After the fatal shooting of six people in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Uber has faced a great deal of backlash from users who believe the shooting could have been avoided had Uber had a more extensive background check on Jason Dalton. Dalton was charged with murder and attempted murder, as well as firearms charges on Monday. Dalton had only been approved by Uber since January 25th.
It seems useless to be angry with Uber for failing to flag Dalton before this tragedy occurred. The reason why it’s so useless to argue with an app, is because this app uses the same background checking policies as the U.S. government uses when screening gun buyers. Margaret Richardson is a former chief of staff to Attorney General Eric Holder, and she feels strongly that the criticism of Uber is being mishandled:
“In many ways, this focus on Uber is a distraction from the availability of guns, and guns in perhaps the hands of people who shouldn’t have such easy access to them… A background check wouldn’t have affected this person’s ability to drive anyways.” If it’s as easy to buy a gun as it is to douse yourself in cologne and drive strangers around town, there’s a larger issue at hand. The issue isn’t that the app doesn’t have a “panic button” like it’s India version does. The issue is that Americans are demanding the app be safer than it’s own neighborhood streets. It’s the tech version of blaming a rape victim. You don’t tell a people to put on hazmat suits and never speak to potential rapists again, you tell rapists to not rape.
Said Richardson on the topic of not putting a “panic” option on the app and leaving it to the police department: “That’s exactly the behavior we want to encourage rather than build something into our app in the United States.”