Gun Control: How technology could provide the answer neither side will see

Posted by Rob Enderle

The pro-gun control and pro-firearms folks are having a bit Scrooge post-Christmas as a New York newspaper (Journal News) posted an interactive map highlighting licensed gun owners, including their names.  

In response, bloggers posted the names and addresses of the paper’s employees. This has now gone to the national news organizations - likely after going viral on social media - and appears to be a race as to which side can be the biggest group of asses during the Christmas holiday season. 

At the core of this argument isn’t gun control, but rather a battle of status and power between those who oppose and support legal ownership of firearms.This is why it is drifting towards violence, we’ll fight for and to defend status - ignoring the irony that the trigger event was a violent act by someone who wasn’t a member of either group. Unfortunately, this confict only seems to be escalating during a time that typically celebrates peace.  

Stupidity Squared

While this is a left vs. right conflict where I think the left is clearly drifted into crazy land. Nevertheless, I could switch the topic to abortion rights and easily flip sides - yet I doubt either side, largely due to something we call Confirmation Bias, would allow itself to see this. 

So let’s examine the core of what actually happened. We had two violent events: A school was attacked and both adults and children killed, while firefighters were attacked as they responded to a fire set by their attacker. Neither attacker had legal guns, they had acquired them illegally.

As noted above, the Journal News basically published a list telling people where to go to steal a gun that could use in an illegal act - when the owners are at work and only kids might be home early from school. Unfortunately, from what I can tell, neither side understands the gravity of publishing an article like this.  

Let’s be clear - a news organization that is clearly anti-gun just published a shopping destination list for people, like the ones who committed the crimes, to go and steal guns for free.  

All pro-gun folks have to do is point to that, and if there is a theft of one of these registered guns which leads to death or violence, they will hold the news organization criminally and civilly liable. First amendment rights don’t include yelling “fire” in a theater (you could argue what the newspaper did was both dangerous and false) nor do they include publishing something negligently that would directly lead to violence. (Note on the above, dangerous is clear, the false part is the implication that those on the list are doing something wrong, which as registered gun owners, isn’t true).  

However…

However, the same would be true of the bloggers who put targets on the backs of the newspaper employees. You attack someone’s status, as this newspaper clearly did, and compare gun owners to pedophiles (a comparison being used in the national news coverage) and you have a combination of a gun and someone that is really pissed, may be drinking (it is the holidays) and not using good judgment.  

I image some of these gun owners are in close proximity to the newspaper employees (the vast majority of which likely had nothing to do with the story) and the end result could be equally problematic and litigation prone. 

While the newspaper could argue it didn’t intend to incite violence, the bloggers know the folks they are pissing off are armed and many don’t use the best judgment during this time of year because they are part of this group. Causality would therefore be easier to prove and bloggers rights haven’t been held to be as strong as a newspaper nationally, at least not yet.

Now, to be clear, the bloggers were reacting to being attacked and this is far from unusual.  They were clearly provoked which suggests not only did the Journal basically pour gas on the problem they were supposedly trying to mitigate they indirectly (causality) put targets on the back of all of their employees. That’s how I get to stupid squared.      

Wrapping Up:  Analytics Is the Right Solution I Doubt We’ll Use

Given how successful the war on drugs and probation have been, you’d think folks would realize that here in the US a similar war on guns would work equally poorly. In fact, it is my impression that the war on drugs is largely contributing to the massive number of illegal guns in the first place.  

It would seem we should truly analyze the problem we are trying to solve, which is people, particularly children, are getting killed. If we focused more on a real solution rather than concentrating on beating up the folks that disagreed with us we’d save more kids. Right now both the NRA’s solution of increasing guns and the gun control folks approach to more ineffective regulation are equally nuts.   

Looking at this from the outside I’d say a combination of required training/recertification with guns, improved gun security technology (giving owners better access but better blocking thieves), and revisiting the war on drugs as the largest gun demand/supply generator would substantially reduce the risks allowing both sides to claim victory.  But the real result would be a lot more kids who survive and learn to make decisions on a more measured basis. 

If you’ve ever wondered what Data Analytics is, well, this is what it can be used for. However, the reason why many companies, some of which actually make big data analytics products, don’t use them it is because the result may contradict what an executive wants the truth to be.  

That’s called Argumentation Theory and I’ll bet more people have been killed because of this human design defect than all of the weapons in history. Maybe we should go to war against it.