Guns And American Culture Don’t Mean What You Think They Mean.

The Addison Gallery at Phillips Academy in Andover, MA is currently running an exhibition, Gun Country, comprised of photos, paintings, drawings and other visual artifacts about guns. The museum refers to this collection as showing ‘America’s fascination with the gun,’ but a staff writer for the art blog Hyperallergic, Seph Rodney, has decided that what this exhibition really shows is that “guns are a principal symbol of our sense of masculinity and power for our culture.”

addison            Even though it has become a watchword of the gun-control movement that America’s love affair with guns is a function of the degree to which our society is still controlled by power-hungry, white men (read: Donald Trump), I think that what Rodney is saying happens to be a load of crap. And the reason I say that is because if America’s socio-economic-political structures reflect the dominance of white males who use guns to symbolize their masculinity and strength, how come the rest of Western civilization isn’t also awash in guns?

Oh, I forgot. We are the only Western country where white men settled a whole frontier armed with their trusty six-shooters and Winchester repeating rifles, so guns play a special role in our culture and historical consciousness that they don’t play anywhere else.  Another load of crap.

In 1934, then-Attorney General Homer Cummings proposed the first piece of federal legislation to regulate the ownership of small arms, a bill which became law and is known as the National Firearms Act, a.k.a. the NFA.  Given the existence of the 2nd Amendment, Cummings wanted a law that would make it legal for Americans to own guns, as long as these weapons were not too dangerous for civilian use. Hence, the appearance of the NFA list of ‘prohibited’ weapons (machine guns, sawed-off shotguns, silencers and a few other things) which still exists today.

What is not generally known about the NFA was that Cummings initially put handguns on the ‘prohibited’ list. These particular products were then removed from the NFA list before the bill became law. Now it is usually assumed that the decision to let Americans have free access to handguns (thus creating the contemporary problem known as ‘gun violence’) was because of successful lobbying by the NRA, as well as the genuine love and devotion that our culture promoted regarding the existence and use of guns.  More crap.

The reason why the U.S. government didn’t disarm the civilian population in 1934, whereas other Western governments disarmed their civilian populations shortly after World War II by copying the NFA but putting handguns and semi-automatic rifles on the ‘prohibited’ list, is because America was the only industrialized country whose political system hadn’t been threatened by armed, mobilized, mass protests from the Left.  We were the only advanced country whose labor movement wasn’t tied to revolutionary Socialist and Communist political parties; we were the only advanced country which never suffered from violent, countrywide work stoppages and strikes; we were the only advanced country in which personal ownership of weapons wasn’t ever considered to be a threat to the security of the state.

What I find so funny and ironic about the dopes walking around with an AR slung over their shoulder and tell us that it’s the gun that keeps them ‘free,’ is that these are the same jerks who tell you that they need a gun to protect themselves from the ‘tyranny’ of government, except that the current government adopts and promotes social and economic policies which happen to be based on what that same government believes will be supported by the more guns = more freedoms crowd.

The first and last time a President believed that protestors outside the White House represented a threat to law and order was when the President was named Nixon and remember what happened to him. Now maybe the idiot in the Oval Office also represents a threat to the Constitution,  and if so, he’s a much bigger threat to the country than all the noise and nonsense coming from the NRA.

 

 

Advertisements

Is Kennedy’s Retirement A Win For The Gun-Rights Gang? I’m Not Sure.

Just when it looked like the storm that erupted after Parkland created the possibility of a shift towards more regulation of guns, the announcement was made today that Anthony Kennedy is retiring, which gives Draft-dodger Trump an opportunity to fill another SCOTUS seat. And since Trump has said again and again how much he wants everyone to be armed, or at least everyone who marches around with one of those ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ flags wrapped around their AR, he’ll probably nominate another pro-gun judge again.

kennedy              Not that Kennedy was such a staunch advocate for gun control. In fact, he was the 5th and necessary vote in the 2008 Heller decision which gave every God-fearing and law-abiding patriot the right to keep a loaded and unlocked handgun in their home. Note that when the city of Highland Park designated itself as being AR-rein, meaning that a town resident who owned an AR had to move somewhere else or sell the gun, Kennedy joined 6 other justices in refusing to hear an appeal of that case. So, the fact that Scalia was able to cobble together 4 other votes to dump the 1939 Miller precedent and detach handgun ownership from military service, doesn’t mean that a majority of the Court, even with a conservative replacement for Kennedy, would necessarily open the legal floodgates and let every cockamamie attempt to lessen gun regulations become a law.

