WHAT a difference maps can make.
This is not a reference to the flap over Apple substituting its own map app for Google's on iPhones and other products. That was an inconvenience and a business blunder. But it wasn't world-changing.
The map difference at issue today is how various parts of the country are responding to the Connecticut school shootings and subsequent gun control debate. In some areas, including Oklahoma, guns are flying off the shelves at weapons dealers. In others, gun buyback programs are going, well, great guns.
In New York, a newspaper published the names and addresses of handgun permit owners in two counties. While we defend the publication's right to access and disseminate public records, we question why the Journal News thought it prudent to identify people for complying with the law. Identifying where sex offenders live is legitimate. Sex offenders have been convicted of a crime. Identifying the residences where ex-cons who once used a gun in a crime is legitimate. They've been convicted of a crime.
Somehow, the Journal News equates holding a gun permit to having done something bad. If nothing else, this is exploiting a tragedy. Gun dealers also exploit tragedy with appeals to buy weapons ahead of a ban that may or may not happen.
In Los Angeles, the school shootings boosted interest in a gun buyback program, the schedule for which was changed to take advantage of publicity following the shootings. Offered on the day after Christmas were grocery gift cards in exchange for turning in weapons. The Los Angeles Police Department says gang-related violence dropped following previous buyback programs.
In Oklahoma City, interest in buying guns hasn't waned after events in Newtown, Conn. In fact, gun dealers report that sales have been fast and furious. An FBI system for doing background checks has been busy since the election, apparently over fears that a re-elected Barack Obama would restrict gun sales.
Obama supports a gun control measure advanced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. Even some pro-gun Democrats have expressed a willingness to restrict gun ownership following Newtown. It's clear, though, that short of confiscating guns (which no one is seriously proposing), a future weapons ban will have little immediate effect.
Publicizing the addresses of gun permit holders was alternately seen as advertising where thieves can steal guns or broadcasting where people live who don't have a permit and are thus more vulnerable to home invasions. None of this appears to have been taken into account by Journal News executives.
As long as gun-related violence occurs, people on both sides of the gun control controversy will exploit tragedies for political gain. Easy answers will be sought. Moves to restrict gun ownership will lead to a surge in gun-buying and memberships in the National Rifle Association. Comparisons will be made between the United States and countries with strict gun control measures — and between states like Oklahoma and Connecticut.
What gun control proponents can't answer is the question of what restricting future sales of weaponry will do to curb violence involving weapons that were bought five, 10, 15 or more years ago. And what they don't want to talk about are measures to identify and monitor individuals whose mental health status puts them in a higher risk category.
That would be profiling and a violation of individual rights — something gun control advocates don't seem to consider when weapon ownership and permitting is the issue.