What Information Are Stun Guns Recording?

In a story about a stolen Stradivarius violin, there's this:

Information from a stun gun company, an anonymous tip and hours of surveillance paved the way for authorities to find a stolen 300-year-old Stradivarius violin in the attic of a Milwaukee home, police said Thursday.

[...]

Taser International, the maker of the stun gun used in the attack, "provided invaluable information" that the FBI tracked down in Texas and ultimately led police to Universal Allah, a Milwaukee resident, Police Chief Edward Flynn said Thursday.

The criminals stunned a musician as he was leaving a show at church, and drove off with his multimillion-dollar violin. What information could the stun gun company give the police that would be invaluable? Is it as simple as knowing who purchased the weapon, which was dropped at the scene? Or something weirder?

EDITED TO ADD (2/18): This may be it:

As the Milwaukee Police and the FBI began to conduct the investigation they reached out to us at TASER in order to identify possible suspects in the case. This was accomplished thanks to our Anti-Felon Identification tags (AFID). The AFID program enforces accountability for each use of a TASER device. This system releases dozens of confetti-sized markers upon discharge of a CEW cartridge. Each AFID contains a serial number that tracks back to the original purchaser of the cartridge. The large number of AFIDs and their small size makes it impractical to clean up. Therefore, law enforcement can pick up one AFID and contact TASER International for a complete trace on the serial number.

At the time of purchase, we verify the identity and background of the prospective buyer with the understanding that we will not release the information and it will be kept confidential unless a TASER device is used in the commission of a crime. This information proved invaluable during the investigation on the Stradivarius violin. "We worked very closely with TASER International who provided us invaluable information that the FBI was able to track down for us in Texas," said Chief Flynn, "That information led us to an individual who had purchased this device."

Posted on February 18, 2014 at 8:30 AM • 54 Comments

Comments

Jason SewellFebruary 18, 2014 9:49 AM

If the device was in fact a TASER, the following applies.

https://www.taser.com/images/support/downloads/downloads/mk-inst-x26c-001_rev_a_x26c_manual.pdf

"Every time a TASER Cartridge is deployed, at least 24 small confetti- like AFID tags are ejected. Each AFID is printed with the serial number of the cartridge deployed, allowing law enforcement agencies to determine the registered owner of the cartridge and track citizen use if ever used in a criminal act."

JimFebruary 18, 2014 9:53 AM

The cartridges on a Taser International device are filled with about 100 microtags, like the paper circles that you find after you punch holes in paper, but much smaller. Each one has the serial number of the cartridge. They are ejected when the device is fired, and because of their size and number it is very difficult to retrieve them all from a scene. The cartridge is tied to the scene and the purchaser to the cartridge by this chain of evidence.

RSaundersFebruary 18, 2014 9:58 AM

In addition to the cartridge chad, the Taser device has an accurate clock and internal log of firings and shocks delivered. Some models also include video recordings of their use. It's unclear what model was used, but the information available might be significant.

The reason for these features is to protect law enforcement users against brutality claims by providing independent evidence of the actual use made of the device. There's even a form on Taser.com for requesting expert assistance in analysis of this information.

R ForemanFebruary 18, 2014 10:03 AM

..or.. could've just been a serial number on the taser that was dropped at the scene. The company might just record the owner's name when they buy one of these guns.

Knott WhittingleyFebruary 18, 2014 10:25 AM

According to Maddow, they just read the code on the confetti and asked the Taser people who the purchaser was. They didn't have the Taser itself to do any fancy forensics on. They guy apparently had no idea Tasers leave ID at the scene.

And for what it's worth, his full name is Universal Knowledge Allah.

JoshFebruary 18, 2014 10:39 AM

I learned about AFID from an episode of Bones. I'm surprised Bruce didn't already know about it.

Birch ThompsonFebruary 18, 2014 10:53 AM

So... just hold the Taser in a plastic bag when using so as to catch the tags? [also masks fingerprints]

vas pupFebruary 18, 2014 11:53 AM

@Birch Thompson. Only test could prove viability of your idea. May be ask 'Myth Busters' to conduct test on cable TV.

Dave HeldFebruary 18, 2014 12:08 PM

I hate to be pedantic, but please distinguish Tasers (trademark), which shoot darts and thus work at a distance, from "stun guns", the obviously inaccurate name applied to shocking devices which don't shoot anything and thus require direct skin contact to work.

