Gun Violence Prevention: Establishing a Viral Neighborhood Watch

Eng 102:  Essay 3
Published Date: Nov. 11, 2012

Title:  Gun Violence Prevention: Establishing a Viral Neighborhood Watch

I. Introduction/Thesis sentence: Data mining to complete a Psychological Assessment has a vital role in reducing gun violence.

II. Topic sentence 1:  The current gun purchasing laws and how they are flawed.

  1. The actual laws and how they establish a false assurance.
  2. The actual laws and identification of their flaws.
  3. The actual laws and how to resolve their flaws.

III. Topic sentence 2: Can social media provide the data necessary to complete a psych evaluation test?

  1. Current Social Media Privacy Laws
  2. Current Data Crawlers and the assessments they make.
  3. Current Social Media Sites providing the information needed for a psychological assessment.

IV. Topic sentence 3:  The advantages of a social media psychological assessment crawler far outweighs the disadvantages.    

  1. Although there is a perception of personal information being assessed as an infringement of rights, there are no rights to information shared in public forums.
  2. Although many fear an abuse of the information being assessed, professionals are easier to hold accountable than criminals.
  3. Although not every person utilizes SMS, the percentages are extremely high.

V. Conclusion



Gun Violence Prevention: Establishing a Social Media Neighborhood Watch


Gun violence seems to most Americans to be an unresolvable issue. Social Media(SM) is a tool already being exploited to ascertain the information to suit the exploiter.  Most Americans are extremely vocal about their respective position on both issues, but if we quiet the voices for a moment to analyze the facts we see that implementing a SM Neighborhood Watch will result in a reduction of gun violence.

Throughout the last two hundred years the debates of gun violence have been unending and the laws have been adjusted, readjusted and changed.  Every time there is another mass shooting or incident of gun violence we are forced to face the fact – there are still flaws. To identify the flaws let’s clarify the current law.

The FBI states those unable to purchase a weapon are those who: have been convicted in court punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year or more, are a fugitive from justice, or are an unlawful user or addict to controlled substance.  An additional statute, implemented by 1998, leads us to believe that there is a mental stability guarantee on those who purchase a weapon.  It is written as follows:  has been adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental institution(Statute 18, U.S.C. §922 (g) (4)).  Initially, this reassures citizens that those who are not mentally stable will not be able to purchase a weapon, but upon closer inspection two major flaws are clear.

Each State interprets and enforces this at varying degrees as illustrated in the following, “Unlike the federal law, Virginia’s corresponding law specifically requires commitment to a mental hospital to block an applicant from purchasing a firearm.”(Jost,8). Keep in mind there is no law dictating a person who buys from a state not of their own residence must qualify for both State’s regulations.  These laws do not address perhaps the most valid concern: that most people who purchase weapons for illegal activity do not purchase them through legal channels and may not have any prior court dealings.

To repair the insufficient translation of and irregular standards, all States must operate under one consistent translation and adhere to consistent standards.  This eliminates a citizen purchasing through another State to step around laws put into place for the safety of the public. With the invention of the world wide web our federal law must leave little to debate at the State level.

To prevent criminals from purchasing guns… it is time to face that there is no way.  We can create laws until we are blue in the face and all we are doing is creating more hoops for law-abiding citizens to jump through.  What we need to do is look outside the box to determine if there is a way to identify people who pose a risk to the safety of others. Implementing the SM Neighborhood Watch would identify these people

Before we move on, it is crucial to discuss another path that has been reviewed to identify person(s) who are a high threat to the safety of others; the divulgence of psychological records held by certified Psychologists.  There is little argument that these records should be kept confidential, but when gun violence occurs and investigation brings to light evidence of forewarning, it exposes how little is being done on a preventative front.  Utilizing the information provided in public social media sites eliminates the imposition of patient/doctor confidentiality.  Both Jost and Szalavitz voice another concern that is relevant to our proposal of a SM neighborhood watch; the discrimination of the mentally ill and the potential for them to suffer the consequences of an incorrect or expired label.  Once data has been collected and a preliminary assessment made, a red flag would be assigned to the individual.  A certified psychologist would be responsible to follow up with the individual to complete the Psychological Assessment and recommend treatment/make a diagnosis.  This red flag would not be public knowledge-it would only prevent the purchase of a weapon-eliminating these concerns.

