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Federal Gun Control Requires IT Overhaul 436

Posted by Soulskill
from the give-me-back-my-stapler dept.
New submitter Matt Slaybaugh writes "John Foley at InformationWeek has an editorial saying that the missing piece in the new gun control legislation is adequate data management. 'President Obama introduced 23 executive orders on Jan. 16 aimed at reducing gun violence through a combination of tougher regulation and enforcement, research, training, education and attention to mental healthcare. Several of the proposed actions involve better information sharing, including requiring federal agencies to make relevant data available to the FBI's background check system and easing legal barriers that prevent states from contributing data to that system.' But concrete plans are needed now to improve the current poor system of data collection and sharing. Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel's Digital Government Strategy, introduced in May, 'defines an IT architecture and processes for sharing digitized content securely, using Web APIs and with attention to protecting privacy. ... Unfortunately, on top of the data quality issues identified by the White House, and the FBI's and ATF's outdated IT systems, there's a lack of transparency about the systems used to enforce federal gun-control laws.'"
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Federal Gun Control Requires IT Overhaul

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  • Shocking? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Feyshtey (1523799) on Friday February 01, 2013 @01:20PM (#42762419)
    Is it any surprise that the Federal govt. has knee-jerked and not thought through the repercussions, or the real-world applicability of their solutions?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DanTheStone (1212500)

      Is it any surprise that the Federal govt. has knee-jerked and not thought through the repercussions, or the real-world applicability of their solutions?

      Is that what you think this is? It seemed to me that it was a solution waiting for a sufficiently heart-wrenching problem, like how they doubtless have all the "Cyber-Patriot Act" stuff just waiting for an opportunity (Rahm Emanuel crisis style).

      • Re:Shocking? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Friday February 01, 2013 @02:08PM (#42762983)

        "Is that what you think this is? It seemed to me that it was a solution waiting for a sufficiently heart-wrenching problem, like how they doubtless have all the "Cyber-Patriot Act" stuff just waiting for an opportunity (Rahm Emanuel crisis style)."

        Exactly. Not to mention that we have the Constitutional question to deal with.

        What good is it to make it easier for states to share information, if the states don't want to do it? Several states now have exercised their ability to legislatively "nullify" unconstitutional Federal gun laws. More will follow, the higher-handed the Feds get.

        I know this is hard to swallow, but the founders of the U.S. did not give the Federal government -- including the Supreme Court, which is part of the Federal government -- the power to decide what its own powers are. As James Madison laid out very clearly in 1800, even the Supreme Court is not immune to power-grabbing, and trying to give the Feds more power than explicitly spelled out in the Constitution. Therefore (according to Madison and other founders), the ultimate authority to decide when the Federal government is exceeding its power lies with the States. The States created the Federal government, therefore the States are the masters of their creation... not the other way around.

        Lots of people seem to forget that the Supremacy Clause only refers to laws passed "in pursuance of" the other powers enumerated in the Constitution. Federal laws passed that are not in pursuance of those powers are (Thomas Jefferson's words): "of no force, null and void". Not actually law, at all.

        Not to mention that executive orders are merely instructions for Federal employees, also not law, in the sense that they have no power to tell common citizens what to do.

    • by capnkr (1153623) on Friday February 01, 2013 @01:29PM (#42762527)

      Is it any surprise that the Federal govt. has knee-jerked and not thought through the repercussions, or the real-world applicability of their solutions?

      Perhaps through our better handling of data management these days the War on Guns will prove to be as successful and as effective as the War on Drugs has proven to be.

      • Unauthorized (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fyngyrz (762201) on Friday February 01, 2013 @02:11PM (#42763045) Homepage Journal

        the War on Guns will prove to be as successful and as effective as the War on Drugs has proven to be.

        And also, just as unauthorized.

        Prohibition WRT alcohol required a constitutional amendment. Marijuana, for some magical reason, did not. Why? I mean, other than government out of control? Where did this magical power to step on our liberties come from?

        The 2nd amendment is explicit: The government is forbidden from infringing upon our right to keep and carry arms. They are engaged in applying unauthorized power to the citizens with every law that infringes on the right to keep and carry arms, of which there are a huge number.

        Any law that interposes licensing, restrictions on carrying (whether open or not), or restricts any particular arm, is completely outside the scope of the government's legitimate authority.

        The constitution is the highest law in the land. The government is engaged in breaking that law.