Michael BradyFebruary 18, 2014 12:15 PM

Birch,

"...just hold the Taser in a plastic bag when using so as to catch the tags?"

In case you're not joking, the confetti is ejected from the same cartridge and along the same axis as the probes and their wires are propelled.

Mr. CleanFebruary 18, 2014 12:51 PM

ProCrimeTip #2: Always take your battery-operated "Dust Buster" with you so you can vacuum up all the AFID tags after you commit the crime.

ThomasFebruary 18, 2014 12:59 PM

@Martin Schröder
Could someone please develope this for real bullets and make it mandatory?

Hollywood would object strenuously because it would make the average action-movie shoot-out look like a ticker-tape parade.

The confetti would likely be banned on safety grounds (like at weddings) because it could get into someone's eye and cause a nasty law-suit.

AnuraFebruary 18, 2014 1:32 PM

@Martin Schröder

"The constitution says nothing about bullets..."

If you want to get technical, it says nothing about guns either, just bear arms (which I'm guessing refers to the forelegs). Either way, there would be nothing in the constitution preventing requirements that guns stamp cartridge cases with an identifier either. It's still a half measure, however, as guns/ammo can be modified/hand-loaded or simply stolen so as to render them useless.

AlexFebruary 18, 2014 1:33 PM

So kids, just make sure you use someone else's taser cartridge or buy one on the black market -- that'll fix that "security" feature.

/just about as useless as checking IDs at TSA checkpoints....No one's ever had a fake ID before, right? But I'll save that discussion for another day.

Milo M.February 18, 2014 2:04 PM

@Martin Schröder:

www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-smith-wesson-microstamping-law-20140123,0,7131958.story

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-california-microstamping-gun-fight-20140124,0,1148569.story

Wikipedia article on microstamping (dates back to April 2006):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firearm_microstamping

Note that the identifying marks are placed on the cartridge casing (shell), not on the bullet.

It may be easier to clean up your shells after firing than to clean up all the microdots from a TASER.

DavidTCFebruary 18, 2014 2:04 PM

Could someone please develope this for real bullets and make it mandatory?

While making a gun eject the same tiny little flakes has not been suggested (Because that would have to be in the bullets, which doesn't really work well. It only works for Tasers because only TASER makes their cartridges, and you can't change them out yourself(1), so TASER knows what cartridge every Taser has.), what *has* been suggest is what is called microstamping.

Basically, you put a serial number on the hammer of the gun, so that when it hits the shell, it leaves an imprint of that number on the shell casing. These serial numbers would be registered to the owner.

Granted, picking up a shell casing is much easier than picking up the Taser confetti, but there's plenty of circumstances where it's not possible, or time consuming.

Incidentally, due to imperfections in the hammers, these marks already exists and can be matched if you have the casing and the gun, just like the imperfections in the barrel leaves marks on the bullet that can be matched...but the premise here is to register them in advance. Now, registering-in-advance could be done with the existing random marks, but that requires firing the gun and recording them, whereas if it's a *serial number* stamped on the casing you don't have to bother with that, you can just look up who owns a certain gun. (And before anyone suggests faking someone else's serial number, of course the police would *actually* match the still-existing imperfections, both on the bullet and casing, if this needed to be introduced as evidence.)

This feature, of course, has been strenuously objected to bun gun makers, because at this point the entire gun manufacturing industry is forced to operate in 'wingnut' mode due to declining amounts of people purchasing their guns, and thus has to object to *every* gun regulation, including ones that would only help solve crimes, like this one.

1) Which incidentally means the idea someone suggested, of only using stolen Tasers, a bit silly. Yes, if you wanted to steal a new Taser for every crime you committed, you could do that. Otherwise, no.

AnuraFebruary 18, 2014 2:30 PM

@DavidTC

There are other issues with the microstamping thing: 1) they are on easily replaced parts, that don't require a licensed dealer 2) it would only be effective with legal firearms, recently purchased in the state of California 3) the technology is patented and 4) it only works with semi-automatics, not revolvers.

Number 3 is the biggest by far, but either way the law is going to be costly and about as effective as every other gun control measure California has passed (aka completely ineffective).

Really, if you want to use gun control to reduce crime, nothing short of an outright ban (at the very least on Handguns) is likely to have much of an effect. We would be far better off if we tried to fix our social issues, but I don't see that one happening any time soon. I'm in that small category of people who don't support laws requiring firearm registration, "assault-weapons" bans, gun purchase limits, or wait period for purchases (except for maybe your first purchase), but do support handgun bans (although that would be unecessary if we solved our social problems).

