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:
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