On the other hand, Trump is such a jerk and a dope that for all we know, he’ll nominate Michael Cohen for the Court.  After all, I don’t think there’s anything in the Constitution which says that someone can’t be nominated who has been indicted, or convicted, or disbarred.  And when you stop and think about it, what better way could Trump demonstrate to his loyal, God-fearing base that he shares their complete hostility towards anything having to do with the practices and traditions of civil government or a government based on law?

Think I’m kidding?  I’m really not. And the reason I’m not kidding is that when you get right down to it, Gun-nut Nation’s increasing obsession with armed, self-defense, eliminating gun-free zones and teaching teachers how to use a gun resonates best with people who have decided that between gay marriage, LGBTQ rights, choice, and a few other loony, left-wing ideas like how vaccinations cause mental retardation, the best government is one that doesn’t exist at all.

And by the way, there are a lot of people out there who more or less share that point of view, or at least they take it seriously enough to believe that the only thing which stands between them and a complete breakdown of the social order is getting and keeping their hands on a gun.

Now I’m not saying that these folks represent a majority of Americans, nor do I believe that a New York Times reporter had his head anywhere other than up his you-know-what when he decided that the daily criticism of Trump was just making it easier for America’s Whiner in Chief to attend to the tasks at hand. In fact, without realizing it, Kennedy may have given the #resisttrump movement exactly the shot they need to show up in November and turn the Congress blue. After all, replacing Scalia with a like-minded jurist to keep the 5-4 conservative SCOTUS majority was a strong factor in bringing out the 2016 Republican vote. Why shouldn’t 2018 be a repeat in reverse?

Since the tragedy at Parkland, the gun violence prevention (GVP)  movement has certainly been out in front of the other side. Whether this energy could be sustained until November was a question in my mind, but the issue of replacing Kennedy could be exactly what the GVP needs. Because there is no issue which symbolizes the philosophical tilt of the Supreme Court more than the issue of gun ‘rights.’ Which puts our gun-control friends smack dab back in the center of the mid-term campaign. Which couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch.

Can We Use The 2nd Amendment To Regulate Guns? We Sure Can.

Today our friends at The Trace are marking the 10th anniversary of the Heller decision with an interview about the impact of the decision with Eric Segall who teaches Constitutional law at Georgia State. The gist of the interview is that while the NRA scored a major victory by getting the Miller decision reversed, gun-control advocates could also breathe a sign of relief because Scalia’s opinion still gave government broad authority to regulate guns.  And since Heller, the ability of the government to maintain its regulatory authority has been challenged again and again, but the basic ability of public authorities to decide whether guns are a risk to community safety has remained intact.

2A            Segall’s incisive and accurate comments notwithstanding, the post-Heller gun ‘rights’ discussion always seems to avoid what I consider to be the most important issue embodied in the text of the 2nd Amendment itself. The relevant text says: ‘the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Scalia’s 20,000-word majority opinion spends 19,950 words on a textual, historical and legal analysis of the words ‘keep’ and ‘bear.’ But his concern about how to define the word ‘arms’ covers only 50 words and wasn’t even mentioned by the minority opinions filed by Stevens and Breyer in the case.

The reason that Scalia didn’t spend any time discussing the meaning of the word ‘arms’ was that he and his Supreme Court colleagues all agreed that the 2nd Amendment referred only to weapons that are in common use today, which means that what are referred to as ‘weapons of war,’ i.e., military guns, aren’t covered by anything having to do with the 2nd Amendment at all. This is all well and good except for one little problem entirely ignored by the Court, namely, that most of the civilian-owned guns which are currently used both for self-protection as well as for committing gun violence happen to have been designed for the military and are still used by military forces both here and abroad.

The most popular handgun sold in the United States is manufactured by Glock, which was designed for the Austrian Army, and is now carried by American troops in the field. The gun which replaced the U.S. Army’s historic sidearm, the Colt 45 pistol designed by John Browning in 1907, is the Beretta 92, which is also a favorite handgun sold to civilians throughout the United States. Last year the Army phased out the Beretta 92 and replaced it with the Sig P320; the manufacturer celebrated the award by immediately making and distributing to wholesalers and retailers 50,000 units of the exact, same gun.  And by the way, the Colt 1911 pistol, which was the Army’s official sidearm for more than 60 years, has also probably been the single, most popular handgun ever to get into the hands of all those gun nuts who now have Constitutional protection to keep any non-military handgun in their homes.

