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Assault Weapons, Strong Cryptography, And Large Breasts



The excuse used by the government to justify regulation of firearms and
cryptography is one of crime prevention:

* "We can't let people have machine guns--they might go wacko and shoot a
whole bunch of people."

* "We can't let people have rifles or pistols with magazines that hold more
than 10 rounds--they might go wacko and shoot a whole bunch of people."

* "We can't let people have sawed-off shotguns--they are too easy to
conceal.  Someone might be able to hide one under their coat and then rob a
convenience store.

* "We can't let people have Nigger Town Saturday Night Specials--they are
too easy to conceal.  Someone might be able to hide one under their coat
and then mug somebody."
(This is the original, unabridged version of the term--the sanitized
version is just more acceptable to the public.  Some of the first gun
control laws in the US were passed to prevent black people from defending
themselves against the KKK, shortly after the Civil War.)

* "If we let people communicate using encryption, then terrorists and
pedophiles will be able to run amok."

This logic sounds good on the surface, but unfortunately it has a serious
flaw.  Like the difficulty with the old Mafia "protection" rackets, the
problem becomes "Who will protect us from the protector?"  Government has a
legitimate role in capturing and punishing those who harm others.  However,
when government attempts to prevent people from harming themselves or
others, the "cure" becomes worse than the "disease".

One can apply this warped logic just as aptly to body parts as firearms or
cryptographic software.  Women can use their bodies to solicit sexual
services (prostitution), and spread sexually transmitted diseases.  Should
we require them to license their breasts?  (Anyone C-cup or larger must pay
a $75 annual license fee per breast, D-cup or larger, $100.  Flat-chested
women will have to pay $150 for their concealable "Saturday Night
Specials", and of course carrying a concealed breast is a felony.)  Men can
commit crimes with their penises--rape, incest, sodomy, etc.  Shall we
license penises, too?  ($25 annually per erect inch, and any "assault
penis" capable of ejaculating more than once per erection will be
immediately confiscated.)

"Honey, Junior and I are going to go to the range, so I can teach him how
to shoot safely."

"You know I don't like guns, especially that one you have that looks like
an Uzi.  I just don't think it's right for Junior to be around such things.
 Besides, shooting is dangerous."

"Guns aren't dangerous, as long as you follow the appropriate safety rules
when handling them.  That is what I am going to teach Junior today."

"But I don't want Junior to be around guns.  You have all the equipment you
need to be a bank robber or terrorist, and that bothers me."

"Well, you have all the equipment you need to be a whore.  Should that
bother me?"

Prohibition was an attempt to prevent people from hurting themselves or
others due to excessive alcohol consumption.  Agents of the government
arrested those involved in the production and sale of alcoholic beverages.
Since government cannot change people's desires, the demand for the
consumption of alcohol remained.  Organized crime moved in to supply the
demand, and instead of saving lives, Prohibition cost lives--and freedoms.
The drinkers continued to drink, and due to the gun battles that ensued
when the government tried to stop them, the government decided to outlaw
(for all but a privileged few) private ownership of machine guns.

This trend continues today.  Purveyors of crack cocaine, heroin, and
methamphetamines have replaced bartenders as the boogeymen.  "Assault
weapons" are constantly reviled in the media as the tools of drug dealers
and terrorist criminals.  The government continues to strip away our rights
because "it needs to in order to be able to fight the War On Drugs".

Drugs are the excuse for some of the most onerous asset-forfeiture laws in
the civilized world--right here in the USA.  If police suspect (they don't
need any proof) that you are involved in drug trafficking, your house, car,
bank accounts, and other valuables can be confiscated.  They do not need to
be returned, even if you are never even charged with any crime.  (My source
for this: ABC's "20/20" news show, which is hardly a bastion of right-wing
fanatacism.)

As I write this, the House of Representatives is working on a bill that
effectively criminalizes electronic communication that does not provide a
transcript of the communication to the government.  The justification for
this Orwellian intrusion is terrorism, drug trafficking, child pornography,
money laundering, and various and sundry classified and therefore
unspecified "threats to national security".  Of course, the justification
is utter hogwash.

Instead of teenage hackers intercepting financial communications and
emptying our bank accounts, it can be done by professionals whose salaries
are paid by our taxes.  Instead of a few crackheads trying to break into
your house looking for cash or valuables to fund their next fix (a
situation created by our ridiculous War On Drugs), you can be assaulted by
your friendly neighborhood SWAT team searching for your unescrowed
encryption keys, equipped with eveything up to and including tanks and
armored personnel carriers, which you have the privilege of paying for out
of your pocket.

The source code for crypto isn't going to evaporate just because 536
politicians pass a law.  People still own machine guns, which in addition
to being illegal, are expensive to purchase, difficult to manufacture, and
difficult to hide from determined searchers.  On the other hand, the source
code for PGP and other cryptographic software is readily available, and
very easy to copy and redistribute, so even if house-to-house searches are
conducted, there will be tens of thousands of sources for it.  I suspect
that Crypto Prohibition will enjoy even less popular support than the
original did.

Jonathan Wienke

What part of "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be
infringed" is too hard to understand? (From 2nd Amendment, U.S. Constitution)

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DSS/D-H Key Fingerprint: 3312 6597 8258 9A9E D9FA  4878 C245 D245 EAA7 0DCC
Public keys available at pgpkeys.mit.edu. PGP encrypted e-mail preferred.

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