Gun Marking Guidelines

You will rather read this first: What is the Gun Geo Marker? (Really)

– Project Speculative Design Text Below –

Gun marking guidelines

The general guideline is that you should mark any location about which you have a gun related concern, while trying to provide enough extra information for others to make their own determination about safety.

An important secondary warning is that the Walkingtools Gun Geo Marker is not intended as a reporting mechanism for active threats. If you are concerned for anyone’s immediate safety, call 911 immediately.

Users submit data (crowd sourcing) about dangerous gun and owner sites.

Users submit data (crowd sourcing) about dangerous gun and owner sites. The Gun Geo Marker UI allows users to select from danger categories and provide extra contextual information.

First and foremost it is important to understand that in the United States, citizens have a constitutional right to own firearms. While this right is subject to many different laws and zoning regulations that vary greatly by state and locality, your use of the Walkingtools Gun Geo Marker should always be guided by your understanding of the second amendment to the United States Constitution. While no set of guidelines can possibly address every situation, there are a number of things you should consider before electronically marking somebody’s home, business or other property as potential location of concern over guns or unsafe owners. The following guidelines, always with a particular attention to your own personal safety and local circumstances, should be taken into consideration before using the software.

What the Walkingtools Gun Geo Marker is NOT intended for

In general, you should not worry about firearms owned by either hunters or gun enthusiasts who safely store and properly enjoy their weapons in the field, or at local firing ranges for recreational purposes. These are normally the people who have the highest level of commitment to gun safety, and abide by the laws regulating their hobby. The same holds true for most concealed carry permit holders, or other owners permitted and properly regulated.

Similarly, you should not be concerned merely because your neighbors are a member of any national gun advocacy organization. The actual threat – just to cite the best known org – that the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its kin present to you and your children is political. This can be seen clearly in their consistent opposition to gun safety laws that would, for example, require parents to properly secure their guns, allow prosecutors to bring charges against people who allow kids to play with loaded guns, or when they help pass laws prohibiting doctors from asking children about guns in the home in an epidemiological attempt to help prevent children from shooting other children. In spite of all of this this, you should recall that the NRA also provides high quality safety training as a public service to its members, and that this increases general gun safety. It is safe to say that serious NRA members and their homes should normally be of no concern to you, even as their political radicalism helps makes the gun violence epidemic worse. Even if it is likely – and it is – that an NRA bumper sticker indicates that a gun is stored in the home, you might also notice that such owners have already self-identified to the public, and most certainly have nothing to hide. It may be redundant to place an electronic mark near their property when they are already marking themselves.

Finally, there is at least one particular situation in which you should certainly not use the Walkingtools Gun Geo Marker. If you have direct, personal knowledge or even a suspicion that guns are being used in context of organized criminal activity, then it may be extremely risky for you to mark related locations. You should forget about the Walkingtools Gun Geo Marker in all such cases, and instead consider getting appropriate law enforcement agencies involved in the situation.

Places you might want to mark with the Walkingtools Gun Geo Marker

There will naturally be some uncertainty about whether any particular location actually represents an unsafe gun situation, and again, the general guideline is that you should mark any location about which you have a gun related concern, while trying to provide enough extra information for others to make their own determination about safety. Try to keep the following warning signs and guidelines in mind when determining if a local gun owner may present a threat to your children or your community. While the remainder of the guidelines are fairly obvious cases for marking if true, it is important to remain clear headed about your assessment and avoid misunderstandings. Users of the Walkingtools Gun Geo Marker hold the responsibility for the quality of the information the system presents (while remaining anonymous), so try to be as clear about your concerns as possible.

Unlocked, loaded, or carelessly stored weapons

Note that while people who keep loaded firearms in their home should not necessarily have their location marked as a gun owner of concern, studies do show conclusively that guns in the home greatly increase the chances of death by gunfire for the owner, family members and visitors. This is especially the case with guns kept unlocked and loaded for “personal safety.” Bear in mind that guns for personal safety can be maintained safely. Also note that the United States Supreme Court has ruled that owning a gun for personal safety is a right protected by the second amendment. Nevertheless, unlocked, loaded or carelessly stored weapons should generally be treated with concern by friends, neighbors and visitors. The locations of such careless owners should probably be marked so that others can make an informed decision.

Dangerous gun owners

The Gun Geo Marker UI

The Gun Geo Marker UI shows nearby gun danger sites reported by users.

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, represent a real and present danger to their community, themselves and their family members. Their locations may be marked at any time. Bear in mind that these people are most often well meaning, thus as a concerned neighbor you might very well be able to educate them and therefore avoid marking their location. Sometimes new gun owners fall into emotional categories, such purchasing a gun out of fear, or to express an identity or some sense of personal power or strength that may be otherwise be lacking. Guns are marketed to our fears, and as identity props, in much the same way as home security systems and automobiles are. They can represent deeply personal issues for some, just as they represent useful tools for others. First time gun owners in particular may be putting their psychological needs in front of safety or financial concerns, making these particularly useful signs to look for. In any case, it is easy enough to determine through simple conversation if any gun owners knows the basics of gun safety:

  1. A gun should always be treated as if it is loaded
  2. The muzzle should never be pointed at anything not to be killed or destroyed
  3. Fingers are to stay off the trigger except when firing
  4. Maintain awareness of the target and what is down range from the target

If a gun owner can not list these basic safety principles, or demonstrates a cavalier attitude toward gun safety, or becomes angry when you ask about it, then the location at which they store or use their guns should be marked as soon as it is feasible.

