It all started with a simple question a student texted his former professor: What about guns?
Initially, that professor and Gunclear Co-Founder David Noble thought it was a stupid idea and told him so. There was already a federal law in place that prevented gun registries. Wouldn’t a track-and-trace system just be a registry under a different name?
Three days later, the teacher woke up in the middle of the night with a nagging thought: If we could privately hold our own data on each gun transaction, it wouldn’t be a registry.
This odd interchange between Mat Fox, who’d been a computer science student at UConn and was working as a full-stack programmer in the private sector, and David Noble, a business professor at UConn, led to the creation of GunClear, a blockchain protocol that enables gun owners to register their firearms on a distributed public ledger, effectively closing the gun show loophole.
The idea takes flight
Here’s how it started: Fox became interested in blockchain technology during conversations with Noble at UConn. Eventually, Fox asked Noble whether he’d be interested in starting a blockchain company together. Thinking it’d be easy, Noble agreed.
More than a year later, the duo is still at the beginning of the journey toward building an actual product.
In early December 2017, Fox and Noble worked together during a pitch session with a number of interested entrepreneurs. These folks wanted to learn about bitcoin and blockchain, and Fox and Noble wanted to identify a few of them who might be interested in helping them find a workable solution to the gun registry problem.
Fox and Noble learned that there was a massive market in firearms transactions conducted on paper but there wasn’t a digital record of the 350 million guns currently scattered across the United States.
They also learned how to socialize the concept of a software solution that would help the average gun owner prove they had legally acquired or sold their firearm. These individuals are currently responsible for complying with a myriad of gun laws. But because those laws are difficult to enforce, essentially no one is complying.
This is a broken system.
Fox and Noble were told that it was impossible—gun owners would never agree to participate in a service like GunClear. They were also told that the technology to support such a service wasn’t ready.
After learning more about their customers, they quickly realized that gun owners would not only participate in such a system, that they could do so completely anonymously. Using privacy technology that wasn’t available in June 2017, Fox and Noble could build what is known as a Non-Fungible Token (NFT) that simply held the data of every gun transaction while obscuring the data of previous transactions. Through the miracle of no-knowledge proofs, everyone could trust the system without knowing individual details.
Around this time, Fox and Noble picked up their first full-time committed co-founder, Alexander Plomaritis.
Alexander brought tons of expertise to the table. He brought knowledge of the gun collector, the gun dealer and the gun manufacturer—something Fox and Noble lacked at the time.
Customer discovery revealed several ways to monetize what GunClear was doing—including cleaning up the gun show industry to the extent that large legitimate gun dealers and manufacturers could participate.
Just like that, the GunClear team realized they could change the gun buying and selling culture—much the same way CarFax changed the automotive buying culture; the phrase show me the CarFax has become so engrained in our culture, every car seller needs to provide CarFax data if they want to get the maximum value for their vehicle.
Soon, is your GunClear? will have a similar effect, becoming ubiquitous with legally obtained firearms. This will happen while customers and gun owners enjoy maximum levels of privacy and security.
GunClear is in the process of closing its first round of funding and is starting to look for its next round.
They are building a proof of concept on the technology side, moving ever closer to realizing the true GunClear dream: building the first little bridge that protects legal gun owners while putting those who participate in illegal transactions on the defensive.
The GunClear team believes that we can all build a better and safer world together—without any significant encumbrance on our freedom.