Accidental fratricide: 4%
** Plus 2% each (1 person) for: murder, heat stroke, and house fire.
@Anonymous from the Netherlands:
"Here (in the Netherlands), it is extremely difficult to buy a gun. Only law enforcement and professional hunters can own guns,"
Erm, nonsense. If you are going to lecture other people about their gun laws (not a very productive habit on the internet...), you should at least know your own. Private citizens in the Netherlands need to be a member of a club to own firearms, but they do not need to be professional shooters and the clubs do not need to be hunting clubs (most are actually target shooting).
"And you know what? I think we feel safer than most americans."
Perhaps you do, and with reason; murder rates in the Netherlands are lower than in the USA. But the big question is "why"? There is no simple pat answer like "because it is harder to get guns". If that were the reason, then Amsterdam would be safer than Rome, as the Italians have ten times as many guns per capita as the Dutch. But Amsterdam is not safer than Rome, it is far more dangerous, by a similar ratio to that between Amsterdam and the worst American cities. (And people "feel" that Rome is a high crime city; funny, huh?) This in itself proves nothing, except that pat answers are useless except for starting arguments.
I am a women that goes to the mennonite church in WILLOWS, CALIFORNIA and I love being there with the family people and the word of God.
They live out of town and I am a little ways away from town and I have ways of getting there but they have to drive out of town to pick me up and then out of town to bring me back.
I have had 4 brain surgries and can't drive myself around.
I am trying to see if I would be able to get a horse and buggy that I would be able to ride to church on each Sunday. I want to ALWAYS be in church and just thank you for seeing this. :-)
PLEASE let me know if there is any way at all that I can get a horse and buggy to get around and head to Church each days that the doors are open.
THANK YOU so much.
Someone please give me a crash course on Mennonites: I'm moving to Willows, CA next week.
Bad: buttons, zippers, photo id
good: horses, buggy, church, internet access/computers (per Angel4god on this site)...
How do you OK internet but not a button?
I'm confused - not trying to be an jerk - just want to know what's up in case I ever run into a Mennonite and don't want to offend them - thanks
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