The bottom line is that there is nothing in the Heller decision preventing public authorities from banning just about every, popular handgun model based on what the Heller decision actually says and doesn’t say. The one time that a public authority actually banned the ownership of a military-style weapon because it was too lethal to be kept around, was when the town of Highland Park passed a ban on AR-15 rifles after Sandy Hook, a move now being considered in other Illinois communities as well. The Highland Park decision was appealed up the judicial ladder but was upheld at the Circuit level and the SCOTUS refused to intervene. Less-restrictive bans on AR rifles in CT and NY have also been upheld.

For all the talk about how the gun industry has been exempt from consumer product review and protected from torts, when the issue of regulation turns on the lethality of their products, the gun ‘rights’ gang hasn’t done very well. When our friends in the gun-control community sit down to plot their strategies, they should keep this in mind.

The Gun Business Ain’t What It Used To Be.

Until Trump stuck his fat rear end on the chair behind the President’s Oval Office desk, the gun industry could count on three things: (1). a mass shooting from time to time; (2). a whine from Obama about how something had to be done; (3). an upsurge in gun sales. The only one of those three events which has continued into the so-called ‘administration’ of Trump is the first one. But neither Las Vegas, Parkland or Santa Fe has moved the gun sales needle to the right.  To the contrary, gun sales are not just down, they are staying down.

FBI              In May, total FBI-NICS checks were 1,983,346; the total for May 2017 was 1,898,840.  Hey – that’s not so bad, right?  Except for one little thing. The NICS phone bank isn’t just used for the over-the-counter transfer of guns from dealer to customer; it’s also used for license checks and re-checks, guns going in and out of pawn and private transactions between gun owners themselves. So the real number to watch each month is the percentage of monthly checks representing over-the-counter movement of guns, with the further caveat that as much as 40% of that number probably represents used guns.

Here: the bottom line: in May, for the first time since permit and license background checks were added to the monthly report (February 2016) the percentage of total checks for over-the-counter gun transfers dropped substantially below 50% of all calls to the FBI, and May-to-May transfer checks dropped from 926,516 to 841,583, down by roughly 10 percent.  Now let’s assume that of those 840,000 checks, perhaps 40% covered guns that had previously been sold and were now going out of gun shops as used guns.  Which means that the entire gun making industry moved less than 500,000 new guns into America’s private gun arsenal.

Now 500,000 guns isn’t exactly chopped liver, but when you consider that there are somewhere between 80 to 100-million gun owners throughout the United States, half a million guns isn’t such a big deal. And it’s certainly not a big enough deal to keep all those gun companies afloat who either started producing or expanded production during the heady days of the Obama regime. No wonder that Smith & Wesson’s stock has dropped from $30 to $12 dollars since the middle of 2016 and was actually down under $10 a share last month.  Ruger is doing better – during the same time-period its stock price has shrunk by 25 percent. But Ruger stock is closely held; they haven’t done what Smith did, i.e., rename the company to something called ‘Outdoor Brands’ with a subsequent price drop of the stock by only 50 percent.

By the way, for all the hot air and nonsense about Americans arming themselves because they can’t trust their government to provide for the common defense, the percentage of handgun background checks as a percentage of all gun background checks sits month after month at 60 percent. Now you would think that between Dana Loesch telling women that they should all be armed to Sean Hannity pimping for the United States Concealed Carry Association, that handgun sales would be bucking the downward sales trend. The whole notion of marketing concealed-carry is beginning to smell a little bit like the Edsel, if you know what I mean.

The gun industry has always had a basic problem, namely, that unless you like the noise and excitement of pulling the trigger and the thing goes – bang! – there’s simply no reason to own a gun. And worse, the damn things don’t wear out. So how does a consumer industry grow its profits when nobody really needs what they make plus the product’s obsolescence is fifty years or more? And into the bargain, we now have those fresh-faced high school kids popping up all over the place and saying that guns just aren’t hip or cool.

I think my gun shop is ready to be turned into a mini-mart.

guns for good guys  Buy it or read it on Amazon.

 

This Report Is A ‘Must Read’ For Understanding Violence Caused By Guns.

Last year the Hope and Heal Fund in California gave some dough to a media research group at Berkeley to look at how gun violence is discussed in the everyday media venues that most people view or read.  With all due respect to my friends in the gun violence prevention (GVP) public health research community, academic papers, particularly papers filled with data, statistics and charts, don’t get very far out into the average person’s daily life. The immense value of this report, on the other hand, is summed up by the report’s authors themselves who say, “the public’s understanding is significantly influenced by print, broadcast, and social media. Journalists set the agenda for the public debate about any issue by deciding which incidents they report (or don’t report) and how they choose to frame these.”

hope and healTo this end, the report looked at just about every news and opinion piece on gun violence in 41 English and Spanish newspapers published in California between October 15, 2016 and October 14 of the following year. They identified 3,815 articles about gun violence, randomly chose 128 which grouped into articles on guns an community violence (111), guns and domestic violence (64) and guns and suicide (53). You can download the entire report here.          What the Berkeley Media Studies Group found in a review of these articles and op-eds was that media coverage of this topic is most clearly driven by mass shooting events; when the Las Vegas shooting occurred on October 1, 2017 news stories that were running between 50 and 100 each day during the previous month spiked to over 300 stories on October 2nd and remained above 150 per day for the following week.

