After witnessing yet another pointless mass horror, this is the point in the process where we reflect on how impossible it is to limit gun violence in America. If we are ever going to break this miserable cycle of violence, this is the point in that loop that most deserves our attention.
We have found straightforward ways to manage all kinds of lethal products and substances, from plutonium to whiskey. And we already have a very successful, comprehensive regulatory scheme to manage the mass ownership of a terribly dangerous tool – the automobile.
Even as our roads grow more crowded, automotive deaths have been in a long, steady decline. There have been no mass confiscations, no scarcity, no nationalization. Every car owner and every vehicle is registered.
Owners are economically liable for damage inflicted with their cars. Insurance requirements have forced tougher schemes to keep dangerous drivers off the roads. Those insurance companies have also used political pressure to impose safety restrictions on manufacturers. It works for cars and with a few minor adjustments it would work for guns.
A national insurance requirement for gun ownership is outlined in the Politics of Crazy, but it is also described in this previous blog post, excerpted here from the original, Gun Control in the Ownership Society:
“First, regarding choice, loosen most of the explicit Federal curbs related to functionality, shape, and other characteristics of guns. They sound good, but they do not accomplish their goals and they needlessly entangle responsible gun owners.
In the interests of accountability and transparency, establish a formal, national gun registry with owner’s names and weapons’ serial numbers. That registry should have roughly the same privacy protections we give to medical records and would be accessible by law enforcement and insurers. Building and maintaining the registry would be expensive. It would be funded by a sales tax on ammunition. Owning an unregistered weapon would be a Federal crime, punishable by imprisonment. Owners would also be accountable for those weapons, possessing a duty to notify authorities within a fixed time, perhaps seven days, of any theft or loss.
Gun owners would be responsible financially for their choices. No weapon could be registered or remain registered without proof of liability insurance provided annually. Lapsed insurance would be a crime which could be remedied by surrendering the uninsured weapons, paying a bond (self-insurance) or facing penalties for unlicensed possession.
Owners would bear civil liability for crimes or injuries resulting from the use of weapons registered to them. Gun ownership would cease to be a casual choice like buying a fishing pole, but it would still be available to those who handle the right responsibly. A significant percentage of the annual royalties from Cat Scratch Fever would be diverted toward insuring Ted Nugent’s arsenal, but as long as he could afford the duties of responsible ownership, The Nuge could keep whatever guns he wants.
The registration and insurance requirements would make it very difficult for irresponsible or unstable owners to maintain a large hoard of weapons. A gun owner who was falling apart mentally or failing to take reasonable safety precautions would probably start getting attention from the authorities long before they, or someone with access to their weapons, shot up a movie theater.
State and local governments might enact additional requirements, within the bounds of a general right to gun ownership, or they might not. It would probably be much harder to carry a weapon in Manhattan than in Wyoming. That is entirely appropriate. That’s Federalism.
The choice to own almost any type of gun would remain, but it would be bounded by responsibilities. That is what liberty looks like to a traditional conservative.”
And for those who insist against all reason, logic, law and history that they possess some God-derived right to create a nation swimming in loose guns, there is this argument:
“As for my untrammeled right to own any weapon I want with no accountability or regulation, that does not exist and has never existed. As for my right to hold weapons as a method of “defending” myself from my elected government, that does not exist and has never existed. It is not in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights and never has been found under any Constitutional interpretation we have ever used. Pack the Supreme Court with nine Scalia’s and you still won’t have those rights.
Such claims run counter to the any conservative notion of liberty. Where we are free, we are accountable. Freedom, as we like to say, is not free.
In more practical terms, if you actually believe that you’re going to defend yourself from Obama with your cache of AR-15’s and a cellar full of canned goods, there’s little to discuss here. No weapon ever developed can shoot down the black helicopters that hover silently over your dreams. Private arsenals do not guarantee our freedom. The wise use of our political power and the protection of our basic institutions preserves liberty for ourselves and our children.”
We own this country. The tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths we experience every year as a consequence of stupid policies on firearms are on our collective heads. Apathy is not an option. Simple, solutions that protect basic rights while properly imposing responsibility are available to us. We have a duty to make our country as great as it can be.
