Monday, February 20, 2017
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House votes to undo Obama-era gun control rule

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The House on Thursday voted to undo an Obama-era rule that Republicans said wrongly blocked certain people from buying guns.

The rule, approved in the wake of the 2012 massacre of kindergartners in Newtown, Conn., expanded whose names must automatically be entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, thereby preventing them from buying a gun.

Under the rule, anyone with a mental disability receiving Social Security Administration benefits and requiring third-party assistance with their finances is barred from purchasing firearms.

The resolution of disapproval passed on Thursday 235-180. Under the Congressional Review Act, lawmakers can negate regulations if a joint resolution passes both chambers. However, it requires the president’s signature. While Obama was still president, Republicans needed a veto-proof majority to overturn any of his administration’s regulations.

Gun News Sore Since Trump Election

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Gun sales have slowed in the months following President Trump’s election, which appears to have calmed fears that the government could take action to make buying a gun more difficult.

Background checks on gun purchases declined in January for the second consecutive month, according to FBI data released on Friday, falling by nearly 20 percent compared to the same period last year.

A total of 2,043,184 background checks were processed through the bureau’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System in January, compared to 2,545,802 in January 2016.

The January decline comes after 19 straight months of record year-over-year increases under the Obama administration, from May 2015 through November 2016.

Annual records were set in each of the final two years of President Obama’s tenure, with 23 million background checks conducted in 2015 and 27 million last year.

While the number of background checks processed by the FBI system indicates a trend in firearm sales, it doesn’t provide a precise figure for the number of firearms actually sold.

Licensed dealers are required to run a check on every individual who seeks to purchase a firearm, but buyers are sometimes turned down, and they sometimes purchase more than one firearm.

The final two months of each year also tend to be the best for gun sales, and 2016 was no exception. More than 2.5 million background checks were conducted in November and more than 2.7 million in December.

Still, that marginal increase between months contrasts from past years, which have seen gun sales spike around the holiday shopping season.

More than 2.3 million checks were conducted in December 2014, an increase of more than 500,000 from the previous month, and more than 3.3 million checks were conducted in December 2015, an increase of more than 1 million.

Experts attribute the decline in year-over-year sales to a surge in demand for guns before the November election. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee that most forecasts predicted would win, had campaigned aggressively for stricter limits on purchasing firearms.

Demand for hunting equipment has remained stable, experts say.

“Ammunition sales are as expected for this time of the year compared to years past,” said Scott Blick, a managing partner at Ammunition Depot, told The Hill.

“We saw a very large surge in buying heading into the election,” he said. “Handgun calibers like 9mm have been steady, but sales of .223/5.56 have slowed since the election.”

“Industry contacts tell us this is the pattern they are seeing with firearms as well. Handguns are strong along with hunting rifles, whereas ARs are slower, likely due to the large amount of purchases made in the run-up to the election.”

GPS Weapons Systems in 2016

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gps weapons systems

What would happen in the event that the technology that is so heavily relied upon by our modern military was to be compromised?

The military GPS (Global Positioning System) is just one of the technologies that are heavily relied upon for various critical U.S. military operations. This particular system is responsible for increasing the accuracy of weapons thus decreasing the military personnel and the number of warheads required to complete a mission or take down a target.

First introduced in the 1970s for exclusive military use, GPS has since expanded into commercial markets such that every new car now comes equipped with a built in GPS, with standalone GPS systems easily capable of being added to older model vehicles. While this makes constant innovation a possibility, it inevitably lowers the high standards that are often demanded when testing military technology.

Today, GPS military technology is so prevalent that DAQifi– at the forefront of revolutionizing data acquisition (DAQ) systems- contends that it is absolutely essential to American military functions- every military vehicle uses GPS, with at least 100 military defense systems heavily reliant on GPS as well: artillery shells, bombs, armored vehicles, ships, aircraft etc. Besides GPS based weapons systems, the Army also uses GPS units as location tracking and patrol tools for military service members in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Although the development of GPS is largely viewed in a positive light, there is always an underlying warning that is implicit in developing a technology-dependent military: what if such technology fails? Or what if it is rendered useless in the midst of combat? Either way, the vital operation and functioning of the U.S. military may become highly vulnerable.

gps weapons

Glitches in military GPS

In 2010, glitches in military GPS systems rendered as many as 10,000 military GPS receivers useless for days. This was seen a warning to increase protections for the technology dependent military. The glitches were associated with incomplete testing procedures and incompatible software, and highlighted the military’s reliance on GPS systems and the attendant need to urgently protect this technology that has become essential for targeting weapons, tracking vehicles, and protecting soldiers.

