We still don’t know the exact motivation of the Orlando shooter. What we do know is that when he tried to buy body armor from a gun shop, the owner wisely turned him down.
The gunman, who later killed 49 people and wounded more than 50, went to another gun shop 10 miles away and bought what turned out to be the murder weapon.
When that story came out, I mentioned this idea: what if that first gun shop had been able to notify the second gun shop that this guy was bad news?
“I heard your discussion about it and I thought, ‘wow, here’s something that I can do with the skills that I have to contribute,'” Seth Banks explained.
Banks, a software developer, was listening on KCBS in San Francisco. And he liked the idea.
“I got sick of just talking about it and I said, ‘well, I’m just going to do something about it.’ So I did,” he said.
He wrote an app that allows licensed gun dealers easily share information about suspicious customers.
“Right now I”m calling it Gun Shop Watchlist. And what it is, is a social network for federal firearm licensees,” he said.
Dealers sign up, enter their location and then if they encounter a customer who gives them a bad feeling, they can log the incident online.
“When they see something they enter the incident into the app and it alerts others in the local area,” he said.
So in the Orlando case, the second gun shop owner could have seen that someone looking like Omar Mateen had tried to buy body armor and been denied.
Gun Shop Watchlist would be a private network with no government involvement; just gun sellers giving each other a heads-up. Banks has shown it to gun dealers.
“The overwhelming opinion has been yes, this is a virtuous thing this is great. The hard thing is getting people to use it, right?”