James’s Musings

thoughts, photography, and geeky stuff
from an unrelentingly curious Silicon Valley entrepreneur

Putting the Bullets Back in the Gun [First in a Series on Gun Violence]

by James G. Beldock on April 26, 2008

My day job ex­pos­es me to a grim re­al­i­ty: gun vi­o­lence re­mains a con­stant threat across our coun­try. My per­spec­tive in­to this world is some­what lim­it­ed, as I see it most reg­u­lar­ly through the win­dow af­ford­ed by the just un­der 100 square miles of the US cov­ered by ShotSpotter sys­tems (a small, frac­tion of the country’s 10,000+ ur­ban square miles, let alone its 3.8 mil­lion over all square miles). But even with­in that nar­row per­spec­tive, the num­bers are shock­ing: with­in the ar­eas cov­ered by ShotSpotter sys­tems, we de­tect­ed more than 80 sep­a­rate shoot­ing in­ci­dents on the av­er­age evening in March; if this year is any­thing like last year, that num­ber will in­crease to more than 200 per evening in July and August. Using some data from Americans for Gun Safety, I came up with the fol­low­ing fright­en­ing map:

Number of Violent Crimes with a Firearm (Est.)

Gun vi­o­lence has be­come not on­ly the tool of mur­der­ers but the tool of in­tim­ida­tors, and thus it is be­com­ing all the more preva­lent. One city in which our tech­nol­o­gy is de­ployed, for ex­am­ple, suf­fered 100 mur­ders last year. There were an­oth­er 300-500 peo­ple wound­ed by gun­fire. But in that same city, over that year, we de­tect­ed more than 3,000 in­ci­dents of gun­fire. All of this in a city in which it is il­le­gal to fire a weapon out­doors with­in city lim­its (un­less, of course, one is at a li­censed shoot­ing range). It is safe to as­sume this ap­prox­i­mate­ly one-in-ten ra­tio is not the re­sult of preter­nat­u­ral­ly poor aim on the part of those shoot­ing the weapons. Nor is it any­thing to be hap­py about. As the­se data in­di­cate, guns are fired il­le­gal­ly just as of­ten for pur­pos­es oth­er than to kill some­one. So one need not on­ly be con­cerned about mur­ders and hard-core felons. We al­so need to wor­ry about the peo­ple who fire guns for the sake of in­tim­i­da­tion, to “mark ter­ri­to­ry,” or sim­ply be­cause it’s fun.

The so­lu­tion to our nation’s gun vi­o­lence prob­lem does not lie sole­ly in tech­nol­o­gy such as ShotSpotter. Naturally, as the company’s CEO I am in­clined to rec­om­mend the tech­nol­o­gy as a re­li­able mech­a­nism to re­duce gun crime (in fact, ShotSpotter sys­tems have been proven to re­duce gun­fire and vi­o­lent crime), but that’s not the point of this post­ing. The sad re­al­i­ty is that, by the time ShotSpotter finds out about a crime, so­ci­ety as a whole has missed the op­por­tu­ni­ty to pre­vent that crime from hap­pen­ing in the first place. Around the of­fice, we can oc­ca­sion­al­ly be heard say­ing that ShotSpotter can’t help put the bul­lets back in the gun. Nor can we stop the gun from be­ing fired. But what if some­body could? Therein lies a tremen­dous op­por­tu­ni­ty.

The next post in this se­ries: cap­i­tal­iz­ing on that tremen­dous op­por­tu­ni­ty

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Patrick April 2, 2009 at 7:17 am

Try to get an updated one

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