The second most common driver of media interest in gun violence is not, as you might suspect, the shooting event itself, but “because of an event in the criminal justice system, such as an arrest, a trial, or the discovery of a body by police.” This is a very significant finding because I always assumed that coverage of gun violence reflected the ‘when it bleeds it leads’ cliché which is always banded about. Not true, according to this report, with events in the criminal justice system representing the ‘trigger’ for community violence reports at least 80% of the time.

The researchers also divided an analysis of each article’ content into what they call ‘episodic’ on the one hand, ‘thematic’ on the other; the former representing a clear majority of all gun-violence reportage, the latter substantially less. What this means is that most of the gun-violence stories focus on the specifics of the event itself, whereas thematic (i.e., in-depth background discussions) are few and far between. The lack of context was, if anything, more noticeable in the Spanish-language press, whose stories focused almost entirely on describing specific events with little or no interest in explaining why something like gun violence occurs.

Because the media feels more comfortable talking about the ‘what’ rather than the ‘why’ of gun violence, the whole issue of how gun violence affects the broader community beyond the individuals involved in a specific act is rarely discussed or even mentioned as a media concern. Ditto the degree to which the gun industry comes in for any coverage about how its products and marketing may contribute to the illegal and/or inappropriate use of guns.

I have just given you the tip of the iceberg – the report is substantive, important and really needs to be read. The fact that a majority of Americans believe that a gun in the home is more of a benefit than a risk needs to be acknowledged and understood by the people and organizations who would like to see an end to the violence caused by guns.

This paper is an significant and necessary contribution to helping the gun-control community figure out how to effectively frame their narratives about gun violence.  I hope it will be read by all.

Tom Gabor – Focus on School Security Is Myopic.

While Floridians are understandably focused on the mass shooting in Parkland, American schools now experience one intentional shooting a week on school grounds.  Among G7 countries, the US has experienced 288 school shootings since 2009, whereas none of the other six nations has experienced more than two of these incidents.

santa feWhile enhancing school security is a legitimate short-term measure in keeping students safe, it falls seriously short of a comprehensive approach to the problem.  School attacks were exceedingly rare prior to 1992 and armed security, active shooter drills, and lockdown procedures, routine in public schools today, were unheard of prior to the 1990s. Thus, security vulnerabilities alone cannot account for the surge in school shootings, as schools now adopt far more security measures than in the past.

Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam has shown that 18-29 year-olds are becoming more disengaged from community life.  Their church attendance, involvement in public meetings and political activities have all declined sharply from the 1970s.  Young people spend more time alone than they did decades ago and more time using electronic devices than they do with family and peers.  Those experiencing some form of crisis are less likely to lean on the family, place of worship, or social organizations as their ties to these institutions are weaker.  Depression among the young has increased dramatically and there has been a 50 percent increase in suicide among 15-24 year-olds from 1999-2014.  This is the age group most at risk to commit school attacks.  There is a significant pool of alienated and depressed young people who may experience despair and act out violently following a precipitating event, such as expulsion from school, loss of a relationship, ostracism by peers, or bullying.

Coinciding with this trend toward increasing social isolation, has been increasing access to weapons designed for combat that can fire highly lethal, high velocity bullets rapidly and that, when equipped with high capacity magazines, can allow a shooter to discharge up to 100 rounds without reloading.  The Parkland (Fla.) shooter obtained his AR-15 legally when he was 18, despite numerous disturbing actions and calls to law enforcement.

The combination of a large pool of at-risk youth and easy access to highly lethal weapons is a recipe for the mass casualty shootings we have seen.  Yet legislators, driven by short-term considerations, are often indifferent to the social factors driving this trend and unwilling to risk the political consequences associated with confronting an intransigent gun lobby that resists even the most popular and modest attempts at gun regulation.  Following Parkland, Floridians are primarily offered enhanced school security on a low budget, along with the option of armed school personnel.

