Why isn't Silicon Valley trying to fix the gun problem?


You are misinterpreting the Kellerman study, which people often do. The statement about the household gun being the most probable weapon is a pure fabrication. Kellerman found that Homicides were more likely in homes with guns. It is easy to assume that the conclusion is that those were the guns used, but that particular question was not actually addressed by the study. Slightly less than half of the homicides cited involved guns. The primary conclusion of Kellerman is that households where members are aware of a high risk of homicide are likely to own guns. Those risks included drug sales in the home and membership in criminal gangs. Kellerman also only counted defensive gun use when the intruder was fatally shot.

A better, more applicable study is Kleck and Hogan’s study for the American Journal of Criminology (1996). They found that less than 5% of homicides were committed by persons using guns kept in the home. And even in this study, they found that the majority of those 5% were in households where there was already significant criminal activity.

from the Journal of the American Medical Association( Kleck 1998) “Gun-using victims are less likely to be injured or to lose property than otherwise similar victims in similar circumstances using any other self-protection strategy, including not resisting at all. It is rare that gun-using victims are injured, and when they are, the injury was usually inflicted before they used the gun. For example, less than 6% of gun-using robbery victims are injured after defensive use of the gun, and some of these injuries most likely would have been inflicted regardless of resistance.”

I respect your views on guns. It is an issue that we should be discussing, but we should be using the best data available. Conclusions on any issue based on flawed or biased data are not going to prove helpful to any of us.


I am at least asome skeptical of a “mental health problem” as a “gun problem”.

Guns haven’t changed, and the field of mental health has, if anything, improved over the period of time in which mass shootings have grown in popularity.

Guns are, without a doubt, a part of the problem equation. The only question is which part of the equation we try and change. More gun regulations could put a dent in the problem, but doesn’t address the root cause. It is one way of solving the problem, but not the only way, imo.


There’s been no end of hand wringing and analysis about the tech sectors weird libertarian politics over the past decade. As well as its connection to far weirder and more recidivist things like the new misogynist and neoreactionary movements. Frankly Silicon Valley isn’t working to “fix” the gun problem because that’s not the sort of the thing Silicon Valley and the tech industry do these days. Their vaunted love of disruption is increasingly focused on disrupting things like labor markets/protections and government regulation. The idea of “fixing” guns is at odds with a lot of that. Even if you ignore the direct connections between the idea of smart guns, trigger locks and other safety measures and the gun control movement. They don’t have any interest in fixing the gun problem because according to the predominant politics of that industry, there is no go problem. Or looked at another way the gun problem is government based not gun or gun owner based, and smart guns are fall too closely into the more government less guns camp. So 3d printed guns and computer controlled guns capture the imagination of certain people in that demographic group. But smart guns are something I would image most would be opposed to.


Smart guns are a complex, expensive, unwanted solution to a problem already solved.

The use case for smart guns is to prevent unauthorized access. The existing solution is locking containers. Which are cheaper, fit every gun (rather then just new ones) don’t change how the gun operates and are widely accepted.

The only thing a smart gun could do better is in the case of a gun takeaway, such as being snatched from a holster or taken from the users hands.

I think the EvolveUSA campaign of “check it, lock it, respect it”, safe storage laws (like California’s) and reasonably priced locking containers with social pressure to use them is a much better answer then trying to put crypto and authentication hardware into a gun.


Also, people with mental health problems are actually less violent than people without them (about one in five people experience a mental health problem in their lives, 3-5% of violent incidents are attributable to people with mental health problems). Most mentally ill people have addictions, depression and anxiety disorders. It is much harder for them to do things like hold down a job or formulate a plan to murder people. We’d colloquially say, “You’d have to be crazy to go on a shooting rampage because you [lost your job / hate women / whatever]” but you don’t have to have a mental illness to do those things.

The recent Michigan shooter says that the Uber app was telling him to kill people, and that sounds like some kind of mental illness was involved. But of course people who hear voices are really hearing their own thoughts. The mental illness explains feeling a presence in the car with him and understanding that he was being controlled by a phone app. It does not explain “shoot that person” was something he was thinking.

If crazy was just crazy - if mentally ill people behaved at random rather than expressing cultural messages - then we would see limitless variety in the way people who were hearing voices behaved. Instead we see patterns. Even if it is a mental illness problem, it’s still a gun problem.


Today’s ‘responsible gun owner’ is tomorrow’s grieving parent or despised murder suspect. But no one thinks that THEY are too stupid to own a gun.


And then we can get to the really hard problems, like figuring out how you’re supposed to use the three seashells.


The NRA and gun advocates tend to want people to think of a gun as just another appliance. A gun is not a toaster, or a purse. If you leave it the back seat of your SUV, your kid is going to shoot you in the back.