It seems like national security and crime are very similar in this respect: if we put our efforts into solving social issues, both domestic and foreign, as opposed to covert ops, creating dozens of law enforcement agencies, military posturing, etc. then we would probably be a lot safer with a lot less crime. Unfortunatley, solving social issues is harder to profit off of; if your donors are defense contractors, you aren't going to work to make a world that doesn't require such a large military.

Matt from CTFebruary 18, 2014 3:21 PM

>Could someone please develope this for real bullets and make it
>mandatory? The constitution says nothing about bullets...

The Constitution says nothing about the internet, does freedom of the press not apply? Or does it apply but the Government could impose onerous and overwhelming fees to discourage the use of the internet for free speech?

Our are you just trying to impose the same vindictive, petty harassment that folks opposed to abortion try to take out on women to limit their exercise of constitutionally protected rights?

It is simply irrational to say the Constitution doesn't mention bullets so it's OK to ban them. It doesn't mention paper and ink, or electrons, either.

There's a good chance most rounds fired by civilians in the U.S. (the bullet is only the projectile, if a bullet is the style of projectile being used) are actually hand loaded by folks in the basement -- much cheaper and you're able to tune your ammunition to your firearms and conditions for maximum accuracy. Producing your own bullets and to a significantly lesser extent but possible gun powder is well within technical capabilities of a hobbyist. The brass cartridges can be reused many times. Primers are the most difficult and dangerous to produce, though I suspect if they were restricted you would see a movement to electronic firing systems (which would also eliminate the ability to "microstamp" from a firing pin, a system of highly dubious value other than as harassment of otherwise lawful gun manufacturers since it is likely the microstamp on the firing pin will be damaged by repeated strikes and not provide valuable information.)

And even if you imposed all those restrictions and created additional expense and inconvenience harassing the vast majority of gun owners who do not misuse their guns, we live in a nation where most gun violence is related to drug-financed gang wars fighting over distribution territories, gangs that deal in drugs like cocaine which the suppliers have been known to build submarines to sneak it into the country -- in other words, the criminals will quickly learn how to subvert such controls.

Take out the drug/gang violence, and we're talking about a nation that is on par with Canada and Finland for gun violence -- rates that have already fallen in half in the last 20 years. And that's pretty remarkable given the high rates of non-drug violence in Greater Appalachia and the Deep South -- take those 2 of Woodward's 11 Nations out of our statistics, we'd probably rank much, much lower still.

Jonathan WilsonFebruary 18, 2014 3:27 PM

Regarding micro-stamping (and suggestions that it should be compulsory with registration of the stamps to track down the owner of guns used in crimes), if I was a bad guy worried about micro-stamping, I would just use a nice revolver and not have to worry about shell casings.

Bauke Jan DoumaFebruary 18, 2014 3:37 PM

Felon is a citizen standing up for their rights. Gotta kill that.
Fellas: it's a war, the police are class defenders and you are
not on their LIKE list. So draw your conclusions, take names
(and share!) and kick ass yourselves.

bobFebruary 18, 2014 4:22 PM

Matt wrote:

There's a good chance most rounds fired by civilians in the U.S. (the bullet is only the projectile, if a bullet is the style of projectile being used) are actually hand loaded by folks in the basement -- much cheaper and you're able to tune your ammunition to your firearms and conditions for maximum accuracy.

That would surprise me. I always thought that most rounds fired in the US---indeed a majority of rounds fired---were .22 long rifle rounds. I don't think many people reload 22.

22LR now costs something like 15-20 cents/round. .308 at cabela's is something like $1/round.

bob
PS. I'm old. The "right" price for a brick of 22 is $5.00.

FajensenFebruary 18, 2014 4:27 PM

They could mix unique DNA sequences in the gunpowder or (better) the primers. Then the gun, the user, the bullet and the general area where it was fired would be tagged. Of course micro tagging with DNA is patented too, but, that patent must be running out soon.

BuckFebruary 18, 2014 4:41 PM

Interesting idea... Although, would you really want to unleash that large a scale of randomly engineered genetic code? Is there a chance that one such mutation could actually become competitive?