So let’s return to the thoughts that were being pieced together.  Yes – this means your social media site will be assessed.  This is the moment the thought transposes into an outraged shout, “That’s illegal, it infringes on my privacy, it can’t be done and wouldn’t provide enough information to make a proper assessment!!”

Let’s first address the current laws pertaining to online privacy on public social media sites.  Let me repeat: laws pertaining to online privacy on public social media sites.   Just in case the hypocrisy of the sentence hasn’t jumped out I will elaborate.  There is no law guaranteeing privacy of information that is posted in a public forum. As depicted by Privacy Right Clearinghouse there are policies that employers are adding regarding what employees can or cannot post about their work, but as far as protecting the information that is placed on these sites, there is nothing, for those who chose to leave their information on a public setting.  For those who have tightened their securities/ changed their privacy settings, they are protected by the privacy settings they have selected.  For the purpose of this proposition, we are exploring the benefits of evaluating public information, not taking up the war of accessing all user information.

Next let’s face the statement, “It can’t be done!”  Data mining, also known as web crawling, embedded its roots in the very invention of Social Media Sites(SMS).  According to the Hills Shire Times, a company called Media Monitors “[is] capable of capturing 250 million online conversations a month… using key words, phrases, issues, names and other search criteria, our web crawling technology logs on to thousands of internet sites and downloads relevant content continuously.”  This particular company began its data mining effort to provide a solution to cyber bullying. Is it really so much of a stretch to consider the same solution for the general security of the citizens of this country?

One example is not sufficient to establish that it is common practice to utilize information provided in SMS.  Many companies and entrepreneurs believe in the integrity of data mining and bank on its accuracy.  In 2007, Carbone revealed that “82% of [college] admissions officers use Facebook in their recruiting”.  Five long internet years later and it is outstanding the number of companies and groups mining data to assist in qualifying (or disqualifying) someone for an approval process.  Protalinski’s findings in his article, “Facebook can be used to predict academic success, job performance” supports this statement.  He summarizes a study that validates the evaluation of social media sites as a more correct and composite view of an individual than even a direct one and one interview.

We have established that data mining public forums is legal and has been occurring since the beginning of SMS. The final statement under review is “[SMS] wouldn’t provide enough information to make a proper assessment!”  In essence we need to know can a psychological evaluation be conducted on SMS?  “Psychological assessment is a process of testing that uses a combination of techniques to help arrive at some hypotheses about a person, their behavior, personality and capabilities.”(Framingham) This is done through interviews and observations and if necessary standardized tests such as career-testing, teacher-made tests or projective tests.  This information is gathered and assessed by a certified Psychologist, then recommendations for treatment or diagnostic decisions can be made.

This is not the first time this question is being asked.  Research has already been done and the conclusion reached.  Bai, Zhu and Cheng published their research paper titled “Big-Five Personality Prediction Based on User Behaviors at Social Network Sites”,  that determines the information provided by social networking sites is not only enough to fulfill the required information for a psychological assessment, it is more consistent and the database provides a larger timeline for a more thorough assessment.

Analyzing the current laws, identifying the flaws and proposing that to reduce or eliminate gun violence we implement a SM Neighborhood Watch thus far sounds good. So why hasn’t it been put into place?  There are 3 disadvantages that we must confront and assess in comparison to the advantages.

Although there is a perception of infringement of personal information we have proved that is not the case.  It is important to reiterate that it is not being proposed that we cross into private settings to obtain data.  The data mined would solely be mined from public settings.  This is a non-issue.

I concede that there is a legitimate fear in regards to data being abused, I propose however, that professionals are less likely to risk their livelihood and they are much easier to hold accountable than criminals who are violating laws to obtain weapons and then using those weapons to perform illegal acts.