This is just a way to give insurance companies a lot of money. There’s like 300,000,000 guns in the US. We have about 600 accidental shooting deaths each year, and maybe 30,000 accidental shooting injuries. In most cases, the person injured is the gun owner themselves.
Most insurance won’t cover compensation for deliberate malfeasance on the part of the insured.
Moreover, the right to own firearms is constitutionally guaranteed.
And the worst of it is, all of this is pointless to begin with, because gun ownership is unrelated to the homicide rate in the US on a state-by-state basis. Wyoming, which has the most guns of any state, has a homicide rate only slightly above Hawaii, which has the fewest – and both states are well below the national average.
Gun ownership isn’t the problem. Violence is a cultural issue. It doesn’t matter how many guns you have if you aren’t culturally predisposed to violence – Plano, Texas has a homicide rate of 0.6 per 100k. Corvallis, Oregon has a rate of about 1 per 100k. Both of these places have TONS of guns. People there just don’t shoot people.
This modest proposal is interesting, but has some serious holes. The automobile analogy is very incomplete.
1) Automobile insurance is not mandatory. You can own a car indefinitely while never insuring it. You just can’t drive it on public roads.
You can legally own a car despite the risk of using it to lethal effect as long as you drive it only on private property. See: race-track only cars.
The analogy fails right on it’s face, unless your gun insurance is only required for carrying on public property.
2) There is a vast difference between “insurance to own a thing” and “insurance to own a constitutionally-mandated thing”.
You do a lot of hand-waving over this issue, but I methinks you are much too glib. Your links do not support your proposal. If someone has a right to own a thing, requiring registration and a fee for it could quite easily be considered “infringement” on that right.
There is no constitutional right to an automobile. Heck, guns are just about the only *object* specifically given as a right in the constitution.
The proposal is interesting, but hardly “easy”.
Well, we’ve plowed this ground before, but OK. Apparently Chris is a glutton for rhetorical spankings.
As many of you know, I’m an avid firearms enthusiast (to the point of being an NRA Endowment Member). This predisposes me towards a certain POV, but it doesn’t mean that my mind is closed. For me, there are two yardsticks for any proposed gun legislation: 1) the extent to which the proposed legislation might reduce gun violence, and 2) the extent to which it is enforceable.
Chris proposes two “reforms” to reduce gun violence: 1) universal gun registration, and 2) mandatory liability insurance. Let’s see how those stack up against my yardsticks, looking at the numbers found in the CDC’s death statistics (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr64/nvsr64_02.pdf) and the FBI’s crime stats (https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2013/crime-in-the-u.s.-2013/violent-crime/murder-topic-page/murdermain_final), both which are now finalized for 2013.
Out of a total ~33K firearms related deaths in 2013, ~21K were suicides (accounting for ~51% of all suicides). I think we can all reasonably agree that neither registration, nor liability insurance, are going to have any effect on the suicide rate. I would hazard a guess that the vast majority of those gun-assisted suicides were associated with legally obtained firearms.
There were ~11K homicides in 2013 where firearms were the weapon of choice, accounting for ~70% of all homicides in that year. Of these, 681 were justifiable homicides; one third of these (223) were by private citizens (with the remainder assigned to law enforcement). So conceivably liability insurance could have benefited the 223 private individuals involved in justifiable homicides in such instances where ancillary damages resulted in civil liability.
For the remaining 95% of firearms homicides, liability insurance would simply be inapplicable, because *no* liability insurance covers *criminal* liability. Still, let’s stipulate that such insurance might be mandated, and dig a little deeper into the numbers. ~63% of these firearms homicides were committed by individuals between the ages of 15 and 34. 57% of these firearms homicides were committed by African-Americans. ~91% of all murders occur in metropolitan areas. When comparisons are made between metropolitan areas, we find that those with the most draconian gun control laws invariably have the highest homicide rates. Detroit, for instance, has a homicide rate of 45 per 100K inhabitants; Baltimore tops 31 per 100K; Oakland tops 22 per 100K; Chicago tops 15 per 100K. All of these are far in excess of the national average of 4.5 per 100K, and in fact these urban statistics are clearly responsible for driving up our national average. If you take out these urban murder pits, the U.S. looks a lot more like Sweden. Plano, for instance, has a murder rate of 1 per 100K.
