The latest spate of mass shootings has galvanized motion in Congress and amongst advocacy organizations massive and small. Gun violence is now acknowledged as a pervasive and rising downside in a rustic with patchwork regulation and 25% extra weapons than individuals. Excessive-profile occasions like these in Uvalde, Buffalo, Parkland, Charleston, Newtown and the lengthy unhappy listing that would comply with belie the truth that mass shootings signify a tragic however vanishingly small proportion of complete gun deaths. In line with CDC knowledge, greater than 45,000 individuals died by firearm in 2020. Seventy-nine of them had been killed in mass shootings.
Such an entrenched, high-stakes and complex downside would require artistic options from all corners. As a latest podcast collection framed it, approaches to decreasing gun violence fall into three classes: schooling, enforcement and engineering. Many people and organizations are devoted to grappling with the primary two. Proposed coverage options embrace expanded background checks, improved licensing necessities, elevating the minimal age to buy a gun, instituting a ready interval, limiting the variety of weapons and ammunition that may be bought without delay, and extra. How may engineers, pc scientists and technologists have interaction extra actively in creating options? Or curbing the hurt enabled by instruments we’ve developed for extra benign functions?
3D printers: Along with printing toys and instruments, 3D printers are able to creating ghost weapons and elements. The expertise and supplies will not be but enough to pose an actual risk, however the proof-of-concept has alarmed legislators and regulation enforcement businesses sufficient to take motion. Though rules governing such weapons have been mired in judicial and legislative tussles for years, such computer-aided designs (CAD) and directions for assembling DIY weapons and printing ammunition are simply out there on-line. Placing a stability between the free speech claims of their customers and company social duty targets, social media platforms might restrict distribution of this materials. As an example, Fb prohibits promoting for firearms however omits point out of CAD designs for printing such weapons. It ought to replace its phrases of service to ban such promoting. A brand new federal ruling would require that “Privately Made Firearms” have to be recognized with a serial quantity or different figuring out mark, and California’s AB 2156 would require anybody creating greater than three weapons with 3D printers to acquire a license to fabricate firearms. These and comparable measures ought to be promoted, not least by 3D printing firms themselves to keep away from reputational hurt if their units are ultimately used for violent ends.
On-line gun gross sales: “Business firearm posts” by people are prohibited on most social media websites, however as a latest Washington Submit article revealed, Fb permits 10 infractions (!) earlier than penalizing gun sellers. Most cost platforms equally prohibit transactions to purchase or promote firearms. Though this will likely deter some gross sales, different transaction websites have stepped in: The web site GunTab outlines the insurance policies of assorted on-line platforms and positions itself because the go-to market. Taken a step additional, bank card firms or ACH suppliers might prohibit gross sales of sure sorts of weapons utilizing their companies, whether or not on-line or in-person. Though this will likely restrict the flexibility to hint such purchases, it might additionally cut back impulse buys that result in lack of life.
Social media websites are step by step taking motion to take away hate speech and expressions of violent extremism on their platforms. These efforts may very well be expanded to forestall customers who exhibit such habits from arming themselves by on-line gun purchases. Efficient AI algorithms might determine customers with danger safety orders towards them (“crimson flags”) and alert regulation enforcement in the event that they search weapons on-line.
Picture recognition: The identical expertise that learns to differentiate cease indicators from social gathering balloons is being utilized to detecting weapons. A number of firms have commercialized the expertise, and it has been deployed in settings like airports, banks, and state gala’s. Whereas safeguards ought to be established to keep away from coupling this utility with facial recognition, given the demonstrated flaws and biases inherent in these programs up to now, specializing in the presence of weapons looks like a promising strategy to alerting regulation enforcement and accelerating response to threats in high-traffic areas.
Good weapons: Weapons that use fingerprint recognition or different biometric knowledge are step by step coming to marketplace for each civilians and regulation enforcement. From 2015 to 2020, 573 youngsters died from unintentional discharge of firearms, and 1000’s extra died by firearm suicide, typically from weapons that weren’t within the arms of their homeowners; implementing safety just like that which unlocks a cellular phone might forestall tragic accidents and restrict unauthorized use. This expertise might additionally cut back the impact of gun thefts and the crimes which might be regularly dedicated utilizing stolen weapons.
Digital record-keeping: Though upgrading its databases and IT programs would enhance effectivity within the service of public security, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has its arms tied. Opposite to specters raised by gun rights advocates, there isn’t any nationwide registry for gun possession. Certainly, such a searchable database is prohibited by federal regulation. (Six states and Washington, DC, have their personal registries for sure sorts of weapons.) The ATF maintains piecemeal documentation, together with gross sales information from gun sellers who’ve gone out of enterprise. Many of those information are nonetheless stored on paper; in accordance with the ATF Workplace of Enforcement, it “processed” greater than 50 million such information in fiscal yr 2021: 887,000 digital and 53.8 million on paper! Even when information are stored digitally and the servers from defunct sellers are turned over to the ATF, such information might not be mixed. The Authorities Accounting Workplace compelled the ATF to delete 252 million information from servers collected between 2000 and 2016 after figuring out that collating such info was towards federal regulation. The ATF could scan and digitize the recordsdata however could not use character recognition software program or different expertise that may create searchable knowledge.
Fierce lobbying by the NRA through the years has curbed the Justice Division’s capacity to modernize ATF’s programs and increase its price range to fulfill present operational wants. Gun security advocates might encourage lawmakers to enhance this mundane however important piece of federal infrastructure. On the similar time, consideration might flip to these states that haven’t but prohibited creating their very own gun registries (eight have such prohibitions, just like the federal limitations) and urge state officers to ascertain registries utilizing trendy expertise.
Clearly technological fixes alone will probably be ineffective to scale back gun violence with out accompanying insurance policies to allow them. A sturdy means to handle lack of life and livelihoods resulting from weapons would require a “entire of society” strategy: change in attitudes about gun possession, stronger regulation from the federal government and personal firms, and the need to implement it. However technologists and engineers can play a task to make use of their ingenuity and revolutionary drive to handle this epidemic.
Picture supply: https://towardsdatascience.com/how-to-build-a-weapon-detection-system-using-keras-and-opencv-67b19234e3dd