DavidTCFebruary 18, 2014 4:45 PM

@anura
There are other issues with the microstamping thing: 1) they are on easily replaced parts, that don't require a licensed dealer 2) it would only be effective with legal firearms, recently purchased in the state of California 3) the technology is patented and 4) it only works with semi-automatics, not revolvers.

#2 is not an issue with 'microstamping', it's an issue with *the lack of the law* everywhere. You can't say 'The problem with this law is that is not in force everywhere' as a reason for not having the law. That's completely absurd.

#3 is not an issue anymore. The process has been certified to be patent free as of last year.

And #4 is incorrect. The process *works* on revolvers, it's just that revolvers do not normally eject spent cartridges, so there's not much *point* of that. If you want to argue that microstamping is *pointless* for revolvers, that's fine and everyone agrees, and I'm pretty certain that the laws people are proposing do not include any weapon that doesn't eject cartridges anyway. (And if all this laws does is force criminals to move to revolvers, hey, that's a victory in itself. Revolvers generally have less bullets between reloads, you can't buy extended capacity mags, suppressor use is fairly difficult, and reloading is much much slower.)

And #1 is one of those imaginary problems. Yes, 'criminals' might, indeed, replace their firing pin. Just like they might file off the VIN on a stolen car, or wear gloves to avoid fingerprints.

And yet, those things are *immensely* useful to solving crimes, especially as the vast majority of unsolved gun crimes are caused by people without high levels of skill of knowledge.

And the same issue with the 'but they might just use stolen guns' argument. Even if *all* gun crime was with stolen guns, if this system was in place, you could link *a gun stolen from a certain place* with a different crime, which gives you much higher chance of figuring out the intersection of possibilities of the two crimes, and even if the gun has been transferred a few times, the possibility of working forwards to the other crime. Without a microstamp, you have no idea what gun it even *is* that committed the crime.

Marcos El MaloFebruary 18, 2014 4:58 PM

@Matt

You seem to be suggesting that the U.S. legalize all drugs, which is a great idea for a number of reasons I'd be more than happy to enumerate.

However, as I am sure you are aware, there is too much money involved on the Law Enforcement side of the equation. The War on Drugs is a big business and like most big businesses, they have plenty of lobbying power. Plus, "think of the children".

SkepticalFebruary 18, 2014 6:03 PM


Kudos to the company for taking steps to help hold those who misuse their products accountable.

Clive RobinsonFebruary 18, 2014 6:50 PM

Hmm, I'm surprised that nobody has stated the obvious about these microdot ID numbers,

    You only have to clean then up if they are there in the first place...

These devices are manufactured on a production line which means that their design will have been to reduce the cost of manufacture. Which in all probabilty means the mechanics have "slop" which in turn means the "anti-tamper" features are probably not that wonderful.

Which raises the question of,

    Just how difficult would it be to disemble the device clean out the ID tags and reasemble the device to be either ID tag less or to have blank or false number tags added?

Based on what is required to modify a replic gun to become one that will fire live rounds, and criminals do the conversion and sell them to other criminals... It begs the question of a "new market" in ID tag less devices opening on the priciple of "demand begets supply".

pfoggFebruary 18, 2014 6:57 PM

How long are the ID strings on the confetti? If you printed your own with random strings on fake confetti, how large a bag would you have to dump after firing before you got plausible deniability on the real ones from your taser?

BuckFebruary 18, 2014 6:58 PM

I would guess, difficult enough for the average criminal to be unable to justify it... Why go through all that trouble when a real gun is easier to obtain, easier to reload, more intimidating, and probably cheaper too!
Although, I suppose it wouldn't be too difficult for someone attempting an elaborate frame-up job...

George William HerbertFebruary 18, 2014 8:50 PM

The black powder and gunpowder taggants alter the burn behavior of the propellant. You can say "well, fine, just modify the amount of powder then" but cartridges are finely balanced, carefully adjusted mechanisms which assume powder behavior that's been standardized for decades. The results of mistakes or changes which aren't properly calibrated are explosions and injuries to users, most of whom will be innocent target shooters and police officers training.

People often say "Well, but then just decrease the powder load..." in response to that. Which unfortunately is as likely to cause explosions as overloading; empty space in the cartridge causes combustion instability.

No, not a good idea. Really. Figuring out new safe loads for new tagged powders would take a decade and billions and would likely kill more people in accidents than it would solve in murders.

