March 26, 2013 By Wayne Hanson
This report is based on the activities of the Digital Communities program, a network of public- and private-sector IT professionals who are working to improve local governments’ delivery of public service through the use of digital technology. The program — a partnership between Government Technology and e.Republic’s Center for Digital Government — consists of task forces that meet online and in person to exchange information on important issues facing local government IT professionals.
More than 1,000 government and industry members participate in Digital Communities task forces focused on digital infrastructure, law enforcement and big city/county leadership. The Digital Communities program also conducts the annual Digital Cities and Digital Counties surveys, which track technology trends and identify and promote best practices in local government.
Digital Communities quarterly reports appear in Government Technology magazine in March, June, September and December.
We haven’t yet, as a society, come to terms with guns. The nation was born in a revolution fought with muskets, and the right to keep and bear arms is enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Even Thomas Jefferson, that most cerebral of men, once said that “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
But what if a madman shoots children, as happened recently in Connecticut? While crime as a whole is down — New York City even had a full day with no shootings or stabbings last fall — the fact remains that anyone who hears about a mass shooting wants to do something to prevent it from happening again. But treading a path between confiscation of all guns and open carry everywhere is not easy, and of the many ideas that have been offered, there are few workable solutions and many frustrating complexities.
Following the Sandy Hook school shooting, Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy exemplified the frustration and the impulse to do something — anything — to stop gun violence. “We don’t yet know the underlying cause behind this tragedy, and we probably never will,” he said. “But that can’t be an excuse for inaction.”
Many initiatives are circulating in Congress and numerous state legislatures, including proposals to restrict school visitors, increase taxes on gun sales, restrict clip sizes, outlaw semi-automatic weapons, and the latest twist: require gun owners to purchase liability insurance.
Most approaches to reducing gun violence — no one really expects to eliminate it altogether — focus on reducing access to firearms, either by decreasing the number and types of weapons in circulation, or by restricting access for individuals most likely to abuse firearms, such as convicted criminals, drug abusers and the mentally ill. Both approaches face significant obstacles.
Americans already own more than 300 million firearms of which more than 100 million are handguns, so limits on new firearms, ammunition, etc., could impact the annual sale of some 10,000 firearms, but will not touch the weapons already sitting in half the nation’s households. While the gun control debate heats up, the search continues for measures that are truly effective and that can reduce gun violence, which claims some 10,000 lives each year in the United States.
The 12-step motto — “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference” — might provide a practical approach for dealing with gun violence and the legislative efforts under way.
Some things we must live with, most notably guns in homes. The vast majority of those are used responsibly for hunting, target shooting or self-protection. But as long as there are firearms in the hands of people, there will be the violent actions of a few disturbed individuals. The things that can be changed are the subject of this special section, especially IT tools that can help prevent, mitigate and recover from gun violence.