A more obvious category of dangerous neighbor is someone who frequently displays or brandishes weapons, or those reveal their gun ownership status during normal conflict resolution. Such people are potentially a very serious concern, and the home or business locations of potential high conflict gun owners should be marked only when feasible. The same goes for any neighbor whose children speak frequently of their parent’s gun ownership, or who talk about guns as a potential tools for conflict resolution. If your children or your child’s friends know of insecure weapons (unlocked, stored loaded, or potentially accessible to your children), then the location of these weapons should be marked and other actions (such as disallowing your children from playing at that home or with those kids) should be taken immediately. Talk to your kids and their friends! Younger kids in particular will talk about the things their parents frequently discuss, and they will tend to enact parental attitudes toward conflict resolution as well. Paying attention to these warning signs is a way that you might find out about insecure weapons in your neighborhood! Obviously, beware of parents who acquire guns while simultaneously neglecting or under supervising their children. And of course, if another adult has let your child handle or fire a weapon without your permission, you should be very concerned. When feasible, mark the location of any such owners and their guns so that others might be warned of potentially dangerous households. Even if neighborhood rumors turn out to be incorrect, the congress has left parents with so few options to protect their families from potentially dangerous gun owners that erring on the side of safety is highly advised.

Finally, gun locks are very inexpensive. If you know of an unlocked gun in a home with children, then you you know of a gun that needs to be marked with the Gun Geo Marker.

Places with an unsafe gun culture

There are many locations, such as remote public or private lands where the discharge of firearms is legal. If you frequent such a location, you are likely a gun owner yourself and moreover, you probably have a strong interest in re-establishing safety standards at these sites. (Gun owners know that the better they police safety within their own communities of practice, the better the situation becomes for themselves and gun owners in general.) If you observe a general culture of gun usage that runs counter to the principles of firearms safety, mark the site as “Other” and explain why. The Walkingtools Gun Marker should serve safety generally, including that of recreational gun owners. Other locations you might wish to mark are those where gunfire is frequent, sites with a history of frequent unsafe use, or where there is possible or documented unlawful firearms discharge such as celebratory fire.

Uncertain situations

There are a number of cases in which a decision about whether or not to mark the location is much less obvious. People who stockpile large arsenals or numerous assault weapons for reasons other than collecting are likely a concern. Bumper stickers or other public displays supporting gun ownership are not a problem, but when combined with radical anti-government propaganda and/or representations of paranoid political beliefs or support for terrorist organizations, these owners and their locations may well be worth marking. Again, such gun owners may or may not be of concern, and your decision may relate to how “out of place” or unstable the situation feels. Another very uncertain situation can relate to the impaired use of firearms. Any locations related to gun owners with a substance abuse issue or other potential medical condition that might alter their judgment or make them unable to tell right from wrong may well be worth marking – especially if friends have become concerned about an individual’s obsession with guns and/or mental health status. In any case where uncertainty is involved, we recommend making a decision based on your carefully considered perception of the actual risk at hand. If you do mark such locations, try to provide clear reasons why you are concerned so that others can make an informed decision about the risk.

On the other side of uncertainty

On the other hand, if you know or suspect that a gun owner is prohibited individual (for example persons with criminal records, history of serious mental illness, or a current restraining order) then you should report their gun ownership to authorities immediately, and mark the location of their guns only if it is safe and feasible. This is especially important if it is a reasonable assertion that the gun owner is in fact threatening or suicidal – don’t hesitate to contact local authorities with you concerns before you mark the location. The same holds true if you possess secure knowledge that a particular weapon in your neighborhood is illegal to own within the bounds of your State or municipality. But keep in mind that if the site is an active location for criminal activity (for example drug dealing), then you should not involve yourself in any way.

Marking Categories

Based on the previous discussion, note that the tool allows you to select from the following categories when marking a site. Select the most appropriate designation of concern:

  • “Possible unlocked/loaded/unsafe storage”
  • “Possible insufficient training”
  • “Guns and unsupervised children”
  • “Guns and substance abuse”
  • “Possible medical related concern”
  • “Neighborhood talk, unsafe”
  • “Possible high conflict, armed neighbor”
  • “Possible out of place, large arsenal”
  • “Documented/frequent unlawful discharge”
  • “Possible illegal weapons on premises”
  • “Possible prohibited persons”
  • “Possible anti-government/terror threat”
  • “Other concern (describe)”

Providing Useful Context

The local context of the site marking is very important to other users who might view the marker you have placed. In as few words as possible (limited to 64 characters), you can provide some extra information that would be relevant to the local community. This might be a specific street address, the names of the owners, or brief details explaining why you are reporting the site.

Note that the context of any particular location changes over time. Most obviously, people move. The locations you mark will automatically disappear from our database after an undisclosed but relatively short amount of time. (Roughly, a few months.) If you notice that a site you have marked is no longer marked, this is simply because it has been cleaned up automatically. If the site is still a problem, you are welcome to re-enter your information as you deem necessary. Please refrain from marking a site multiple times if your marker is still on the map, but if you see somebody else has marked a site and you happen to agree with their assessment, please do mark the site with your own marker. Multiple markers at a site should be taken as a sign of special concern.

The last words are the first words

If enough members of your community take the time to mark dangerous gun sites and owners, then this crowd-sourced data may serve to save a life or perhaps even influence national policy. It is a shame that this kind of “tattle ware” is necessary, but it may be the only option that many hardworking parents and busy community members have available to them to easily and anonymously increase safety within their own neighborhoods. Without the congress taking concrete action to enact reasonable laws to reduce gun violence, there remain few alternatives but to take matters into our own hands. The Walkingtools Gun Geo Marker seeks to provide a simple, easy to use service at no charge. But we can all look forward to a future time when this tool is no longer necessary. Congress will eventually do the right thing and send reasonable reform bills to the President, thus at some point this App may be removed from circulation. But in the mean time:

The general guideline is that you should mark any location about which you have a gun related concern, while trying to provide enough extra information for others to make their own determination about safety.