It’s abundantly clear that we have a severe problem with a young, urban, disproportionately African-American criminal element. (And that’s not me being racist; it’s simply a fact.) It’s also abundantly clear that a boatload of extremely restrictive gun control legislation has absolutely no impact on this element’s conduct. Prima facie, the idea that universal gun registration and “mandatory” liability insurance would have any impact on their depredations is simply risible.
505 of the ~33K firearms deaths in 2013 were accidental. Tragically, ~35% of these involved individuals under the age of 24. It’s possible that liability insurance might have proven beneficial for some percentage of the families involved in these cases.
So, out of ~33K firearms deaths, liability insurance might have proven beneficial in less than 728 instances, approximately 2% of the total. Clearly, with respect to liability insurance, the juice would not be worth the squeeze.
Unlike the UK, or Australia, or most European social democracies, the US has enshrined the right to self defense (and defense against tyranny) in its governing documents. Indeed, without individual ownership of firearms, the US would not exist. (The shot heard ’round the world, i.e. Concord, was fired over an attempt by the Crown to confiscate firearms.) So comparisons to these other countries are suspect when it comes to registration of firearms. Americans are extremely reluctant to register firearms, given that registration is historically a precursor to confiscation. As a result, otherwise law abiding Americans are unlikely to comply with registration laws. In the most recent example of mandatory gun registration, the NYSAFE Act, registration compliance is poor (http://concealednation.org/2015/06/ny-safe-act-registration-numbers-are-in-and-theyre-pretty-embarrassing/). In other words, gun registration laws are effectively unenforceable.
As I’ve pointed out before, I would take advantage of civil liability insurance for firearms, were it available. I already subscribe to legal defense ‘insurance’ (www.texaslawshield.com). In the extremely unlikely event that I should ever have to deploy a firearm in self-defense, I want all the legal protection I can get. Of course, I’m reasonably well off, and can readily afford such insurance. As Chris has proposed it, his mandatory firearms insurance is to self-defense as a poll tax is to voting. I.e., it’s a Jim Crow law designed to disproportionately deprive the poor of their right to self defense. Personally, I think that’s a despicable approach to the problem.
A last word. As many of you know, I am a strong proponent of making sure that firearms don’t get into the hands of nutballs. Consequently, I constantly push the FixNICS program (www.fixnics.org), which is designed to improve reporting of prohibited individuals to the NICS background check system. Unfortunately, as we know now, the Roanoke shooter had never previously been adjudicated a danger to himself or others, and purchased the murder weapon legally. No conceivable gun law would have prevented this tragedy.
Sadly, I agree with much you say, Thor. I have been unsuccessful here in trying to focus attention on contributing factors as anger and mental illness, which are frequently underlying causes of gun violence. You support controlled access. What improvements in the background check process and enforcement of existing laws and regulations would you favor?
What I don’t have an interest in is redirection on this issue, which I think gun insurance is. The only real benefit I see is an enhanced gun registry which would expand information channels and facilitate apprehension. The greatest beneficiaries will be the private insurance market and a few new jobs as a result of an expanded registry. I simply don’t see gun insurance, per se, significantly reducing gun violence or gun ownership/possession, if at all. And, that should be the ultimate goal for all who care about gun violence. My greater concern remains the underlying anger and aggressive behavior that fosters violence in our personal conversations, remarks and our actions. More fundamental solutions might be better paying jobs, better education, safe neighborhoods, more and better law enforcement church leadership, development of trust, and appropriately channeled safety net assistance. When people lose all hope, they frequently resort to violence. We are witnessing this phenomena now and it is getting worse.
Practical, effective, enforceable changes in gun registration and background checks should be passed by Congress. Any remaining loopholes should be closed and law enforcement and the ATF adequately funded to enforce gun regulations and laws. The gun registry should be open to those in law enforcement or security for detection and improved apprehension. Doing nothing is not an option. Too many innocent people are dying.
