MAPLETON — A new app makes it easier for pro- and anti-gun supporters to find businesses that align with their views, but it is also fueling the already polarizing gun debate, opponents say.
Gun Free Zone, an app available on both Android and iOS markets, allows users to see and identify locations that allow and prohibit carrying guns. The idea behind it is to help gun owners know where they're welcome, inform people on both sides of the gun control debate where guns are and are not allowed by property owners, and to gather data about the habits and preferences of the community, said the app's creator John Peden.
Peden, a self-proclaimed Second Amendment activist, said the idea for the app came to him after The Journal News in New York published the names of more than 33,000 gun owners in the area.
Angered by that, he wanted to find a way to "fight back economically," and he thought tracking the gun-free zones would be a good way to do that. After he and a programmer, Karl Hale, began working on the app, though, Peden said he wanted to step back from the politics and see what information they could glean from it.
"Let's not push my agenda, let's push the right agenda, whatever that may be," Peden said. "If the data comes out and says, 'Hey, John's agenda was right in the first place,' then that's what we'll push. If we don't have politics involved from the start, we can use it as a real tool to educate people, educate politicians and voters on what they should do. If we're pushing a political agenda, then it's biased data."
"This developer claims he's taken the politics out of it. Quite the contrary. It's dividing people into two camps."
The app allows users to input information using a yes or no voting system and view areas and specific locations on a map that are marked gun-free zones and otherwise.
He hopes the data will be an indicator of what people want legislation to reflect. He figures he can start with the number of businesses and locations that do or don't allow guns as people share that information. From there, he can layer crime data, property values, and other data on top of that and get a clearer picture of the effects of gun bans or allowing guns.
Despite Peden's claims, however, the app, said board of directors member for the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah Gary Sackett, is inherently political, since it separates locations and businesses into one camp or the other.
"This developer claims he's taken the politics out of it. Quite the contrary. It's dividing people into two camps," Sackett said. "I hate to see the kinds of things that, in essence, kind of push people into defining a camp that they are in or out."
The "unintended consequence and mischief" the app can create outweighs the usefulness of the app for gun carriers who want to know where they should or should not carry, he claimed. For example, he said, businesses that don't want to make a statement could be the victim of a campaign on the app.
"An innocent business could be unfairly tagged one way or the other," Sackett said.
Charles Hardy, public policy director for Gun Owners of Utah, said the app could be used as an "unorganized boycott," but did not mention an organized campaign.
"If a business is hostile to gun owners, that's a business gun owners maybe don't want to patronize," Hardy said.