Then there is the hard truth that not every person utilizes SMS.  When talking about America it is rare to be able to truthfully propose there is anything we share 100%, but comparatively the statistics show18-29 year olds are accounted for at 86% and 30-49 year olds are represented at 72%(Brenner).  Dr. Michael McDonald reports that 61.6% of the nation turned out to vote in the 2008 Presidential election.  So the amount of SMS users in the lowest percentage is still over 10% higher than the amount of citizens voting.  A very large percentage of the whole could be assessed leaving just a narrow gap of information, one that would decrease every year as teenagers are already at an astounding 80%(Brenner).

All offenders of gun violence begin with a first time.  Referencing court records in these instances offers no prevention.  An offender does radiate hints to the social world around him and social bystanders do notice.  In most cases of gun violence, those closest to the offender(s) describe a fear of the person directly or a fear for their personal safety.  “The connections we have to one another – our social capital, our ability to seek and receive support from other—is the most important weapon we have against violence”(Szalavitz).  When you consider our “social capital” our wealth multiplies exponentially in the realm of SMS like Facebook.  Tapping into this wealth—having it assessed—will navigate the treacherous ground that other solutions have not been successful in and eliminate the flaws in the current system.

In order to reduce gun violence, we should begin implementing a National SM Neighborhood Watch.  Algorithms designed to pull relevant information to complete a psychological assessment from SMS would provide more comprehensive and accurate results than a standard psychological assessment due to the length of time data has been compiled.  This will provide us with an unrivaled advantage on the war on gun violence and violence in general.

Works Cited

Bai, Shuotian, Tingshao Zhu and Li Cheng. “Big-Five Personality Prediction Based on User Behaviors at Social Network Sites.” ARXIV, Cornell University Library. Eprint arXiv:1204.4809. Apr 2012. Web. 4 Nov 2012.

Brenner, Joanna.  “Pew Internet: Social Networking (full data)”.  Pew Research Center. Pew Internet & American Life Project.  17 Sept 2012.  Web.  8 Nov 2012.

Carbone, Nick. “Party Poopers. Colleges Admission Departments Stalk Your Facebook.” NewsFeed Time. Time, CNN, 27 Feb 2007. Web. 22 Oct 2012.

Fournier, Ron. “Bush Condemns ‘Evil’, Not Gun Laws.” AP Online, 16 Sept 1999. Ebscohost.

Web. 8 Oct 2012.

Framingham, Jane. “What is Psychological Assessment?” Psych Central. 23 Apr 2012. Web.

6 Nov 2012.

Jost, Kenneth.  “Gun Violence: Are Stronger Measures Needed to Protect Society?”

CQ Researcher, 17, 457-480.

Lamm, Dottie.  “Commentary: Gun Control; Walk the Walk – With Petitions.”  Colorado

Women 12.12 (2000). ProQuest. Web. 5 Oct 2012.

McDonald, Michael.  “2008 General Election Turnout Rates”. U.S. Elections Project. Dept of Public and International Affairs, GMU. 31 Mar 2012. Web. 8 Nov 2012.

“National Instant Criminal Background Check System.”  Federal Bureau of Investigation.

U.S Government, US Dept of Justice, 2012. Web. 13 Oct 2012.

“Plan to Monitor Bullies: Web Crawling Proposal.” Hill Shire Times. 8 Nov 2011, pg 6. EBSCOhost. Web. 23 Oct 2012.

Protalinski, Emil.  “Facebook can be used to Predict Academic Success, Job Performance.” Friending Facebook. ZDNet, 22 Feb 2012. Web. 23 Oct 2012

Szalavitz, Maia. “After Aurora, Questions About Mass Murder and Mental Illness.”

Time Healthland, 31 Jul 2012. Web. 18 Oct 2012.

Wasserman, Edward.  “Killing as a Troubling Cinematic Art Form.” Guelph Mercury(ON) n.d.:

Newspaper Source Plus. Web. 15 Sept 2012.

Whitney, Craig. “A Way Out of the Gun Stalemate.”  New York Times. 25 Jul 2012.  25.

Ebscohost. Web. 9 Oct 2012.

“Workplace Privacy and Employee Monitoring.” Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Sept 2012. Web. 24 Oct. 2012.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s