“What improvements in the background check process and enforcement of existing laws and regulations would you favor?”
1mime, first understand that ‘professional’ criminals, i.e. those who are otherwise compos mentis, do not obtain their weapons through legal channels. No conceivable change to the NICS background check system is likely to have any effect on *overall* murder stats. However, as we have seen time after time, the deranged perpetrators of mass shootings generally *do* obtain their weapons through legal means. In most such cases indications of mental instability are present, but have not been reported by mental health care professionals (or other public authorities) to the NICS system.
FixNICS is actually aimed at correcting these NICS ‘reporting’ problems. I would propose a considerably more draconian approach than anything proposed by FixNICS. In Texas, and some other states, if you participate in any way in a crime that results in a homicide, you, too, are charged with murder, regardless of whether you actually pulled the trigger. I suggest that we apply the same logic to mental health care providers and other public officials who *fail* to report unbalanced individuals to NICS, where such individuals subsequently commit murder with a firearm. I guarantee this would result in an instantaneous, overnight improvement in the reporting of mental health issues to NICS. I would also revert to pre-1970’s law to make it much easier for mental health professionals to involuntarily institutionalize mentally disturbed individuals whom are deemed a danger to themselves or others. When the nutballs aren’t walking the streets, they can’t kill anyone.
With respect to ‘closing loopholes’ in background checks, the only remaining ‘loophole’ is that transactions between private parties (i.e. those not involving an FFL dealer) are not subject to background checks. While a ‘universal background check’ law might make you *feel* like you’ve done something useful, bear in mind that such a law would be fundamentally unenforceable. In other words, the pursuit of a universal background check law is a fool’s errand.
That said, I would favor altering existing law to make it possible for an FFL dealer to ‘broker’ a transaction between private individuals, but without the records keeping hassle current law entails. All interstate transfers (e.g., the vast majority of those conducted through sites like Gunbroker.com) already require that the transfer go through an FFL. In such situations the FFL dealer has ample time to enter the shipped firearm into inventory, and process the transfer like any other sale. This would not be possible with off-the-street walk-ins, so existing law should be modified accordingly. Speaking personally, I would *like* to have the (entirely voluntary) ability to vet a potential purchaser of one of my firearms; I would most certainly exercise that background check when conducting a local sale with somebody I don’t know. I don’t have that ability now, short of selling to someone out-of-state through a site like GunBroker (which is exactly how I sell those guns I no longer want to keep). It would be nice if I could run an ad in Craigslist, meet the local buyer at BassPro, have the background check run, and complete the sale. We do not have any legal mechanism for that presently, and a “universal background check” law passed without such a mechanism in place would simple enlarge the black market in firearms.
1mime, there is not, nor has there ever been, gun registration at the federal level. As I discuss above (and have discussed previously), most gun-owning Americans would simply not comply with such a law, should it ever be passed. In my view an attempt to pass such a law would be extraordinarily divisive, and would likely result in lawlessness and violence on a scale not seen since Prohibition. So let’s do ourselves a favor and not go there.
Thanks for responding, Thor. The saddest thing about gun violence (to me) is that most of the underlying problems are societal. Without being repetitive, there are some basic things that would offer people a better life and a chance for life without violence. Essential are: better educations and work opportunities with living wages, health care, and safer neighborhoods. These are simple things that the poor lack, and they make a huge difference in life outcomes. Combine this with affordable contraception to enable women to plan families they can afford and care for.
I”ll give your thought about national gun registry more thought. I’m not with you on that yet, and I do worry about the vast number of guns in America. Thanks for your input.
1mime, you’ve hit on my biggest annoyance with the progressive movement when it comes to gun control. We’re supposed to be the ones who are most concerned with jobs, education, safety nets against poverty, better policing and mental health infrastructure, the specific issues of the inner cities, and so on. Our analysis is: when people lack economic and physical security, they get stressed and angry, and that’s when things turn ugly and violent. And so we work toward improving people’s sense of opportunity and security, because we believe that that’s the way to create a happy, prosperous society — and foster enough social trust between groups to sustain democracy. (And some conservatives, at least, agree with this.)
