Well, isn’t this interesting….
Apparently, it’s now possible to download a new app onto your smartphone which will warn you about those evil, ooogedy-boogedy scary gun owners lurking in your neighborhood. Think of it as a sort of sex-offender, er, gun offender registry…except the reporting is done by your neighbors instead of by the local government. And the locations reported by the app aren’t even suspected of actually breaking any laws.
Nonetheless, gun owners are now on a par with rapists, pedophiles, flashers, and those who sleep with underage girls. Welcome to the brave new world where exercising your Constitutional rights is seen as much the same as being a pervert. You know, cause it’s for the chillllldrunnn, and all.
Here’s an excerpt from the app description:
The Gun Geo Marker operates very simply, letting parents and community members mark, or geolocate, sites associated with potentially unsafe guns and gun owners. These locations are typically the homes or businesses of suspected unsafe gun owners, but might also be public lands or other locations where guns are not handled safely, or situations where proper rights to own or use any particular type of firearm may not exist. Electronically marking these locations can help others in the area learn about their geography of risk from gun accidents or violence.
The product description goes on to note that all information comes from volunteer app users, not law enforcement criminal databases or any other reliable & unbiased source of information on where unsafe weapons (or their use) are to be found. It also doesn’t tie into any official government registry, such as the one the State of California maintains for handguns sold since 1991, when it began entering them into its database at the point-of-sale.
However, we are apparently given some guidelines on reporting these dangerous unsafe weapons and their owners:
There will naturally be some uncertainty about whether any particular location actually represents an unsafe gun situation, and again, the general guideline is that you should mark any location about which you have a gun related concern, while trying to provide enough extra information for others to make their own determination about safety. Try to keep the following warning signs and guidelines in mind when determining if a local gun owner may present a threat to your children or your community. (emphasis NOT mine).
So what exactly are app users supposed to be looking for? Glad you asked:
- Unlocked, loaded, or carelessly stored weapons
- Dangerous gun owners
- Places with an unsafe gun culture
- Uncertain situations
- On the other side of uncertainty
Say what? Oh, here we go…apparently any of the following will suffice:
- “Possible unlocked/loaded/unsafe storage”
- “Possible insufficient training” (emphasis mine)
- “Guns and unsupervised children”
- “Guns and substance abuse”
- “Possible medical related concern”
- “Neighborhood talk, unsafe” (emphasis mine)
- “Possible high conflict, armed neighbor”
- “Possible out of place, large arsenal” (emphasis mine)
- “Documented/frequent unlawful discharge”
- “Possible illegal weapons on premises”
- “Possible prohibited persons”
- “Possible anti-government/terror threat” (emphasis mine)
To its credit, the guidelines do remind us, “First and foremost it is important to understand that in the United States, citizens have a constitutional right to own firearms.”
“In general, you should not worry about firearms owned by either hunters or gun enthusiasts who safely store and properly enjoy their weapons in the field, or at local firing ranges for recreational purposes. These are normally the people who have the highest level of commitment to gun safety, and abide by the laws regulating their hobby. The same holds true for most concealed carry permit holders, or other owners permitted and properly regulated.”
While I appreciate the patronizing psychobabble that just being a hunter, gun enthusiast, or CCW holder doesn’t make me a “dangerous gun owner,” the potential problems are still numerous.
If you continue reading past this point on the guidelines page, it goes on to single out the National Rifle Association for “their consistent opposition to gun safety laws that would, for example, require parents to properly secure their guns, allow prosecutors to bring charges against people who allow kids to play with loaded guns, or when they help pass laws prohibiting doctors from asking children about guns in the home in an epidemiological attempt to help prevent children from shooting other children.”
I will not delve here into debunking (again!) the tired notion that more gun laws would correct our nation’s problems with gun violence.
The guidelines then turn right around and admit, “In spite of all of this, you should recall that the NRA also provides high quality safety training as a public service to its members, and that this increases general gun safety.”
So which is it? Is the NRA a hero or a villain? Doesn’t their position as trainers and safety advocates put them squarely on the side of those who want to keep firearms away from criminals, children, and the untrained? You know, the dangerous gun owners?