        Welcome to government by fiat.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by NeutronCowboy (896098)

          I'm sorry, but you're missing out on three things: one, the full second amendment includes a bit about a militia. You don't get to ignore parts of the constitution you don't like. Two, we're already restricting what arms can be carried. Or do you think you can just get a fully-automatic weapon, or an anti-tank missile? Three, licensing is not the same thing as a ban. Yes, it is a restriction, but only at the dictionary level. I hope you understand context.

          Man, I know you're one of the more level-headed post

          • Re:Unauthorized (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Obfuscant (592200) on Friday February 01, 2013 @04:47PM (#42765163)

            the full second amendment includes a bit about a militia. You don't get to ignore parts of the constitution you don't like.

            And you don't get to ignore simple English when trying to eviscerate basic rights. The clause about the militia is an explanatory clause, not a regulatory clause. I.e., it explains one reason (but not every reason) why the right that is specified in that amendment is important. It doesn't say "the right of militia members to keep and bear ...", it says "the right" unqualified.

            And when talking about the militia, in the day that was written, "the militia" meant, essentially, everyone.

            Or do you think you can just get a fully-automatic weapon, or an anti-tank missile?

            Actually, from your comment about the 2nd amendment applying only to a militia member, those are exactly the kinds of weapons that should be protected by the 2nd amendment. In any case, yes, according to a prima facie reading of the 2nd amendment, there is no limit on the arms with respect to automatic or semiautomatic, or size.

            Three, licensing is not the same thing as a ban.

            Licensing is exactly the same as a ban for anyone who fails to meet the arbitrary requirements for obtaining the license, and it is absolutely an infringement for everyone else.

    • by 0xdeadbeef (28836)

      Seriously. Executive leadership should know how to organize databases. THANKS OBAMA.

    • Is it any surprise that the Federal govt. has knee-jerked and not thought through the repercussions, or the real-world applicability of their solutions?

      Maybe the Federal Gov is sick of their IT departments sitting on their arses and keeping such outdated tech around. This is now a mandate to fix and upgrade things, and to do it now.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 01, 2013 @01:21PM (#42762431)

    Yeah, right.

    So when's Obama going to give up his armed Secret Service agents? Oh, wait. He's never going to do that.

    When's Rosie O'Donnell and other anti-gun celebrities going to give up getting "we're-special-and-you're-not" gun-carrying bodyguards? Oh, wait. They're never going to do that.

    But they sure as hell expect US to want to protect ourselves and our children with words that say "No guns allowed."

    And then call the people with guns AFTER something bad happens

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 01, 2013 @01:34PM (#42762579)

      Dianne Feinstein has a concealed carry permit. Or used to, when she carried a pistol in her purse. Now she has armed guards instead.

    • Who said those secret service agents and bodyguards aren't legal gun owners and wouldn't continue to be so afterwards, even if they end up using different guns?

  • Seems reasonable. License, permit and databases aren't infringement as the supreme court has found.

    • by oic0 (1864384)
      Infringe as per google: Act so as to limit or undermine (something); encroach on: "infringe on his privacy They've been infringing upon us for years, this is just even more infringement.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by buck-yar (164658)

        From Heller vs DC oral arguments:

        CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Well, that may be true, but that concedes your main point that there is an individual right and gets to the separate question of
        whether the regulations at issue here are reasonable.

        MR. DELLINGER: Well, the different kind of right that you're talking about, to take this to the question of -- of what the standard ought to be for applying this, even if this extended beyond a militia-based right, if it did, it sounds more like the part of an expansive publ

    • When you split a sarcastic statement between the title and the text of your comment, it's almost like an accidental(?) troll. But yep, if requiring a person be licensed to have a firearm doesn't violate the right of the people to keep and bear arms, then requiring newspapers, churches, assemblies of people, etc., to be licensed doesn't violate their First Amendment rights.

      And since the courts do in fact seem to be starting down that line regarding our First Amendment rights...the Second Amendment rights b

    • Seems reasonable. License, permit and databases aren't infringement as the supreme court has found.
       
      And if you want to criticize the government it is no problem. You will just have to apply for a license for a reasonable fee of $200 (like current class 3 gun permit), and be photographed, fingerprinted and entered into a database (as per Feinstein's bill). No infringement of the 1st amendment there, right?

  • There are no Executive Orders on this issue. The President does not have legislative power. And you cannot license a right.

