Piers Fawkes: Could Data Kill Gun Ownership?

Piers Fawkes: Could Data Kill Gun Ownership?

Banning guns is too difficult to achieve. Let's create radical transparency for the ownership of deadly weapons.

Piers Fawkes, PSFK
  • 20 december 2012

As it is unlikely that any US government will overturn a misleading piece of ancient legislation on the ownership of guns, how could we create a solution that leverages social media and the internet to create hyper awareness about who owns weapons of extreme violence?

Today, someone’s ownership of a gun remains a secret to the rest of us – but records are kept by state officials and there are membership lists of organizations like the National Rifle Association and other gun clubs. Instead of trying the lengthy route of banning guns, why don’t we take the simple and swift step and gather all ownership data then allow it to be freely available? Like home purchasing data, the ownership and purchase of a gun should be filed on a query-able central database that could be accessed by the makers of mobile apps and web services.

How would this impact gun ownership? I can imagine a number of services that could leverage the data – and provide it in a way that allows regular people to decide how to associate with people who own guns. With hyper-transparency, there could be a way to change widespread opinion about ownership of guns by shaming people who own them and warn shoppers away from businesses run by gun owners.

Here are some future-forward examples of how services we use today could use a central gun ownership database:

LinkedIn Colleague Alert
The professional network LinkedIn could alert you when a colleague buys a gun. The network knows what company you work for and who your main contacts are. LinkedIn could match that data to a gun ownership database and send warnings when someone you know buys a deadly weapon. Users would be informed about their colleagues before they return to work each day and be able to challenge them about their dangerous behavior – or simply avoid working in the same office space as them.

Google Safe Search
Google could update the way it provides its search results so that it ensures the user is safe from harm. With an updated ‘safe search’ default, Google could only provide recommendations to stores and restaurants in neighborhoods where there is low gun ownership. Google could also demote the listing of companies that appear in search results where the board members are registered gun owners.

Apple Maps With Added Security
Apple‘s mobile mapping application has come in for a lot of criticism recently because of its lack of accuracy. Could the tech company bring back confidence in its software by adding ‘safe route’ options that take travelers on routes that avoid high crime ownership areas? If neighborhoods realize that they are being avoided, would local government officials take action to improve to drop gun ownership rates and attract visitors to spend money in the local economy?

Harm Highlight
A number of geo-aware services like Highlight have been launched over the last 12 months. These services look at a users social profile and indicate when someone they know – or should know – is in close proximity. These services could be adapted by indicating if people you are likely to come in contact with are gun owners. Maybe the service would inform you about parents who own guns when you approach a school your children attends.

Would these services invade the regular American’s privacy? Or their safety? No and no. There is so much data already out there and the provision of it would not lead to high levels of invasions of privacy or threats. Today for example, anyone can find out where and for how much I bought an apartment for with a Google search and while I might get the occasional realtor postcard, I don’t get people pleading to stay in my space. There is so much personal data available that we become anonymous because of the sheer volume. In addition, an owners database should be instantly query-able by anyone – but not available to download. That step would limit misuse of the data.

By providing contextual access to gun ownership data, we could  ensure that everyone is informed and can can make proper decisions about the places they live, work and play in. In some communities the idea of putting a bullet in a deer is acceptable and the people who live there won’t be worried to learn of the ownership of a hunting rifle by a neighbor (as long as it matches the sporting need). However, urban dwellers might want to ask the Coop board to challenge the ownership of a neighbor’s semi-automatic weapon in a crowded Manhattan apartment block where children live.

Despite the Sandy Hook tragedy, we will see that the banning guns will be too difficult to achieve.  Let’s create radical transparency when it comes to the ownership of deadly weapons. Data is far more powerful than the gun. Data offers American style freedom from the tyrants who misuse US law for selfish ideals and business pursuits. Data can protect us and our loved ones.


Brand Engagement At The Gates Of The World's Largest Open-Air Gallery

Work Today

Editorial Roundtable: The People-First Workplace Should Borrow From Tradition

Managed By Q, Soma, Workbar, Primary, AltSchool and thinkPARALLAX underline the old-fashioned ideas that deserve a place in the Future of Work

Op-Ed Today

Digital Design Expert: Mobile First Is Dead, Think Mobile Native

Brian Cooper, chief creative officer of OLIVER Group UK, explains how some brands are still playing catch-up to new technology


Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Automotive

See All
Fashion Today

Handbags Crafted From An Old NFL Stadium

People for Urban Progress is an up-cycling program that tackles the waste problem of big demolitions

Related Expert

Jessica Lawrence

Start Up Culture, Innovation

Europe Today

Architect Turns A Giant Smile Into A Public Exhibition

The structure offers visitors a new perspective of London and creates an immersive environment that integrates structure, surface, space and light

Children Today

Norwegian Kids Are Using Their Phones To Log Unsafe Street Conditions

Travel Agent is an app that gamifies the reporting of hazardous conditions to improve the safety of children's commute to school

Travel Today

Google Wants To Help You Plan Your Next Trip

A new app curates vacation itineraries and organizes reservation emails to take the work out of planning a getaway


Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry

PSFK Op-Ed Yesterday

Energy Expert: How American Consumers Are Taking Control Of Their Power Use

Jennifer Tuohy, green tech expert at The Home Depot, discusses green home technologies and developments for renewable technologies in US homes

PSFK Labs Today

The 10 Steps To Discover, Hire, Develop Your Next Leader

PSFK's Future of Work report outlines key steps in the employee development path to empower next-gen leaders

Technology Today

Small Handheld Analyzer Checks Oral Hygiene On The Go

The breath-detecting gadget gives people a quick and easy peek into their dental health

Asia Yesterday

Safe Drivers Rewarded In Japan With Free Coffee

Driving Barista is a new app that encourages Japanese motorists to put their phones down as they drive

Arts & Culture Yesterday

Michael Kors Has Designed Their Own Instant Camera

In a partnership with Fuji, the limited edition Instax Mini 70 comes in an exclusive metallic gold color

Health Yesterday

Manage Your Emotional Health Through Your Phone

Pharmaceutical company Pfizer has created a new iOS app meant to help patients track mental progress and set goals

Food Yesterday

Delete Food Pics Off Of Instagram To Feed The Hungry

Land O'Lakes and Feeding America are donating meals for every picture of a meal taken off of the social platform


Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders

Design & Architecture Yesterday

This Shape-Shifting Pod Could Be The Future Of The Cubicle

MIT and Google have designed a new form of work enclosure meant to offer privacy in open-office layouts

Advertising Yesterday

Billboard Spies On People As They Walk By

To promote the movie "Snowden," the advertisement broadcasts information on passersby without their knowledge

Fashion Yesterday

Anti-Pollution Scarf Helps Cyclists Ride Through Cities

An innovative system filters pollutants and its accompanying app monitors quality of the air

No search results found.