There are numerous “soft” targets for shooters, apart from schools, including theaters, shopping malls, clubs, airports, and stadiums.  Thus, hardening schools alone fails to address the risks to which other citizens are exposed and may place other targets at increased risk as perpetrators seek less fortified  targets.  Many schools around the country already have adopted some basic security measures.  In Florida, after the Parkland mass shooting, just $100 million has been allocated for school security, or about $25,000 per public school–enough to install about a dozen security doors in classrooms.

A serious effort to enhance school security involves access control protocols (screening all who enter a school), surveillance through monitored cameras and patrols, adequate perimeter security, intrusion detection systems, security doors and bullet-resistant windows, adequately trained and properly armed security personnel; emergency communications, and lockdown procedures.  Turning schools into prison-like facilities is prohibitively expensive, creates more fear and disruption for students and teachers, and fundamentally alters the learning environment.

In the unlikely event we went down this path, we would only mitigate risk of one type of soft target–schools.  Until we address the factors that drive school shooters and the easy access to weapons capable of mass slaughter, the promise of a safer society will be unfulfilled.

Thomas Gabor is a criminologist and author of Confronting Gun Violence in America.  This article was originally published in South Florida’s Sun Sentinel

 

Health Professionals Should Not Fund Gun Violence.

Last week gun-control advocates were singing the praises of the American Medical Association (AMA) whose delegates passed a series of gun-control recommendations at the annual meeting in Chicago. The wish list for more effective gun regulations was not that different from what 8 medical organizations plus the American Bar Association published in 2015. However, for most Americans, what the AMA says is what doctors say, so last week’s news was a very big deal.

buybacklogo            The health industry didn’t always speak out so clearly and forcefully about gun violence. When Obama nominated Vivek Murthy to be Surgeon General, the idiot from Kentucky, Rand Paul, mounted a filibuster against the nomination because he claimed that Murthy promoted the idea that guns were a threat to health. When Judith Palfrey, past President of the American Academy of Pediatrics, had the audacity to suggest that guns in a home with children were a risk to the health of those kids, the pro-gun noisemakers raked her over the coals. And worst of all was the Florida gag law, which criminalized physicians who counseled patients about gun violence, a law which the 11th Circuit finally threw out.

The only problem with this newly-energized activism on the part of health professionals is that it isn’t exactly shared by the professional organizations to which they belong.  What somehow passed unnoticed by the entire media covering the meeting of the AMA, was the fact that the organization’s political action committee gives out more than $1.4 million to various Senate and House members, of which two-thirds of the dough goes to Republican office-holders, some of whom happen to be the legislative shock troops for the NRA.

In every election cycle, the NRA’s political arm, known as the Political Victory Fund (PVF) rates every Federal office-holder and candidate in every race, the good guys (and gals) getting an ‘A’ for their stalwart defense of 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ while the bad guys (and gals) get an ‘F.’  Most of the A-rated politicians represent Republican districts and they vote the party line on every issue, so the NRA gives them the usual $1,000 bucks every two years.  But then there are roughly 20 Congressional members who receive a coveted ‘A+’ rating, and they can be rewarded to as much as $10,000 grand each year.  Who are some of these clowns:

  • Paul Ryan, because he’s the Speaker of the House, gets $10,000 from at least half of the medical PACS whose total donations to him amount to more than $250,000 each election cycle. Ryan is pulling in more than a quarter of a million from the health care profession which openly calls for gun-control legislation that he will oppose.
  • Ditto the Republican Majority Leader, Kevin McCarthy about whom the NRA said, “Kevin has a proven pro-Second Amendment record and is committed to protecting your gun rights!”
  • Ditto the Republican House Whip, Steve Scalise, who after he took a bullet in his rear end, announced that the experience had “fortified” his support of gun ‘rights.’
  • Ditto Don Young (R-AK) the longest-serving House member, who in a public appearance back in February linked gun control to the Holocaust, saying, “How many Jews were put in the ovens because they were unarmed?” Talk about a dumb schmuck.

These are just 4 of the 20-some Federal office-holders who walk and talk the pro-gun line, not just because it’s something that you do if you’re a Republican, but because they really believe that all the crap about gun control as being a threat against the American way of life is true. And here we have well-meaning physicians paying dues each year to the self-same organizations which take this money and reward guys like Ryan, McCarthy and the others for making sure that not the slightest bit of gun-control legislation will ever see the light of day.

Too many physicians, health professionals and public health researchers have devoted their time and effort to reducing gun violence only to see medical organizations promoting gun violence reduction on the one hand, while funding the efforts of the gun ‘rights’ movement on the other.

This has got to stop. It’s got to stop – now!  Stay tuned.

Anna Kucirkova: Apropos of Smart Guns – Does the Fingerprint Scanner on Your Phone Really Keep It Secure?