SchneieronSecurityFanFebruary 18, 2014 10:46 PM

These items are called taggants and microtaggants. In Switzerland, they are required to be placed in explosives. There was a U.S. true crime investigation show that profiled a case where an explosive had killed someone in a parking lot. Under the microscopic investigation of the blast residue, the investigators were surprised to see small blocks with colored stripes about the size of a grain of pepper. This led to the bomber who purchased the Swiss explosives. Switzerland was and apparently still is the only country that requires the microtaggant technology.

Some companies are researching RFID taggants so that a particular item can be identified before its actual use.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taggant

AutolykosFebruary 19, 2014 3:43 AM

@SchneieronSecurityFan: You could also just *claim* to do it (and have a large public debate on it). That would probably lead to more home-cooking, which in turn at least weeds out the more stupid/inept/reckless criminals. (Ché claimed that about half of the people who try will blow themselves up in the first month, and the rest has learned proper caution and handling techniques by then and should be considered safe).

dandrakaFebruary 19, 2014 3:48 AM

@Alex, Clive Robinson:

This feature is not useless, it's just meant to catch the stupid. From a society and law enforcement point of view that is quite useful, as a lot (most ?) crimes are commited by induhviduals.

Of course, there are and will always be truly "professional" criminals who will know about these "anti-felon" measures and how to avoid them or even take advantage of them. But I would guess that, on balance, these features make us all safer, even if not by a big margin.

DavidTCFebruary 19, 2014 8:43 AM

@George William Herbert
The black powder and gunpowder taggants alter the burn behavior of the propellant. You can say "well, fine, just modify the amount of powder then" but cartridges are finely balanced, carefully adjusted mechanisms which assume powder behavior that's been standardized for decades. The results of mistakes or changes which aren't properly calibrated are explosions and injuries to users, most of whom will be innocent target shooters and police officers training.

Except that's not the reason we don't have taggants in that stuff. That's the modern excuse, but was not the reason when they actually were shot down, which was entirely different nonsense about environmental concerns and other random dumbness.

And that reason is pure nonsense.

For the obvious thing, *different companies use different formulations* of powder. It's not like there's some magical perfect formula for smokeless powder or gunpowder. There's plenty of ways to get the same 'powder behavior' with slight additives. And these formulations have, indeed, *changed*.

Secondly, perhaps that was a reasonable reason to implement them *slowly*, but, uh, all this was proposed 18 years ago, and certainly we could have incorporated them by *now*.

Except, of course, for the real reason the NRA managed to get the proposal shut down back in the 90s: Cost. It was estimated to add about 20% to the cost of powder. (And now, of course, in full wingnut-support mode, the NRA would oppose tagging on insane 'liberty' grounds, but they were somewhat less insane in the 90s.)

Oh, and I love that one of the reasons that the NRA cites taggants as being bad is that the taggant industry doesn't accept liability from them damaging guns. Firstly, duh, the taggant industry has no control of whether or not it's put in gunpowder correctly, or how well the gunpowder works afterwards, that would be akin to a wire manufacturer accepting liability because bare wires in your new house shocked you. Yeah, that's not really their fault.

But, more importantly, it is completely hilarious for the NRA to complain about industries not 'accepting liability for their products'.


All that said, taggarts in gunpowder would not be anywhere near the helpfulness of what Taser does, at least not for gun crimes. It is possible it's not actually worth it. (OTOH, we've done a lot of anti-terrorism measures that have a *lot* less usefulness and a *lot* higher costs.)

And if cost is the argument, it needs to be made *honestly*, not with nonsense about companies that change formulations of powder all the time, and put stuff in them all the time, suddenly and forever being able to do that with a certain thing.

Doug CoulterFebruary 19, 2014 1:01 PM

Taggants would simply create a black market in hand-loaded ammunition - the sort I make and shoot thousands of rounds a year - practice and shooting competitions. In case you didn't know, a single lb (smallest size sold, goes to 50 lb sacks) of smokeless makes one heck of a lot of pistol rounds. A "manufacturing lot" of powder might be thousands of pounds.

When was the last time an actual crime was committed with a black powder weapon? Haven't heard in the news about any at all, despite the gun-locks Massachusetts seems to think are needed on old muskets in museums.

Microstamping and other forensic measures have been tried in other states (MD comes to mind), and abandoned when after years - and millions of bucks spent - not one crime was solved by them.

Criminals are, erm, criminal - they don't follow the laws. They are savvy enough to buy a perfectly legal file if needed. Or an older gun, there are plenty out there.