But by focusing on guns, we’re basically saying, “We give up. We don’t think we can fix these issues any more. So we’re just going to abandon our commitment to advocating for structural solutions, and try to fix the symptoms by restricting access to firearms. At least fewer people will shoot each other. That’s the best we can do.”
This an abdication of the entire progressive vision. I was appalled when my friends in the gun-control leadership stopped talking about better mental health laws and started rolling their eyes instead (this happened shortly after Sandy Hook). And the only real reason for this that I could see what that they’d decided that if the NRA was talking about it, it must be bad.
Mental health was *our issue* — and as Tracy notes, it is the right one. We had a moment to make a real alliance with the right wing that would have created some useful change around an issue that’s critical to tens of millions of families. (Tracy’s spot on: our current laws around mentally ill people are so solicitous of their rights that they put the rest of us in frequent danger — a remnant of some important 1960s reforms that have now gone too far the other way.)
Instead, we chose to blow it off in favor of a bunch of policies that have not worked, and will not work for all the reasons Tracy so cogently summarized. I just want to bang my head against a wall.
One last thing: I have yet to talk to anyone working on the gun issue who has bothered to run any of their ideas by an actual gun owner to check even the most basic facts. And the legislation that gets proposed almost always reflects this oversight. We are full of ideas that would make their laws better, less intrusive, and more effective. But that would mean actually talking to us, and they’re astonishingly unwilling to do that.
“But that would mean actually talking to us, and they’re astonishingly unwilling to do that.”
Sara, here I am. 🙂
The correlation between areas with stricER gun control laws and criminal activity is one that I reject out of hand, and here’s why. It is impossible to control the trade and travel of firearms nationwide.
Consider, if you will, Mexico. Everybody says Mexico is a great example of a country where gun control hasn’t worked. But you will notice that drug cartels don’t get their guns in Mexico. They get them in the United States, through straw buyers. All the controversy over the Fast and Furious thing overshadows the central truth that it uncovered: thanks to very lax American gun laws, and corruption and incompetence on the part of the Mexican government, we’re feeding their drug war. But even with corruption and incompetence, one thing is true: gun control works well enough in Mexico that you can’t get guns in Mexico. You have to get them here.
This talking point is just another iteration of the same old, same old. “We can’t pass this law because criminals won’t follow it.” Well, damn. That’s enlightening. Criminals don’t follow the law! What an incite! One wonders why we have any laws at all!
Anse, I think you missed my point (although perhaps I did not make it very well). I have no doubt that strict gun control laws in areas of high crime are actually a response to high crime. My point is that the strict gun control laws in those areas are an abject failure when it comes to mitigating said crime. If cowbell isn’t working, more cowbell is not the answer.
You are correct in stating that it is impossible to control the trade and travel of firearms. There are an estimated 300 million firearms extant in this country alone. US firearms production tops 20 millions units per year (https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/nics/reports/nics_firearm_checks_-_month_year.pdf). Firearms do not have the shelf life of bananas; a properly cared for firearm can survive for centuries. (Several of my favorite guns were made long before I was born; I shoot them and hunt with them regularly.) We are not going to be eliminating those firearms, for a host of cultural and practical reasons. Roughly half of all households own one, and roughly half of the country feels like I do: guns are part of our heritage, and the ultimate guarantors of our personal security and individual sovereignty. Americans in general will no more tolerate jackbooted thugs knocking down doors in search of guns than they will tolerate the same in search of illegal immigrants.
As I have stated above, I do not oppose gun laws which have a chance of actually working, so long as they do not endanger my ability to keep and bear arms now, or in the future. If you took the time to read my lengthy screed, above, you’ll see I actually proposed a couple of changes that I feel would be beneficial. As Sara suggests, perhaps instead of simply beating to death the same tired old talking points, you might actually try having a real discussion with gun owners like myself.