The only problems silicon valley can solve are unionisation, job security and consumer safety. The most they’d have to contribute to guns is an app to ‘disrupt’ regulation of sales.


Did you ever want to play questions?

You know what’s great? In most places, you can probably carry a sidearm where you can’t carry a sword or long knife. Or a picket sign, for that matter.

Anyway, not really relevant to the question at hand. What would be Silicon Valley’s motivation? The aggravation would be immense. Why doesn’t Silicon Valley cure Domestic Violence? Ebola? Air pollution? Justin Bieber?


Thank you! “Cultural messages” are what I was trying to get him to think about.

Much has changed on that front, not least the 24 hour news cycle that serves to glorify these revenge fantasies. (Not that there is any singular cause)


“Guns haven’t changed”? Au contraire, I’d much rather be shot at with an arquebus than a Glock.


Um, no, the vast majority of gun owners are not. But it’s not surprising that most gun owners stay out of the shouting match when the discussion is so completely dominated by actual gun nuts and non-gun owners whose starting assumption is that all gun owners are deranged nutcases and trigger happy loons itching to shoot people.

It has nothing to do with native intelligence; gun safety is a matter of education, practice and common sense. With a few inaccessibly expensive, exclusive or experimental exceptions, guns are not complicated machines and gun safety is not a complicated skill.


I’m not talking about the Kellerman study, actually. A number of studies have indicated the same thing, and have controlled for the various factors, including reasons for owning a gun, socio-economic factors, etc. The increased risk of owning a gun exists independent of external factors, and is especially true for women. The increased risk factor for owning a gun hugely outnumbers uses of guns in self-defense. (Whose numbers are also problematic for various reasons, including the fact that self-reported gun use for self-defense frequently included incidents where they were actually the criminal aggressor, objectively - and legally - speaking.)


Silicon Valley is primarily comprised of young and self-entitled armchair libertarians. What do you expect?


Um, so native intelligence and what we used to call “Common sense” has nothing to do with what you might do with a gun? You are deluded.

p.s. if you start a sentence with ‘um’ I automatically picture you as a teenage girl.


The “its all about mental health” argument is basically just a political dodge by pro-gun politicians and the fire arms industry. Its almost solely derived from concerns about mass shootings (which are curiously never terrorism even when they have explicitly political motivations, unless its politically expedient). Unfortunately mass shootings are comparatively rare and don’t necessarily contribute all that much to the number of gun deaths and amount of gun violence in this country. There’s some truth to metal health being a factor. A shockingly large number of gun deaths are suicides for example. Though interestingly it seems that these suicides aren’t necessarily among those who are mentally ill in the way we typically assume for these things, mentally ill long enough for us to remove or prevent them from getting guns, or mentally ill enough for anything to be done. And IIRC if you compare places with fewer guns to places with more guns, guns owners vs non-owners etc you find that there are fewer suicides in the absence of guns. So its not as if the guns are a convenient means to an end, and suicidal people will simply opt for rope or a bridge otherwise. The dominant interpretation right now is that since guns are easily accessible, and a remarkably effective and final method for killing ones self. You have a situation where people who are momentarily distraught, in crisis, or intoxicated reaching for their on hand unsecured gun to shoot themselves. Absent that source of self destructive instant gratification people make their way out of that crisis, or fail to kill themselves via other methods allowing them to seek help or otherwise improve their situation. Like wise alcohol (along with other drugs) is a huge contributing factor for gun violence. In accidental shootings, suicides, but also in “crimes of passion” and opportunity. And in just crime in general. Just as domestic violence and abuse are larger factors in total gun violence than the very specific concept of mental health currently being blamed. As are accidental shooting, either from user error, kids playing etc. Crime is a factor as well, and better mental health support isn’t going to effect your gang members or other career criminals too much. Though it might have some effect on less persistent forms of crime if we include addiction under that heading.

Frankly the situation is a lot more complex than “its mental health!” or “less guns will fix it”. For example I think its broadly speaking true that greatly restricting gun ownership won’t necessarily prevent organized crime from obtaining guns should they want to. Nor would universal background checks necessarily reduce the number, or severity of mass shootings. But like wise ignoring all sensible fire arms regulation in favor of increasing our public health support for psychological problems (something we should do anyway) isn’t going to stop your neighbor the fine upstanding citizen from shooting his wife in a moment of anger. Or the kid down the block from shooting himself with dad’s gun because he got dumped. Basic gun regulations can have an effect on some of this. Requiring people to store guns safely. Locked up, with ammo and magazines locked in a separate container. Requiring actual training and safety instruction. Stricter, universal, background checks so those with a history of abuse can’t acquire a gun etc. Most of the gun owners I know support this kind of stuff. And if you look at polling you’ll find in most cases the vast majority of gun owners nation wide support these kinds of measures. Its the manufacturers, right wing ideologues, and NRA who reject them (out of hand). Even to the point where the fire arms companies have gotten writers from outdoor magazines, and fire arms magazines fired from their jobs for daring to discuss these things as anything other than horrible things.