    • by jonnythan (79727)

      Little known fact: the President is actually the head of the executive branch of government, which contains agencies such as the ATF and DOJ. And since he's the head of those departments he can set policy for those departments within the confines of their legislation!

      Mind = blown right?

      • by i.r.id10t (595143)

        Heck, Holder (and other heads of ATF and DoJ) make decisions that have the effect of law, banning importation of certain parts as "non sporting".

  • by the organization where the majority of internal web apps still have to target IE7 for compatibility.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 01, 2013 @01:40PM (#42762665)

    The real problem is not polution, corruption, gun-control, or any one specific issue. It is a matter of enforcement. I think at this point that if congress were to read through every federal law on the books that they would be unable to complete the read-through in a years time (not counting all of their vacations and holidays). If the current laws are not enforced how is creating more going to solve anything? There is an industry around creating new laws. This is wrong at a fundamental level. Coincidentally it is the same problem with the medical situation. There is an entire "medical-billing industry": middlemen paid to shuffle papers with no real gain for the people footing the bill.

  • Same old crap. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MaWeiTao (908546) on Friday February 01, 2013 @01:47PM (#42762731)

    The government needs to dump what they've got and start from scratch. But all I can say is good luck.

    They can barely set up a site properly, let alone build and manage a sophisticated database. Visit most government sites and they're a convoluted maze of poorly organized content. And federal government sites are halfway decent, state and municipal sites are many orders of magnitude worse. I can't comprehend how the companies that build that junk remain in business.

    Well, actually I can. I know people IT and web who've done work for my state and it's an absolute nightmare. It's the sort of thing that they've consistently said they'd never do again. I think the few willing to do it haven't so much figured out how to work through the red tape so much as exploit the system for personal gain. It doesn't help when you're dealing with government workers who are total incompetents, managing things they know nothing about. But as long as they look productive they don't have to worry about accountability.

    And that's part of the problem. You still have to deal with the human component. I know someone who was self-employed and struggling. Because of it he was eligible for free health insurance through the state so he applied successfully. There's no copay or anything because, as was explained to him by a social worker, even if they only charged a dollar most people on the program would still refuse to pay. The expectation is that it all should be free.

    So a year in he lands a decent job and is no longer eligible for the program. He gets in touch with the worker to cancel the plan. Over the next year he continues getting plan updates. They even switch providers for him. The state partners with various companies and over so often they have to switch providers. The user is supposed to pick a plan or risk cancellation. But apparently if you ignore all the paperwork they take care of it all for you. So here he was calling multiple times before they finally dropped him. Someone with fewer scruples could have milked the plan indefinitely. And in fact, I know of some people who've done just that.

    That's just one example. I have others. With this level of incompetence how can we expected any program to be implemented and managed properly? The existing program should already be addressing these problems. No one ever assess and analyzes. It's always that we need something even bigger and more complex couple to the idea that more money can fix any problem. Then when the next grand program fails they'll just start the cycle all over.

    I'm not suggesting we don't need an overhaul. I'm simply pointing out that it's almost certainly going to be a financial morass resulting in something no more effective than we've got now.

    • by Fnord666 (889225)

      The government needs to dump what they've got and start from scratch. But all I can say is good luck.

      You started out well but then I realized you were just talking about the IT stuff.

  • by SirGarlon (845873) on Friday February 01, 2013 @01:54PM (#42762815)

    I suspect the problem of establishing interoperability among the government agencies is harder than it sounds. The DoD has been working on getting their stovepiped systems to talk to one another for 20 years. Remember the big push after 9/11 to get all the first responders talking on the same radio frequencies? Hundreds of millions spent, and still no results. So "incompatible computer systems" doesn't sound to me like a minor hurdle that can be overcome with a couple years' R&D. It sounds more to me like "doomed from the outset."

    Possibly our best defense against Big Brother is that the government adopted all its major IT systems before the Internet was a household word.

    • I'm about to hit your "Paranoid" button. Look up "Fusion Center" in wikipedia.

      I've worked for a private data warehouse before, doing DB work, so I have a pretty good understanding of what they are doing. It's a huge data warehouse project funded by DHS, with weak (if any) oversight or guidance. There are at least 72 fusion centers in the US collecting and collating data on citizens and non-citizens alike.