Another thing that should be stated here: it is a falsehood that most criminals steal their guns. In fact, the ATF estimates that only about 10-15% of the crimes committed with guns in this country are committed with guns that were stolen. There are wide gaps in our gun control laws that allow criminals to easily obtain weapons without stealing them.
I bring this up to point out that our system is not designed to keep guns out of the hands of people who would commit crimes with them. On the contrary, it is pretty easy for anybody to obtain a firearm if they want it, even if they have a felony record or some other trait that we might assume would come up in a background check.
So when you say areas with strict gun control have the highest crime rates, you imply that these criminals are just breaking the local gun laws to acquire guns. That’s not true.
Anse, I don’t know where you are getting your stats (perhaps the goofy Frontline piece quoting Wachtel?), but you’re all wet. I encourage you to review the following;
FBI crime states for 2013, tables 20-22: https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2013/crime-in-the-u.s.-2013/violent-crime/violent-crime-topic-page/violentcrimemain_final
ATF Stolen Weapons Summary, 2012: https://www.atf.gov/file/11846/download
BJS Stolen Weapons Summary, 2005-2010: http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/fshbopc0510.pdf
BJS Guns Used in Crimes Report, 1995: http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/GUIC.PDF
From 2000 to present, *reported* stolen gun counts have fluctuated between 150K and 200K, *annually*. By definition, those guns enter the black market. In 2013 275K violent offenses involving firearms were committed; the ATF recovered and traced 245K firearms in that year. Unfortunately, the ATF does not report numbers on the provenance of those firearms (i.e. whether they were obtained legally or illegally). However, it is clear that the potential reservoir of black market guns is *enormous*.
Mostly tellingly, in a 1991 survey of state prison inmates quoted in the 1995 report, above, ***%38%*** of inmates *admitted* to acquiring their firearms via illegal means (direct theft or purchase of a stolen weapon from a drug dealer or a fence). This is a minimum number, given that trafficking in illegal firearms is in itself a felony offense. Furthermore, this report is from *before* the NICS background check system was even implemented (1998), so if anything, that percentage has risen. There is no doubt that “straw purchases” occur, but it’s actually *easier* for a criminal to acquire a gun on the black market than it is to risk the danger of a straw purchase.
Last night at dinner I mentioned your insurance idea to friends, both not “liberal” as they understand liberalism.
The 60-ish white male didn’t see how an insurance requirement would decrease black people shooting one another in Chicago.
Thought you’d like to know he found the weakness in your proposal.
(I worry about him. He commutes between Baton Rouge and Houston every week. He used to listen a variety of radio shows during his commute. Now he’s all Fox, all the time, even on weekends, to the dismay of his wife.)
Oh, how can hope to stop black people from doing all those things they do. In a few years those folks will “age out” of their dominant position in the electorate. In the meantime the best we can do it try to drive around them.
Black males in Chicago (and New Orleans, and other cities) shoot each other at a much higher rate than any other demographic. You can’t honestly speak of firearm violence while ignoring this fact. Why do you dismiss it?
We shouldn’t. BLM just as much as any other life.
There are a million reasons why crime rates are higher in poor black neighborhoods in Chicago, Washington, and elsewhere. There is one reason why those crime rates lead to so many deaths, and that is the absurdly easy access to guns.
“There is one reason why those crime rates lead to so many deaths, and that is the absurdly easy access to guns.”
That’s impossible. Guns are illegal in most of those areas. Unless…wait a minute…are you saying that criminals don’t obey gun laws?
“We shouldn’t. BLM just as much as any other life.”
Absolutely agree. It’s really a shame that the BLM movement is focused on only about 1% of the deaths, most of which are justified. They might get something done if they focused their anger in the right place.
BLM is a nascent organization, Doug. They will either evolve into a more focused and effective agenda or they will go the way of Occupy Wall Street. There is a grassroots effort who have articulated a focused plan on the issue of police violence. I posted it on another topic and can’t recall the source – but, the ideas were cogent and achievable. I hope the people involved will stick with it and gain broader support. Many of the problems Black people face have to be fixed within the Black community. Sadly, the bigger problem is without and will require cultural and personal changes. IOW, the older southern generation will have to depart this good earth.
