Monday, October 07, 2013

Harassment Geo Markers

From FoxNews:

Gun Geo Marker app tries to locate homes, businesses of gun owners

A new Android app asks users to expose the home addresses of gun owners they deem “potentially unsafe” -- and share that information with the world.

Although I am plenty annoyed with the media sport of publishing list of registered gun or CCW owners, I will concede that at least these lists have the virtue of being verifiable public records.  Publishing our names may be a wonton violation of our privacy and a ham-fisted effort at intimidation , but at least in my case its hardly a secret, and if there has been an actual case of victimization (burgled guns, say) traced to the publication of these lists, I’m not aware of it.

But the Gun Geo Marker app is not only not verified, it is specifically libelous:  they want people to identify “unsafe” gun owners, and neither their app nor the website allows its targets to appeal or contest that designation.

The potential for mischief is significant, but not as large as it could be.  The app doesn’t allow the user to flag a particular address, but only the place where the user happens to be standing at the time.  So I can’t flag someone across town; indeed, the zoom function is limited to the phone’s surrounding area.  I can see all of Φ’s lily-white little burg, but not much else, and I can’t pan around.

Still, the political agenda is specified on their website:

[Y]ou should not be concerned merely because your neighbors are a member of any national gun advocacy organization. The actual threat – just to cite the best known org – that the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its kin present to you and your children is political. This can be seen clearly in 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. In spite of all of this 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. It is safe to say that serious NRA members and their homes should normally be of no concern to you, even as their political radicalism helps makes the gun violence epidemic worse. Even if it is likely – and it is – that an NRA bumper sticker indicates that a gun is stored in the home, you might also notice that such owners have already self-identified to the public, and most certainly have nothing to hide. It may be redundant to place an electronic mark near their property when they are already marking themselves.

Um . . . okay.  So what places should be marked?

Unlocked, loaded, or carelessly stored weapons

Note that while people who keep loaded firearms in their home should not necessarily have their location marked as a gun owner of concern, studies do show conclusively that guns in the home greatly increase the chances of death by gunfire for the owner, family members and visitors. This is especially the case with guns kept unlocked and loaded for “personal safety.” Bear in mind that guns for personal safety can be maintained safely. Also note that the United States Supreme Court has ruled that owning a gun for personal safety is a right protected by the second amendment. Nevertheless, unlocked, loaded or carelessly stored weapons should generally be treated with concern by friends, neighbors and visitors. The locations of such careless owners should probably be marked so that others can make an informed decision.

I’m not sure what to make of a paragraph bracketed by “should not necessarily” and “should probably”.  Too bad the writer doesn’t elaborate on how personal defense weapons are to be “maintained safely” if not unlocked and loaded.

There are a number of cases in which a decision about whether or not to mark the location is much less obvious. 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. Again, such gun owners may or may not be of concern, and your decision may relate to how “out of place” or unstable the situation feels.

Terrorist?  Because terrorists wear bumper-stickers?  No, the real target here is obviously the TEA Party and conservative-libertarians in general.

Happily, my house hasn’t been marked yet.

UPDATE: On further attempted use, the Harassment Geo Marker is off the air amidst much whining about mean mean gun owners.


Unknown said...

I've got a victimization anecdote for you: In my state (Delaware), in order to get a CCDW license, you must first publish a classified ad in the newspaper stating your name and home address. (That's in addition to the fingerprints, the references from five of your neighbors, the training class, etc.) A few years after I got my license, my house was burglarized in the middle of the day while I was at work, and the only items stolen were a $25 wristwatch and three handguns. The long guns in the same cabinet were untouched, as were plenty of other items with illegal resale value.

After the cops left, I went next door to ask my neighbor, who was home on disability at the time, if she had seen or heard anything. She hadn't, but mentioned that she had been burglarized several weeks previously (which I knew) and that her revolver had been stolen (which I didn't know). I went through the newspaper's archives, and sure enough, she had placed the same ad several years earlier.

A couple months later, the cops caught the people who did it. A public school teacher with a unique surname, a heroin habit and a felon for a boyfriend. They had knocked over about two dozen houses in the county. They were both out of prison within six years. One of my guns was found at a crime scene in a big city in another state; in theory, I get it back once the trial ends, which I expect will be right about when hell freezes over.

The funny piece of all this is that under our state Freedom of Information Act, the names and addresses of CCDW licensees are *not* public records subject to disclosure. They're specifically carved out. Too bad the same information is available to anyone who wants it from the archives of our local Gannett rag. (The perps took a plea, so the prosecutors didn't bother establishing whether they picked their targets by looking through the newspaper archives; heck of a coincidence, though, that they just happened to pick the two houses in our smallish subdivision where residents had applied for CCDW licenses.)

So when the Gannett folks started publishing names and addresses of licensees in NY State last year, I took it a bit personally.

Dr. Φ said...

Mark: Ha! If this is the story from May, it's amazing how lthe media took ZERO interest in the connection with the ads.

The Delaware policy is downright perverse, and constitutionally suspect.

Anonymous said...

The great thing about those feel-good data bases is that you can load them up with all your hoplophobe neighbors. People who create such data bases never think through the reliability of the data source.

månesteiner said...

"In my state (Delaware), in order to get a CCDW license, you must first publish a classified ad in the newspaper stating your name and home address."

Wow. If you assent to this then there is nothing left to argue about.