Unfortunately, any idea of really ending gun violence in the US is no more believable on April Fools day than on any other day. It’s no joke.
No matter how many voters want to see progress, progress – even a little bit – is unlikely. More like impossible.
Still, we can aspire to do what is best for the rights and safety of all – gun owners and school children and the thousands of innocents that suffer from America’s obsession with firearms.
I understand that Major League Baseball is doing a small bit. All 28 teams will wear a patch on their opening day uniforms – a black ribbon with the Newtown seal and twenty-six stars. Symbols count.
So, the many arguments have been made and entrenched positions taken. There is no need to rehash here.
But there is another notion, or set of notions to consider. This may be a time where some new capabilities, new technologies, can be brought to bear on these issues so simple (stop the violence) and complex (fix mental health, and background checks and fundamental societal values / American culture).
A December article in the Atlantic proposed that Big Data in the form of a national gun-registry database could potentially have helped to prevent Newtown.
That clearly alarms gun owners. The 318 comments that follow are mostly pro-gun, dismissing the idea that advanced data would be of help and defending ammunition buys in bulk. A difficulty with these sorts of arguments is that they are way too theoretical. More than that, they are way too narrow.
Gun violence is a result of so many factors, direct and indirect, that a focus on background checks, or ammo, or magazine capacity, or semi-automatics, or violent video games, or any of the dozens of other impact elements is not helpful unless placed in the full context. These are all interconnected elements, like an ecosystem. Any adjustments or major changes will impact the whole but not necessarily in predictable ways.
New ideas are needed. Technology can help to see that new ideas are tried and can certainly assist in measuring impacts. Why can’t data analytics be brought to bear?
An article at Gigaom the day after the Atlantic piece began to get at this by suggesting that there are broader issues to be examined. Here the point was made that even if data couldn’t predict who was likely to commit murder that it could be used to assess why, as a society, the US has a much higher murder rate than other similar western countries – Canada, UK, Australia etc.
Still that doesn’t touch enough of the causal elements. What’s more, our understanding of gun violence is actually quite weak:
“…and some people who own guns see politics at work in any system that allows that data to be gathered. But right now, whatever your beliefs on guns are, it’s incredibly difficult to back them up with any solid science at all.” Maggie Koerth-Baker
All of our sophisticated analytics can see the patterns in combining massive amounts of data from multiple social media sources, databases, personal records, RFID signals and more – just for targeted advertising.
Why can’t we gather from all the relevant sources to help to quell the violence?
And we don’t need permission from the NRA.