You can kinda-sorta make an attempt to distinguish a brass or a bullet as having been fired from a particular gun, but within the same gun and across guns - which are constantly improving in uniformity (it's a selling point - quality) - it's more a case of he said, she said, in court.

Both bullet and brass take some damage in firing, particularly the projectile - and guns are close enough to the same that any decent defence lawyer could find another that a state forensics guy couldn't tell from the one in evidence. Precision is the name of the game here. Which means, heck, they're all alike these days.

Taggants have been known to be hard on barrels (the real danger with them is they might not be in the powder uniformly, and you get a load of all powder, or all taggant, more or less).

But really, what good is knowing the lot number of the powder that produces thousands of bullets per minimum purchase going to do anyone? 1 lb of Bullseye powder makes on the order of 2800 rounds of .38 (most often with hand-cast bullets that look like a splat after they hit - no info on them at all, really, other than the alloy constitution), and commonly, it's sold in 50 round boxes. Don't you need a little more specificity than that to be useful? What about the literally millions of lbs of untagged powder sitting around in old reloaders' shops?

The tool isn't really the problem, its the perp, and their reason to be a perp. I think we need more work on that, rather than trying to use tech to solve a social issue (I believe Bruce has mentioned the topic before, with the same outlook).

My guns must be the laziest there are. Not one has loaded itself, and jumped out of the case to shoot so much as a fly.

Doug CoulterFebruary 19, 2014 1:06 PM

Oh, forgot to add. .22 might be cheap for *you* (these days, it's kinda hard to find the brand/type you want at a decent price), but for me, it's one of the more expensive rounds.

Primers ~ 2.5 cents/ea
Powder ~ about the same, depends on the round.
Brass - reused, so a one time cost, mostly.
Bullets - recast from recycled lead from my range and elsewhere.
Reloading gear -expensive if you get the good stuff, once.

So, ~5c a shot from say .45 acp.

More for rifle rounds where you can't use the brass as many times, need more powder, and you have to use jacketed bullets @ around 20c each for the good stuff, a nickel for the cheapo. But dirt cheap army surplus...traceable to...the army.

You're better off looking for fingerprints on the brass, frankly.

hoodathunkitFebruary 19, 2014 1:53 PM

Gotta love it when the people who don't trust the government to not abuse surveillance powers (now proved) will put their lips to the same government's arse and trust it entirely for a different political reason.

anonymousFebruary 19, 2014 4:02 PM

"Martin Schröder • The constitution says nothing about bullets..."

The constitution doesn't say anything about (in alphabetical order): abortion, automobiles, aviation, computers, cryptography software, e-mail, gay sex, general purpose computing, heterosexual sex, the internet, radios, telephones, televisions, etc.

SamFebruary 19, 2014 7:08 PM

@DavidTC - when you (or anyone), proposes new gun regulations, it would be helpful if you could state:

A) What specific problem your solution is addressing?
B) How prevalent that problem actually is? i.e. are you solving a problem with no statistically meaningful rate of occurance?
C) What is the impact on lawful users? Kinda similar to type 1 & 2 errors, you must consider not just the "bad actor" rejection rate, but the "good actor" rejection as well.

Not that I have much hope, but perhaps this framework will help people think about new regulations a bit more rigorously.

Nick PFebruary 19, 2014 8:08 PM

@ Uh, Mike

"Firearms. Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and (now) Explosives.

Man toys."

If it's anything fun, there's always someone trying to fake, regulate, or ban it. ;)

AutolykosFebruary 20, 2014 4:37 AM

@hoodathunkit: Yeah, at least as a European I find it hard to understand that the right to bear arms (which is, at it's heart, a liberal issue) is mostly defended by American conservatives and mostly attacked by American liberals.
It pretty much only makes sense when you look at the sub-factions that make up the parties:

Conservatives are usually ban-happy and won't pass up a chance to tell people how to live their life, but they have to rely on the support of rural population. There aren't many farmers and hunters among them today, but the way of thinking is still prevalent and those people tend to see guns as tools and would get pissed if you harassed them for owning one (just like you would get pissed if some government tried to introduce licenses and background checks for laptops). Also, they're mixed up with market liberals and hardcore libertarians who don't trust the government in anything as soon as money is involved...