As the news continues to report hacking incidents, both personal and corporate, we are becoming more aware of and concerned about the privacy of our digital devices. We want to be sure that our private information stays private and can’t be easily accessed by hackers.

Thankfully, the major phone manufacturers are coming up with additional security options for the most ubiquitous of these devices – the smartphone. Most smartphones now come with with fingerprint scanning technology.

Of course, that raises the question: does it really work?

How to Unlock a Smartphone

phone1

It’s easy to remember a PIN, as we have been using them for decades for various security purposes. But what other ways can we secure our smartphones?

Most industry experts agree that PINs are the most secure method, but they can be inconvenient. It gets tiring to have to unlock your phone with a PIN hundreds of times every day. Luckily, there are other options.

Pattern

This method is when you trace a pre-chosen line through a grid of dots. It is more convenient, though some consider it less secure.

Fingerprint


The design of your phone can make this feature awkward and difficult to use. But, they are incredibly fast and just takes a bit of time to adjust to.

Iris

This uses sensors on the front of your phone to identify you and unlock the phone. Iris scanning is very secure, but it does have some bad points: it doesn’t work well in low light, it has trouble scanning through eyeglasses, and you have to hold the phone very close to your face.

Face

This newest method of unlocking your phone uses the front-facing camera to identify you. This is less secure as siblings or others who share similar features with you could unlock your phone with their face.

Fingerprint Scanner Technology

phone 2

Fingerprint scanners have been considered spy level tech for decades. But in the past few years, fingerprint scanners have become ubiquitous. They have been particularly useful in law enforcement and identity security.

The same light sensor system used in digital cameras (CCD) is used in optical scanning software. It is an array of light-sensitive diodes called photosites that create electrical signals in response to light photons. Every photosite records a pixel, and the pixels form an image of the scanned item (like a finger).

According to Tom Harris from How Stuff Works:

The scanning process starts when you place your finger on a glass plate, and a CCD camera takes a picture. The scanner has its own light source, typically an array of light-emitting diodes, to illuminate the ridges of the finger. The CCD system actually generates an inverted image of the finger, with darker areas representing more reflected light (the ridges of the finger) and lighter areas representing less reflected light (the valleys between the ridges).

The scanner processor ensures a clear image, checks the pixel darkness, and rejects the scan if the image is too light or too dark. When an image is rejected, the scanner adjusts exposure time and tries the scan again.

When the scanner has a fingerprint image with good definition, Harris says, “a line running perpendicular to the ridges will be made up of alternating sections of very dark pixels and very light pixels.”

When a processor has a crisp, properly exposed image, it compares the captured fingerprint with other prints on file.

Capacitive fingerprint scanners use electrical current instead of light to define the fingerprint. The sensor is made of one or more semiconductor chips with an array of tiny cells. Every cell has two conductor plates, covered by an insulated layer. The image is amplified by the varying input and output of voltage. This creates the fingerprint image.

A third, more recent development is the Ultrasonic Scanner. The hardware is both an ultrasonic transmitter and receiver. The ultrasonic pulse is transmitted against the finger to be scanned. Absorption and rebound occur depending on ridges, pores, and other fingerprint details. This provides a 3D version technique to make it an even more secure than capacitive scanners.

Hacking Fingerprints

phone 3

One critical concern for the general public regarding fingerprint technology is the ease of hacking. It seems impossible, but it is not.

Russell Brandon, from The Vergelamented:

In five minutes, a single person faked a fingerprint and broke into my phone. It was simple, a trick the biometrics firm Vkansee has been playing at trade shows for months now. All it took was some dental mold to take a cast, some play-dough to fill it, and then a little trial and error to line up the play-dough on the fingerprint reader. We did it twice with the same print: once on an iPhone 6 and once on a Galaxy S6 Edge. As hacks go, it ranks just a little harder than steaming open a letter.

Of course, this method only works if you have help from the person who can unlock the system. It’s also a very primitive way to get around fingerprint scanning. Some hackers use a 3D-printed mold created from a stored image of a fingerprint. In fact, Brandon said, “At the CCC conference in 2014, a security researcher called Starbug used those techniques to construct a working model of the German defense minister’s fingerprint, based on a high-res photograph of the minister’s hand.”

Despite security and firewalls, fingerprints can still be stolen. Unlike PINs and passcodes, your fingerprint cannot be changed. One credential theft creates a lifetime vulnerability.

However, there are times when having a fingerprint lock could actually help law enforcement.

