Gun Control and Encryption

Disclaimer 1: My research is lacking and I’ll probably make things up or cite completely irrelevant facts. If you care about the accuracy of my information, I’d recommend consulting a more definitive resource than a blog post.

Disclaimer 2: I vote Republican. Not because I really care, but because my sister makes me. I think both political parties are complete crap.  In fact, I think the whole system is garbage. I don’t even know which political party is supporting/opposing encryption or gun control, but these are my thoughts.

People die; it is sad. People die because bad people have guns and the bad people shoot the good people. It is a simple problem that should have a simple solution. Don’t let people have guns. Then the bad people won’t have any guns to shoot the good people. Problem solved.

Except that isn’t how the world actually works. France has some of the strictest gun control laws in the world (see Disclaimer 1 if you don’t believe me), but Paris was the victim of the ISIS attacks. The ISIS people were bad people who shot good people. In a society with restrictive gun control nobody should have any guns, but the bad people had guns. What happened?

The problem is that bad people will always have guns. Bad people know other bad people who know other bad people until somebody knows somebody who has access to a gun. The truth is that the good people didn’t have guns, and the bad people did have guns. The good people still died.

If the good people had guns, would there have been less violence? I doubt it. The Paris attacks probably would have still happened even if the good people had guns. Maybe a brave good guy would have shot the bad guy before too many good guys died.  Or maybe a brave good guy would have accidentally shot another good guy and killed more people. We don’t know, and that doesn’t really change anything. The point is that the gun laws didn’t prevent the violence. The bad guys still had guns and the bad guys still did bad things.

What does this have to do with encryption? The gun control argument is something that most regular people can relate to. A gun has a highly visible impact—death people. Encryption is a more abstract.  The impact of encryption is that you don’t see anything—not particularly intimidating. Non-technical people usually don’t  understand what encryption means.  Replace “guns” with “encryption” and “shoot” with “deceive” in the first half of this post; you should now have a decent understanding of what encryption means (or at least a better understanding of how encryption works in the context of the bad guys vs. the good guys).

Encryption is a weapon. People may tell you otherwise and they might be correct depending on the context, but I’m telling you encryption is a weapon. Encryption kills people just like guns kill people.

A bad guy has encryption. Then he sends a secret message to another bad guy telling the other guy to blow up a bomb.  The police can’t read this secret message and don’t know that the bomb is about to blow up. Finally,  lots of good people die. It’s a sad situation caused by encryption, right?

The solution seems to be that their should be no encryption. Then the police can see the secret message and know about the bomb blowing up before the bad guys kill the good guys.

This seems like a great plan. The bad guys are stopped and the good guys live. The problem is that encryption, like guns, doesn’t work this way. You can’t take encryption away from bad people just like you can’t take guns away from bad people. In fact, encryption is even harder to take away than guns.

You could imagine a society that does not have any weapons factories and thus no guns. No guns for any military in the entire world. No guns for any hunting or target shooting. No guns for any private citizens. Absolutely no guns anywhere. In this society you could make the argument that the bad guys could not possible have a gun (pretend like 3D printed guns don’t exist). Could you do the same thing with encryption?

No.  Encryption has been created, released into the wild.  Henceforth, it is impossible for encryption to be gone from the world. Even if all of the new devices sold do not have encryption, the bad guys will still have encryption. The bad guys can make their own devices, and use their own encryption.  As long as there are bad guys in the world, the bad guys will have the motivation and the means to have encrypted communications.

No governmental policy can ever prevent bad guys from having encryption. Bar the extinction of all living humans with knowledge of encryption, the complete erasure of the entire internet, and the destruction of all relevant books, encryption will exist in perpetuity.

Bad guys will exist. Bad guys will have guns. Bad guys will have encryption. But it’s not entirely hopeless.

The solution is not to have restrictive laws on gun control. All these laws accomplish is restricting the rights of the good guys; the bad guys will still have whatever guns they want to have.

The solution is not to have laws against encryption. These laws restrict the privacy of the good guys; the bad guys will still have complete anonymity and secrecy in their communications.

The solution is to get rid of the bad guys. This sounds impossible, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. Instead of focusing on the tools that the bad guys use humanity should focus on the actual people using the tools. A tool can be used both for good and for bad. The problem is the people using such tools for bad. Forget gun control and forget encryption.  Focus on the problem; focus on eliminating bad guys.

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