In a story we first reported on in 2013, the makers of a cellphone application that purports to alert its users to the location of “dangerous guns and owners” continue to push the product. A 2015 version of the program developed at a lab run by the University of California San Diego is now in beta testing. Rather than provide any real service to its users, the Gun Geo Marker Mark 1 App appears to be little more than a thinly-veiled means to harass, and violate the privacy of, gun owners.
The app works by allowing users to anonymously tag locations on a map where they have a “gun related safety concern,” and allows them to comment on the nature of this concern. Other users are then able to see these tagged locations. Just what the utility of this is information is supposed to be is unclear.
The makers have included several categories to cite when tagging an unsafe location. Many of these categories involve behavior that is already illegal, such as “frequent unlawful discharge,” and “illegal firearms.” In these instances, a person with credible and specific information could simply use the cell phone to call the police with it. Where people don’t have substantial and verifiable information, the app would nevertheless encourage them to make unanswerable, anonymous accusations against others in their community.
Other categories, moreover, are based on entirely subjective determinations, allowing for postings based wholly on ignorance, speculation, or bad faith. These include “unlocked/loaded/unsafe storage,” and “insufficient safety or training.” The developers’ description of the latter category states, “First time gun owners or others who may not have not taken basic gun safety training, or who were not raised in a culture of gun safety, might use guns in an unsafe way at certain locations that might be worth marking.”
Despite the obvious concerns the app raises, the project’s website provides a considerable amount of high-handed lip service regarding the app’s positive gun rights implications. In an F.A.Q. section the developers insist, “Brett Stalbaum, the primary project developer is a gun owner and pro second amendment activist.” Of course, arch gun control sugar daddy Michael Bloomberg said the same thing himself.
As we have seen, people with an irrational fear of, or hatred for, guns and their owners will go to considerable lengths to publicize these feelings. Kimberly Edson of Savage, Minn., posted a sign on her front lawn featuring a surreptitiously taken photograph of a man who lawfully carries a firearm while dropping his child off for school each morning. The picture is accompanied by the caption: “This man carries a loaded gun around your children every day.” Some newspapers have proposed searchable lists of gun license and Right-to-Carry permit holders. In 2012, The Journal News posted a map of pistol license holders in the Lower Hudson Valley.
Of course, libel and other forms of defamation are not protected by the First Amendment, and the privacy features designed by the developers could just as easily protect false and malicious taggers.
That a number of people at a university would take the time and effort to develop a digital platform specifically to spread anonymous, unverified gossip about their gun owning neighbors is a pretty good indication of the pettiness and desperation to which the anti-gun movement has sunk. We’d like to say we expect better, but we’ll let their actions speak for themselves.