When the San Bernardino government agents were working to unlock the iPhone linked to the mass shooting, the iPhone did not have a fingerprint reader. Had the suspect been in possession of a more updated phone with fingerprint tech, the investigators could simply have taken the phone to the morgue where the shooter’s body was being held and placed his finger on scanner, thus, unlocking the phone. When the police have a non-cooperating suspect, they can secure a warrant forcing the suspect to unlock his or her phone.

There are over 134 million fingerprint records between Homeland Security and Department of Defense databases. While these records are primarily used for verification, after they are collected, they could easily trigger a fingerprint reader.

There is a real risk that as more and more prints are put in databases that fingerprints may be leaked, much like credit card information, passwords, and social security numbers.

Smartphone fingerprint scanners are not nearly as secure as we believe. There are researchers who have created “master fingerprints” capable of fooling sensors.

Findings from studies at New York University and Michigan State University call the viability of fingerprint security into question. According to James Titcomb of The Telegraph, “The researchers were able to create a set of master prints that could fool a scanner up to 65 percent of the time.”

Full human fingerprints are very difficult to fake, but finger scanners on phones only read partial fingerprints. When setting up fingerprint security on a smartphone, the phone usually records eight to ten images of a finger to make matching easier. Because a single finger swipe only has to match one of the many stored images to unlock the phone, all phones are vulnerable to false matches.

Dr. Nasir Memon reports findings that indicate that, “…if you could somehow create a magic glove with a MasterPrint on each finger, you could get into 40 to 50 percent of iPhones within the five tries allowed before the phone demands the numeric password, known as a personal identification number.”

Stephanie Schuckers, a professor at Clarkson University and director of the Center for Identification Technology Research, said:

To really know what the impact would be on a cellphone, you’d have to try it on the cellphone.” She pointed out that cellphone manufacturers and other entities that use fingerprint security are looking into anti-spoofing techniques to detect the presence of a real finger versus the false fingertips that can be artificially produced.

Still, the team’s fundamental finding that partial fingerprints are vulnerable to spoofing is significant.

“What’s concerning here is that you could find a random phone, and your barrier to attack is pretty low,” said Dr. Chris Boehnen, manager of the federal government’s Odin program, which studies how to defeat biometric security attacks as part of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity.

Another way to decrease risk, according to Dr. Boehnen, is to add a larger fingerprint sensor. The good news is that some of the most recent biometric security options less susceptible to hacking. Consumers can also simply turn off fingerprint authentication when using their more sensitive phone apps, like mobile payments.

Conclusion

phone4

As we endeavor to improve security for our digital devices, we are finding ways that seem foolproof but are far from it. Fingerprint tech seems like a great option, but it is risky.

The great thing is that we have a choice. When you purchase your next smartphone, go with the security option that you feel is most secure – and then keep track of your phone.

© Does the Fingerprint Scanner on Your Phone Really Keep It Secure? – Industrial Shredders | Hom

 

A New Survey Which Tells Us What Gun Owners Want To Do About Gun Violence.

I just received a fundraising email from one of the many gun-control organizations that ask me for financial help , and they asked me to help them push forward with the efforts to pass ‘reasonable’ gun regulations which even most gun-owners support. How do they know that gun owners are in favor of comprehensive background checks or a bump-stock ban? Because this is what they hear from surveys conducted by gun-control advocates who want to meet the ‘other side’ on neutral ground.

awb            The only problem with this approach is that it is based on the assumption that both sides define ‘reasonable’ gun regulations the same way. But let me break the news to my friends in the gun-control movement, namely, that for every gun owner who supports background checks, I’ll show you another gun owner who believe that he’s doing his best to reduce gun violence by walking around with a gun. In other words, the same gun owner who favors a ‘reasonable’ gun regulation promoted by Brady, will also support a gun regulation favored by the NRA.  But you won’t find anyone at Brady or Everytown ever saying that the NRA is reasonable about anything at all.

In the hopes to make some sense out of these very conflicting views, I ran a national survey which received 1,557 responses from residents throughout the United States. The survey did not ask them to identify themselves as to whether they were gun owners; that’s a toxic question which will lead to all kinds of data-validation problems, believe me. Instead, I listed twelve gun laws and asked each respondent to answer whether they supported each law or not. Half of these laws are the stock-in-trade of the gun-control movement (comprehensive background checks, assault-weapons ban, etc.,) the other half are measures promoted by the gun-rights gang (national RTC, K-12 gun safety lessons, etc.) This is the first time that a national survey has been published which gives respondents an opportunity to express how they feel about gun regulations favored by both sides. You can download a detailed analysis of the survey here.