Frankly if you do talk to a lot of gun owners, in their natural environment. Like when I actually go to an actual shooting range to actually shoot guns (don’t own any, uncle is a collector and instructor). The thing you hear over and over is that yes these people are fine with some added restrictions on gun ownership. These people are even fine (and in some cases eager for) added federal involvement. Especially when you can show that they really might have a practical effect. And there’s one really good reason for that. Consistency. As it stands right now gun laws change rapidly and repeated. And they vary with an insane level of granularity from state to state, county to county, and even between cities and towns. It can be difficult to figure out exactly how to stay on the right side of the law, and it can become complicated to do so. And the unstable nature of it all leads to price gouging and purchasing runs. As an example there was a bit a few years ago where it was almost impossible to find .22lr ammunition in my state. It had nothing to do with any actual restrictions on ammunition. But fears stoked by manufacturers, the NRA, and right wing politicians created a sort of “run” on ammo. People were basically buying all of the ammo manufactured or shipped to the state, retailers and manufacturers started gouging. And after a bit when you could find the stuff it was going for something like $50-$60 a box. For ammo that can often be had for less than $5 a box. Like wise my uncle the responsible gun owner keeps a separate set of weapons where he hunts from where he lives. Because its prohibitively risky/troublesome to transport anything from point A to point B given the sheer number of counties he has to go through.

Frankly from where I’m standing, and from what I can see. It looks like if the government wanted to take your guns right now they could. There’s a such a mishmash and mess of regulations in this country that even the most responsible, upstanding, and safe gun owner has likely violated some law, some where, at some time. It would just take some one looking to exploit that to start making it a problem. The current situation is not good for gun owners. Its good for politicians and business. And in the meantime it lets a lot of preventable violence happen completely unchecked.

But your right that there is an aspect of this that’s a clear social problem. And its in the idea that you need a gun, to protect yourself or assert your rights. That adversarial, scaremongering idea that at all times and at any moment there are people who are right about to come shoot you, crime you, take your rights from you. And the only way to be prepared is to have guns and expect to use them on another person at all times. Its a much broader version of the “only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun” argument. But there’s no basis in reality for those ideas. Aside from the fact that crime is at all time historical lows. Every single bit of data we’ve been allowed to collect on the subject shows the concept to be hollow. And if you follow it back to its origins, and its driving force today? It comes from fire arms advertising. Its not some deeply held American ideal from the Founding Fathers, or a practical response to a real situation. Its starts with Colt advertising in the 19th century. And its become the most embedded idea in the firearms issue because its very good for making people money, even as it prompts Americans to kill each other and themselves.


You’re conflating common sense with being smart. You have to be smart to learn a complicated task. You don’t need to be smart to exercise common sense. You simply have to think things through. That is one part of gun safety. The rest is education and practicing good habits. The majority of gun owners will never use it for self-defense or have it used against them. We can debate whether gun control would be effective in a country with millions of guns and billions of rounds of ammunition in circulation. But the only justification for it would be to reduce gun crime. Smart guns won’t do that.

Smart guns might reduce accidents, and it’s certainly worth exploring since any safety feature that works as intended is a a net benefit to everyone. Reducing the fear and ignorance of guns and gun owners would go a long way to creating a dialogue where the only exchanges between the two opposing camps don’t immediately devolve into angry ad hominems and stereotypes. But it’s no wonder tech types don’t want to wade into a topic that elicits a shouting match every time like clockwork.

Just look at @ficuswhisperer’s comment. He or she is a wonderful and articulate mutant whose intelligent and nuanced comments I almost always enjoy. But highly emotionally-charged issues stimulate the part of the brain that tends to cloud nuanced thought. When people get mad, they’re more likely to reduce other groups of people to caricatures instead of the actual and diverse human beings they comprise, an amplification of the normal human inclination to stereotype people we don’t really know based on criteria such as where they live and work. This is one reason I generally don’t get involved in gun discussions. The topic routinely enrages people on both sides of the issue and then constructive discourse goes right out the window.

While I’m neither, I don’t really consider being pictured as a teenager or a girl to be particularly demeaning, but I take it you meant that as an insult. If your analysis of my comments is inextricably altered by my tendency to use natural language in online discussions, then I will remember that and refrain from doing so when talking with you, as for me language should facilitate communication, and if how I write clouds the communication between us, it’s not serving that sole purpose. I use words like um and er to indicate a casual conversational tone that’s difficult to convey in written discourse, particularly on charged topics where the default reading may well be of a pugnacious tone.


Really? You start your sentences with ‘um…’ on a regular bases? Wow.