“That’s impossible. Guns are illegal in most of those areas. Unless…wait a minute…are you saying that criminals don’t obey gun laws?”
When going for the gotcha in online debate, it’s always a good idea to read through all the conversation first. Had you done that, you would have seen that Chris already answered that, and your point is actually pointless.
Lifer, in re-reading your post a second time, I noted you were silent on gun sales. Was this a deliberate omission in your proposal? If not, what are your thoughts about the gun show loophole, sales over the internet, and sales between private parties?
Seems to me that if there is a requirement that all guns be registered, that would do a pretty good job of at least covering some aspect of the sales loophole. Registration by itself would not include a background check, of course, but it would require the seller to legally transfer title of the gun to the buyer. It would give authorities the ability to track who owns what, and if someone with a severe mental illness or felony record is registered as a gun owner, that would put them on their radar.
Critics of these measures always go back to the old saw: “Only law-abiding citizens would do it!” Which is, of course, true. But then, you can say that about every law that’s ever been passed. It’s not really a useful criticism. There are times when the ability to enforce a law should be considered (take the drug war as the obvious example). But guns don’t grow in backyards and in basements. If you start the registration process from the point of manufacture and the first retail sale, you make it harder for criminals to acquire guns illegally in the first place. And yes, guns can be stolen, but then you wonder how they are so easily stolen from gun owners who own guns to defend themselves against criminals–like thieves.
The whole guiding principle of gun control, as I imagine it, should be this: no law-abiding adult should ever be prevented from owning a firearm or even multiple firearms of varying type. We’re talking about some rather small hoops for legal gun owners to jump through in an effort to address a very big problem. Right now, we seem comfortable with accepting widespread violence as a trade-off for some fuzzy notion of liberty.
“But guns don’t grow in backyards and in basements.”
Of course they do. Google “80% lower” or “AK flat” for some examples. I know several guys who make complete receivers from scratch. It’s perfectly legal, and if it weren’t, it would be done anyway.
Thoughtful reply, Anse. Thanks. What about background checks? Is there room for improvement in this area? I understand this should “tie in” with the registration process, but this area seems to be one that is problematic.
As for the “gun show loophole”, legislation was introduced this year on a narrow aspect of this process by U.S. Representative Caroline Maloney, via the Gun Show Loophole Closing Act. Rep. Maloney said a background check is required when a Federal Firearm Licensee wants to sell firearms at a gun show, but no such requirement exists for private sales…. Maloney supports legislation that would universally expand background checks to cover gun shows and the internet, (whereas) the Gun Show Loophole Closing Act is more narrowly focused on closing one loophole (and)…would subject anyone selling or transferring a gun to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and require that transfers be reported to the attorney general.”
Either there “are” loopholes, or there aren’t, whether they are through the internet or private sales. Surely, in order to make progress in this area, we can all agree to an open, thorough process to improve accountability, fairness, and safety. How or if addressed, is another thing, but any loophole impugns the integrity and effectiveness of the entire process.
Doug, the idea that a black market will suddenly emerge for basement-crafted AK’s is pretty nuts. I’d like to know how much criminal activity is performed with the use of homemade firearms. I’m guessing it’s pretty much zero. I doubt that would change significantly if these gun control measures were put in place.
There is no gun show loophole. Nothing about buying/selling a firearm at a gun show is different than buying/selling anywhere else.
Likewise, there are no breaks for Internet sales. If you buy a firearm from, say, a person on gunbroker*, that person must ship the firearm to a dealer of your choice, regardless of whether the seller is a private party or a dealer. The receiving dealer must then follow all the same procedures before handing over the gun as he would if he were selling it out of his inventory. Prior to 1968 (and the Internet, obviously) lots of magazines had gun ads in the back. You could cut out the little form, fill it out, mail it along with a check, and a gun would show up at your door a few weeks later. Those days are long gone.
