970: The Important Field

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The Important Field
I hear in some places, you need to fill one form of ID to buy a gun, but two to pay for it by check. It's interesting to see who has what incentives to care about what mistakes.
Title text: I hear in some places, you need to fill one form of ID to buy a gun, but two to pay for it by check. It's interesting to see who has what incentives to care about what mistakes.


In this comic, a person wearing a green cap with a black emblem on the front is using their computer to access an online web interface to launch a missile at a target. The joke is that even though the interface only asks them to enter the target coordinates once, it asks for their email address twice, even though the coordinates are by far the more important detail to get right, since launching the missile at the wrong target could result in a disastrous unintended loss of life or property damage.

It is common for online interfaces to force users to type certain details twice, as a form of redundancy checking to ensure that the user really has entered the correct details and hasn't made an error. Some forms even go the extra step of preventing the user from copy-pasting into the second field, which would render it useless as a redundancy check.

This is usually done for email addresses and when creating new passwords, which are used to identify and authenticate users, and are therefore important to get right.

In the title text, Randall suggests that the presence of redundancy checks can give you an interesting insight into what things people deem to be important. He gives a (supposed) real-life example of a merchant that requires only one form of ID in order to buy a gun, but two forms if you want to pay for it by check - suggesting that the seller is more worried about the safety of their money than the potential danger of giving a lethal weapon to someone untrustworthy.


[A soldier with a green military hat, with an black emblem on the front, is sitting in an office chair typing at his computer. Sounds are shown when he types, and the message he reads on the screen is shown above with a zigzag line coming from the computer screen. In the first panel he only uses one hand on the keyboard.]
Computer: Welcome to the missile launch web interface!
[Same setting but the soldier types with both hands.]
Computer: Enter the target's coordinates.
Type Type
[Same setting as previous panel.]
Computer: Enter your email address for our records.
Type Type
[Same setting except the soldier has stopped typing.]
Computer: Enter your email again, to ensure you typed it correctly.


  • This is the only comic so far to feature a soldier using such a green Hat.
    • The green hat with the black emblem implies that he is part of the military. The color code of his hat is #123E0E.
    • Until realizing that the hat is green not black it could look like Black Hat.
      • Although the hat seems in the first panel to only have a lie going towards the front of the cap, this changes in the later images, making it here look more like a Black Hat type of hat.

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I never realized his hat was green until I read this page 04:22, 18 July 2018 (UTC)

In order to purchase a firearm in the United States from a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) you have to submit an official government photographic identification card (State ID or State Drivers license usually suffice), complete a Form 4473 Firearms Transaction Record to include such personal data as name, address, height, weight, ethnicity, age, birth date and Social Security Number or Tax Identification Number and submit the previous personal data from the Form 4473 to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) which is administered by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and receive a "PROCEED WITH TRANSACTION" from the NICS in order to take possession of the firearm.

To pay for your firearm with a check you only need show two forms of identification one of which may just be your Social Security Card.

To take possession of the firearm actually requires more stringent checks on identity than to pay with one by check.

But other than that you're right. -- (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Please enter your name and address, so we know who to blame when New York disappears. Davidy22[talk] 04:22, 4 February 2013 (UTC)

How can a law-bound society write laws about guns when the all-embracing laws cannot first be rescinded?

The USA has much the same life problems that Iran once had -which probably lead to Iran's defeat at Gaugamela (Mosul.) I doubt Darius III's officers had e-mail addresses to worry about, none the less if their aristocracy were bound by bureaucracy at the wrong time and place, that would have been it.

Something else that is probably beyond emails:

"The Iraqi government is planning to retake the city with the help of the peshmerga, Sunni tribes, and US-led coalition air support."

I used Google News BEFORE it was clickbait (talk) 19:29, 22 January 2015 (UTC)

Why are the words "has heard" italicised in the explanation? 03:34, 7 April 2019 (UTC)