Your "liberals" on the other hand are mostly composed of what we'd call social democrats or socialists (which seems to be almost an insult on your side of the pond) and a bunch of Greens, both of which are pretty ban-happy in their own right. They also have more support in cities, where people think of guns as weapons only, leading to a very different perception. The small part of actual social liberals (who would oppose gun control on liberal grounds) is unable to influence party policy much, even they are sometimes divided about gun-control issues (but it's hard to completely separate them from the Greens), and there are usually issues they care more about than guns.

AutolykosFebruary 20, 2014 4:56 AM

@Sam: You're forgetting a pretty important criterion in your (otherwise very good) list:
D) How much will your solution help in practice? If it only has a low chance of working or won't do much good when it does, that might also be a reason to reject it.

With those four factors, you can calculate expected utility with or without the solution and base your judgment on whether expected utility with your solution is demonstrably higher than without. Doing nothing is always the option against which all others need to be measured first.

vas pupFebruary 20, 2014 4:18 PM

@Autolykos:"Doing nothing is always the option against which all others need to be measured first." Good point! You should always have base line to compare to.

JoshuaFebruary 20, 2014 9:00 PM

I'm not sure why folks are assuming that this type of tracking system isn't already incorporated into firearms. What did they think was inside the "hollow" of hollow point rounds? Candy?

Chuck FinleyFebruary 21, 2014 2:53 AM

Some people come here to examine security theater, some just embrace it. Set up a micro-tagging system and here is what happens year one;
1) Criminals use YOUR stolen id and credit card to purchase 5000 rounds then go on a killing spree, guess whos going to jail sucker. With the remainder of the allotment they leave it on the street and give it to Gangs.
2) You just created a new billion dollar illegal market for organized crime. They thank you by establishing overnight methodologies to steal data and then fixate batches of ammo to known bad and good guys from data leaks. You know, like the 100 million CREDIT CARDS that were leaked last month, you think the data on who is associated with what micro-tag ammo session ID cant or wont be leaked stolen and resold as forged to organized crime?
3) You are advocating for a technology that when abused by criminals will make victims of innocents and establish a ladder system for bragging rights for groups of thugs. You should not want this, it would be bad.

These kind of crimes of data theft and ID fixation happen everyday attacks on Banks and retailers and account management system are cracked quite frequently by session fixation.
What worse is that when the theft of credit cards has occurred, the affected company gets away with offering a year of credit monitoring when they should be offering a lifetime of credit monitoring.
The consequence of a stolen credit card is that you call your Bank and your not liable for any transactions. The consequence for theft of your tagged bullets would be hundreds of thousands individually in lawyers and investigators to prove you didn't murder some one and that you've been framed. Good luck with that!

If the data in your micro-tagging world state gets stolen, the buyers can blackmail and extort your average Joe or Jane to do ANYTHING they want by offering to frame them, by offering to call the cops and placing with planted evidence, our Jane or Joe at the scene of some crime. You had better have a 24x7 eye witness in your micro tagging world who can testify you were otherwise occupied.

But on the plus side, law enforcement would be able to make arrests more often with more reliable evidence than shoe leather detective work, we wouldn't want them to have to do a proper investigations as long as some one whos probably bad goes to jail, it would just more effort than we should expect of our law enforcers. Heck we could even get the NSA and FBI to corroborate that the evidence is as good as DNA.

This is a bad idea waiting to happen, lets not let it be so and pleeease think before you jump into new tech. Think before you type and try not to type while emotional or drunk or exhausted or hungry. Get some rest If this still seems like a good idea to micro-tag, I could recommend a set of community college courses starting with forensics, investigation, logic and critical thinking (especially being critical about your own thinking) after that if you still feel the same way about it, I'd recommend that you may need to give up your keyboards, retire from computing or publishing and get immediately into a field where your less likely to end up selling out your own family for security theater.

Remember one thing, you cant patch stupid. You cant patch gun violence with tech, guns are idiot agnostic, fingerprint scanners and taggents are not a patch for stupid. The only patch for stupid is branding the foreheads of idiots with the word STUPID and then not selling or allowing possession of guns by STUPID.

Wait that's the premise of the laws we currently have on the books and the branding is called felony convictions.

justiciumFebruary 24, 2014 1:07 PM

Chuck Finley

Reminds me of a short story by P.K. Dick about a robot that frames someone for murder by attaching samples of their hair, clothes, and saliva to the crime scene. Technology has progressed a lot since the early '60s: what makes you think such frame-ups aren't already taking place?

Google, in particular, seems to be pursuing a set of capabilities that would make this routinely possible.

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