      For a really nice scare, look for the YouTube video of Jesse Ventura trying to investigate these centers

  • by argStyopa (232550) on Friday February 01, 2013 @02:00PM (#42762865) Journal

    ....people who can make a pile of money from greater IT investment, advocate greater IT investment. /facepalm /news

  • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Friday February 01, 2013 @02:09PM (#42763013)
    Prosecutions for violating existing federal gun laws are down significantly under Obama. Joe Biden said that they do not have the time and manpower in order to pursue violations of the law on background checks. If the Administration does not enforce existing laws, why should we believe that any new laws will make any positive difference?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Congress has hamstrung the administration's ability to enforce existing gun laws. They've done everything they could to guarantee that the ATF is a permanently incompetent agency.

      • Right, the administration was hamstrung by Congress even though the Democratic Party controlled both Houses of Congress for two of Obama's four years so far and still control the Senate.
  • So if we want to stop Obama's diktats, all we have to do is prevent IT companies from bidding on the contract? If Rahm Emanuel can sit around and tell banks to stop doing business with gun manufacturers, then why can't everyone else tell IT companies not to do business with the Federal Government in regards to firearms?

  • by Okian Warrior (537106) on Friday February 01, 2013 @02:38PM (#42763425) Homepage Journal

    I just wanted to point out some really obvious things

    There is an wide chasm between "Non compos mentis" [wikipedia.org] and "mental health issues". Note that the 2nd term isn't "mental health disorder" it's "mental health issues".

    How will "mental health issue" be defined for this purpose? Is a prescription for antidepressants sufficient for gun confiscation, or does it require a diagnosis of an actual disorder [google.com]. Will a judge be involved in the ruling, or will the police make the determination? Will it be "confiscate first, check later"?

    Will a doctor's word - patient "X" is on antidepressants - be sufficient for the police to come and confiscate arms? Will the confiscation last forever, or can a person be deemed "cured" and get their guns back? Will this cause people to hide real mental health issues for fear of having their property confiscated?

    Many people with "mental health issues" have broken no law. This means the government will be taking away the rights of a group of people based on a warm-fuzzy "it seems like the right thing to do" attitude. We could just as easily restrict blacks from having firearms because blacks commit more crimes than whites [yahoo.com] in this country.

    People make a lot of hay over the "social contract". It turns out that our ancestors made a social contract which was explicitly put down on paper and said that you could have your centralized government so long as the people can keep guns.

    You cannot break that contract directly, you have to change the constitution to do it - that's the rules, and everyone has to abide by them. If you don't believe in the constitution, then the social contract is null and void, and we might as well do away with the federal government.

    And where is state governance in all this? What if some states (Texas comes to mind) simply don't want to restrict gun control in this manner? The constitution explicitly states that the federal government can't take this right away.

    And finally, you know that this will be abused by law enforcement to extreme levels. Cops will be grabbing guns off of everyone they see claiming "well, he looked like he had mental health issues". Prosecutors will dig up any thin hint of a mental health issue to justify keeping the guns, and no one will be able to get their property back - ever.

    This whole issue is a train wreck waiting to happen. Especially since, given the statistics, it will cause more children to be hurt (on average) than relaxing restrictions.

    • I just wanted to point out some really obvious things

      There is an wide chasm between "Non compos mentis" [wikipedia.org] and "mental health issues". Note that the 2nd term isn't "mental health disorder" it's "mental health issues".

      How will "mental health issue" be defined for this purpose? Is a prescription for antidepressants sufficient for gun confiscation, or does it require a diagnosis of an actual disorder [google.com].

      Great question.

      As an example, my wife takes Trazadone, an anti-depressant, as a sleep aid. Would she (and myself, since we co-habitate) be barred from owning a gun because she's "on an anti-depressant," even though mental health isn't the reason she takes it?

      The slope is slippery indeed.

  • ...protecting ourselves from extremely rare occurrences that affect a very small percentage of the population as a whole, but that isn't how we do things in the US unfortunately.

  • by Kr1ll1n (579971) on Friday February 01, 2013 @05:27PM (#42765569)

    Right?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9fVABaWkAM [youtube.com]

    The linked video talks about the Battle of Athens in the 1940's. This is where a corrupt government was manipulating elections and had local law enforcement on a pay per ticket and arrest structure. The federal government's assistance was requested for election oversight, which was denied, on numerous occasions.

    Maybe a tyrannical federal government is not a concern for some, but if it can happen in a state, logic dictates it can happen in any government body.

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