Never mind. This part is the most chilling of all:
“People who stockpile large arsenals or numerous assault weapons for reasons other than collecting are likely a concern. Bumper stickers or other public displays supporting gun ownership are not a problem, but when combined with radical anti-government propaganda and/or representations of paranoid political beliefs or support for terrorist organizations, these owners and their locations may well be worth marking.”
Personally, I’m less worried about people “stockpiling” guns and ammo…and more worried about people who are worried about other people stockpiling guns and ammo. And how the heck is the app user supposed to determine whether the guns are being acquired and stored for “reasons other than collecting?” And don’t we already have mechanisms in place to report people suspected of terrorist activity?
And this business about “anti government propaganda” is concerning, too. We all think we know what that phrase means, but one man’s propaganda is another man’s inconvenient truth…and vice-versa. Is anyone else suddenly reminded of the president’s admonition to report anti-government speech?
Remember, boys and girls, this app is entirely devoted to reporting arbitrary designations of safety threats, not outright illegal activity by gun owners and gun use. In fact, the app specifically advises against its use to report that:
If you have direct, personal knowledge or even a suspicion that guns are being used in context of organized criminal activity, then it may be extremely risky for you to mark related locations. You should forget about the Walkingtools Gun Geo Marker in all such cases, and instead consider getting appropriate law enforcement agencies involved in the situation.
That’s interesting, isn’t it? It says that if you know about specific illegal activity, then just contact law enforcement through conventional channels and advise them. On the other hand, if there are gun people or gun places that just give you a funny feeling, go ahead and rat on them to the entire world with our stupid app. Point them out so the rest of the app users can hassle & terrorize them….er…I mean…avoid them.
You might be asking, “Cylar, what’s your problem? If you don’t like the app, then freaking don’t use it. Don’t put it on your smartphone. Simple enough for you?” Eh….no. You see, there’s absolutely nothing stopping someone from putting my address on this thing and not only alerting the entire neighborhood that I’m a gun owner, but unjustly and unfairly exposing me to possible risks, including but not limited to:
- Harrassment by anti-gun neighbors and other busybodies
- Harassment by anti-gun members of local law enforcement via “routine” traffic stops, “probable cause” searches of the residence, and other unwarranted contact
- Being unfairly placed on a federal law enforcement agency’s terror “watch list”
- Provocation: “You’re complaining about my dog barking? You going to shoot me over it, tough guy?”
- Burglary and home invasion by actual criminals
That last one is the most concerning of all. While I’m a strong advocate of locking up your guns, the fact is that not everyone does and I don’t favor laws forcing gun owners to do so. (I’ll admit that I’ve got considerable frustration with fellow gun owners who don’t lock up their weaponry…mostly because I don’t want to get shot by a burglar or other criminal who just stole a gun from one of these irresponsible clod’s homes.)
The fact of the matter is that most burglaries in the US occur when no one is home:
“Most burglars will sit outside of a residence and wait until the occupants leave for work or school. They [burglars] wait until they are absolutely sure that no one is in the home,” says Laviage.
It’s easy to see why. If you were breaking into a house, would you do it when the occupant is home, and run the higher risk of being arrested or shot….or would you wait until he’s left for the day and is unlikely to return in the next several hours? The point is that the gun doesn’t protect your home unless you’re actually in the house to use it. Now the burglars have some extra intel on which houses they should be staking out. Thanks, Gun Geo Marker!
Of course, there’s the even more sinister possibility that the burglar is so desperate for drug money (or so high) that he’ll glance at this app, then break into a gun owner’s house anyway (perhaps while the owner is asleep) and murder the occupant & his family while searching the house for weapons he can sell or use to commit other crimes.
As a gun owner I can tell you that my worst nightmare is not just being burgled, but specifically, being burgled in the “home invasion” style – a group of intruders breaks in and holds my family hostage while forcing me at gunpoint to tell them what the combination to my gun safe is. And having to pray that arming a band of thugs, being scared out of my wits, and losing thousands of dollars in personal property are the least of my worries.
I’m wondering if the makers of Gun Geo Marker sleep well at night, knowing they could be indirectly responsible for that…or if they know they may be sued by a burglary victim on the grounds that their smartphone app provided valuable intel to gang-bangers.
Who exactly is spreading propaganda, again? Are they sure it’s gun owners?