Although initially blamed on individual contractors who were thought to have installed defective software in military receivers, the glitch was later attributed to an overall system compatibility disconnect. The issue had flown under the radar as the new systems had not been tested before being rolled out.

Making GPS based weapons systems hacker-safe

Since the systems’ inception, missile and space systems have never been breached by enemies or hackers. However, this does not mean that the potential for breach does not exist. The Air Force is in the process of developing encrypted military receivers in order to boost protection against any potential hackers. Although occasional glitches call into question the military’s heavy reliance on this technology, the GPS system itself is highly guarded. The military GPS that controls the system is highly automated thus limiting the potential for human ability and/or human error to breach the system. Moreover, GPS satellites orbit about 12,000 miles above the planet, making them extremely safe from space warfare.

A Quick Breakdown of 3D Printed Guns

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3d guns template

Recently, instead of walking into a gun shop and handing over my credit cards to buy grenades, firearms, and bullets, I decided to try something different. I downloaded extremely detailed schematics (akin to blueprints for a building) of numerous functional bullets and weapons. If I had a little technical know-how, time, and was willing to peruse online tutorials, I could purchase a 3D printer from Doranix (which produces objects by spraying thin plastic layers that become shapes) and assemble and print some of these guns.

Among the files that are now on my computer are parts for an AK-47, AR-15, M16, and other semi-automatic weapons. There are also files for handguns, including a .22-caliber Ruger, a Beretta, and a Glock.

In late 2012, when it first came to the fore that 3D printers could be used to make functional weapons, government officials and gun enthusiasts claimed that the concept was science fiction and that it would take years before it became reality. Yet a few months later, videos were popping online of working weapons made from 3D printers, some of which were capable of firing dozens of bullets. Another application is medical-based tyvek printing.

The present

Today, the Internet is littered with thousands of videos of people shooting various kinds of untraceable plastic handguns. And the government is flummoxed over what to do about the situation. In 2013, the State Department unsuccessfully tried to ban enthusiasts from sharing files for the first 3D printed gun- the Liberator- yet here it is sitting on my PC along with hundreds of other similar 3D files. However, the Department of Homeland Security seems to have anticipated this problem as it had earlier sent a memo to various law enforcement agencies acknowledging that limiting access may be an exercise in futility.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms has made it abundantly clear that it is not illegal to print and make a handgun from the confines of your own home. Yet if a person prints an all-plastic gun, they would be in contravention of the Undetectable Firearms Act, which makes it illegal to own a gun that cannot be detected by a metal detector.

Gun schematics

It takes less than five minutes to find handgun schematics online and with today’s teenagers who have grown up on the Internet, they could probably locate them in half this time. Not all plans that can be downloaded have been tested to ensure that they work- some are simply concepts. However, according to Chris Lange, if you talk to people who are well versed in the underground proliferation of guns from 3D printers, and who operate anonymously, they are likely to confirm that almost all the available files are technically accurate, with most already having been printed, tested, and in many instances, used to fire live bullets.

There even exist anonymous guides on 3D printable Firearms which show lists of working handguns, how much they cost, and how functional they are. For instance, there is the Liberator plastic handgun which shoots a single bullet and costs about $10 in plastic parts to print. There is also the Liberator Pepperbox- upgraded to shoot 4 bullets and which is a little bit pricier than the original- and one of the most popular designs referred to as the Reprringer. The latter costs only $3 to print and can shoot a single .22 cartridge. (However, you will need to spend an extra $2 on a spring and some screws).

Potential trouble

Gun lobbyists contend that 3D printed guns are harmless and/or pointless as many of them can only fire a few times before they breakdown, often cracking and overheating. But the last time I checked, a single shot is enough to kill someone. (In fact, the Reprringer design is based on the derringer pistol that was used to kill President Lincoln). And this is exactly the problem as these types of guns are easy to fabricate, can be used a few times, and one can make weapons that do not even look the part. What is more, 3D printed guns are quite difficult to detect at security points as they lack metal parts or if they do, just a few screws and a spring- all of which could easily pass undetected through a metal detector.