University of California, San Diego lecturer Brett Stalbaum has come under fire from gun owners recently for his Android app, Gun Geo Marker. The app allows users to pin a map with the location and address of gun owners and share it with others. A strong negative reaction from the gun rights community began with negative reviews of the app and quickly devolved into threats against Mr. Stalbaum. Now, Stalbaum’s reputation, and perhaps future as a University lecturer, is under attack.
A sudden influx of negative reviews have been left on Mr. Stalbaum’s Rate My Professor profile- a website that let’s ‘students’ leave anonymous reviews of their University professors and their courses – since the release of the Gun Geo Marker app. Alone, some of the comments may seem like criticism – albeit harsh – from actual students.
“This professor was not very helpful or educated on the matters he teaches. I am not sure why he is in the position he is in, but the lack of insight is a disgrace to education.”
Others, however, appear slightly less legitimate.
“I tagged him with “Bad Professor” Geo marker app, to help other students be aware of how dangerous his poor teaching skills are.”
Gun enthusiasts are well known for tenaciously defending their right to bear arms and feel that the app is an invasion of their privacy. However, is this an appropriate reaction to the issue? Doesn’t this make the gun owner’s guilty of exactly what they are up in arms about? And what exactly is the issue? Reviews of the actual app produce mixed results.
“Can only tag right where you are. Cannot scroll to see other areas. Can’t enter an address. Bad idea badly executed.” – review by Chris Padar.
This review seems to be more concerned with the quality of the features of the app.
“This is dangerous and invasive…Dangerous because it allows criminals to determine where they might steal firearms….you are an accomplice to any firearm theft that will occur due to the existence of this app.” – Levi Russell in a review of the app.
This seems to be a valid concern. The app may be be invasive and knowing the location of firearms could make it easier to steal them. However, one could also argue that knowing a certain home owner is armed would make a criminal much less likely to target their residence.
“This app is ludicrous! Quit trying to make criminals out of law abiding citizens. You should be ashamed of yourself. I should make a map to mark dbags like you.” – Jeremy Nadeau’s review.
This touches on the main theme in most of the reviews. The real issue here and a simple fact that most of the gun rights community is missing is the message. Mr. Stalbaum is not trying to “make criminals out of law abiding citizens” like Jeremy Nadeau claims above. Stalbaum is using the app and the uproar associated with it to raise awareness about responsible gun ownership. The guidelines for marking locations on the app go into extensive detail on what to mark and what not to mark. The outraged citizens simply neglect to read them.
“First and foremost it is important to understand that in the United States, citizens have a constitutional right to own firearms…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.”
In fact, Stalbaum is a gun owner himself. However, he – and a large portion of the United States – is concerned about gun owners that do not act responsibly, safely, or are engaged in illegal behavior. The guidelines go into further detail, explicitly outlining what users should be concerned about. Things like: guns and unsupervised children, guns and substance abuse, documented/frequent unlawful discharge, and possible illegal weapons on premises.
Now, the app is far from perfect. It is easy to abuse and may indeed be an invasion of privacy. I believe, however, that was the point all along. The idea of the app makes people uncomfortable, scared, and angry. It just so happens that anger and fear help spread messages quickly and virally. And no group responds to fear that their rights are being infringed upon faster and with more anger than than the gun rights community. Can it be a coincidence that this app makes them feel that way? Isn’t responsible gun ownership and gun safety a message worth spreading?
So, before you threaten, belittle, mock, or vilify Brett Stalbaum, consider this. If his app’s message helps keep a gun away from one unsupervised child, takes a gun out of one dangerous person’s hand, or removes one illegal firearm from your neighborhood; isn’t it worth it?