Some quick highlights:

  • The fault-line between gun control versus gun rights is gender. For virtually every question, women were less supportive of the gun-rights laws and more supported of laws reflecting a gun-control point of view.
  • Not surprisingly, overall support for pro-gun regulations was strongest in the Southeast and Midwest, weakest in the Northeast and West Coast.

I borrowed from the work conducted by various survey groups and assumed that since this was a nationally-representative survey, that 40% of the respondents either owned guns or lived in a gun household, which meant that 60% did not. The question about comprehensive background checks received an overall positive response of 78%, which meant that half the gun-owning respondents also supported CBC. But here’s the bigger news.

Only 2 of the 6 gun-control questions received more than 60% positive response, which might mean that 4 of 6 gun-control strategies didn’t receive any support from gun owners at all. On the other hand, 4 of the 6 pro-gun strategies received substantial support above 40%, and two of them – handgun ownership at 18 and public school gun safety instruction – received more than 60% positive responses, which means these measures were probably supported by many people who don’t own guns.

If my friends in the gun-control community are serious about seeking legal solutions to reduce gun violence, this survey provides a roadmap for understanding what kinds of gun issues could really be discussed on neutral grounds. After all, would it be so bad to make a deal in which comprehensive background checks are approved along with funding for gun-safety training in public schools? The Florida gun-control law imposed a waiting period but also authorized funding for armed school guards; the former now a state requirement, the latter only an option if a school system applies for the dough.

I hope some of my gun-control advocacy friends will look at what I found and share it around. Either we want to meet gun owners on a level playing field or we don’t.

 

Doctors Selling Products To Respond To Mass Shootings? That’s Nonsense.

Twice in my life I had the good luck and fortune to be able to ask a doctor about a serious medical issue affecting myself or a close family member, and in both instances, I received what turned out to be timely and accurate advice. So, I have always believed that physicians should be judged by a different standard, which is one of the reasons that I go out of my way to write about the necessary role doctors play in dealing with gun violence, which occasionally is not appreciated or understood.

trauma-stop-the-bleed             On the other hand, every once in a while I come across an example of physicians behaving in ways which fill me with dread. And what I mean by that is when they use their intelligence, training and public trust to promote some crazy idea or worse, huckster some product that has no earthly wellness value at all.

There is a group out there who call themselves BleedingControl.org., and their goal is to ‘train every American in bleeding control techniques.’ It started in Connecticut following Sandy Hook and is now connected in some way to the American College of Surgeons and claims to have trained 15,000 instructors and 125,000 individuals in bleeding-control techniques throughout the United States.

Would an organization like this even exist were it not for the anxiety and fear created by mass shootings at Parkland, Las Vegas and Sandy Hook?  After all, we have been fighting the ‘War on Terror’ since 2001, a day hasn’t gone by since the Twin Towers came down that we didn’t hear about some kind of terrorist attack or threat. No, this is clearly a response to mass shootings, and an attempt to market products based on fear.

What products does this group market?  Just go to their website and you can fund a handy-dandy Personal Bleeding Control Kit for $69 bucks, a Portable Bleeding Control Bag for $650 and a wall-mounted Bleeding Control station for $800 bucks.  I guess the wall-mounted kit can go next to the fire extinguisher, right? Of course every kit contains an instruction manual and frankly, I’m surprised that they don’t yet have a CD-ROM. But instead of a disc, you can always buy a t-shirt which contains basic blood-control instructions embedded into the cloth. How thoughtful.

I recall that at some point during a gym class in high school, the school nurse came in and gave us a demonstration of CPR. Now we didn’t do a live drill because that would have required each of us to put our mouths over someone else’s mouth which is something the boys wanted to do to the girls but not for the purpose of saving anyone’s life. I can tell you that if, God forbid, I came upon someone lying in the street today who needed immediate resuscitation, I wouldn’t have the faintest idea of what to do. Because you don’t learn a medical technique by just reading an instructional manual or going to one class. You learn by doing it again and again. Right now, you can attend a free class in ‘bleeding control basics’ which lasts for two hours and meets once. Once.

When the bombs exploded at the 2013 Boston Marathon, more than 260 people were injured but only 3 victims died. This remarkable life-saving effort occurred because the explosions took place at the finish line which happened to have a medical tent, fully staffed by physicians who attended to runners coming to the end of the race and needing some degree of medical support. There are two reports, covering the medical response to the bombing, one online, the other can be downloaded here,  Neither of these reports claim that any degree of life-saving work was done by civilian volunteers.

I’m not saying that a well-trained individual couldn’t save the life of a mass-shooting victim. What I am saying is that physicians shouldn’t be appealing to our fears to sell some products that can only be used by people who are very well trained. After all, doesn’t the NRA promote gun ownership based on fear?