*I believe that private parties may sell and ship long guns without a dealer provided they live in the same state (verify before trying it), although I have not personally seen it. This is one tiny sliver of law where the government still admits there are limits to what constitutes interstate commerce. Still, this is functionally no different than placing a newspaper ad in another city, which many people did before the Internet.
“There is no gun show loophole. Nothing about buying/selling a firearm at a gun show is different than buying/selling anywhere else.”
Can you expand on that? Someone reading that would assume you mean background checks ARE done. But what you are really saying is that “Nothing about buying/selling a firearm at a gun show is different than buying/selling anywhere else” including a back alley or out of a trunk of a car. Am I correct?
You can find similar videos on Youtube.
“Can you expand on that? Someone reading that would assume you mean background checks ARE done.”
They are in the vast majority of cases, because most guns sold at gun shows are sold by dealers. If sold by a private party, then no, just like a private party sale anywhere else. Private parties are not required, or even allowed, to perform a NICS check, at gun shows or anywhere else.
Calling it a loophole is like saying we need to close the “poor people loophole” in the income tax law.
The other factor in play here- how to deny these sickos the infamy they crave, while doing the necessary task if reporting news:
I agree with the notion that if the killer is still at large, you show his image /mention his name to help any new potential victims avoid him and law enforcement catch him. But after he’s caught or offed himself, don’t show his likeness, and don’t say his name.
Australia. It’s the closest place to Texas I’ve been – sophisticated cities, wide open spaces, strange animals, and a proud populace (its a bit more understated there than here). In 1996 a disturbed man opened fire at a tourist spot in Tasmania, killing 35 and wounding 28. Australia’s conservative PM at the time initiated controversial but ultimately successful gun control legislation. It banned automatic and semiautomatics, required a registry and a strict licensing policy. In total Australia bought back and destroyed 650,000 guns (in a country whose population was 18 million). It did not ban all guns.
The effects: there have been no mass shooting events in Australia since 1996. The number of suicides by firearm dropped 74%, and non-gun suicides rose only slightly, so fewer people are committing suicide. The homicide rate using guns also dropped by more than half, and these were, likewise, not replaced by non-gun murders. Family violence dropped.
It could work, if we had the courage to do it.
When you are at war with everybody, as the gun nuts seem to think we are (hard to explain why one would need to carry a firearm everywhere), casualties are just a part of the deal. If we had a really drastic drop in violence, then we’d no longer need our guns, and we just can’t have that can we?
The Aussies in the outback have a case for packing- a lot of the fauna is trying to kill you!
This brings to mind what you posted below about risk and actuarial science. Some people see carrying a firearm as insurance in and of itself, in case the need for self-defense, or defense of others, were to arise. So other questions would be — how high is the probability that you would find yourself in a situation requiring defense of self or others? Does the risk of carrying a firearm outweigh the risk of being caught without a firearm in a situation requiring defense of self or others?
Tutt…if folks are often finding themselves in situations where they need to pull a gun to protect themselves, those folks probably need to find different hobbies.
….or a new neighborhood….I don’t know about anyone else, but if I walk into a regular business store or a public event and someone comes in toting a firearm, is not in uniform, or badged, I’m outta there. And, on my way out of the venue, I’m going to tell management why I won’t be shopping there anymore. I don’t feel comfortable, I feel threatened, even if it is their right to carry firearms in that public place. I don’t want to be where they choose to be.
This is a circular argument, Tutt. I need a gun for self-defense because so many people have guns. This is the same logic that has police in body armor carrying military-grade weapons, because they fear the bad guys are similarly armed.
The idea that guns prevent violence is laughable. We are the most heavily armed democratic society on earth and by far the most violent “developed” country, and it’s not even close. Our society is violent because there are so many guns and to protect my family from this violence I need more guns.
John Galt, so to solve this circular argument do you suggest no guns at all?
JG, sorry, I just read your post above about Australia. That would seem to answer my question.
I think we would like in a far more civilized society and there would be less violence overall if access to guns were sharply curtailed. The validity of this prediction is supported by crime statistics, murder rates, and gun deaths in every country everywhere. Australia has not banned them, but their restrictions mean that far fewer less powerful guns are in the hands of fewer people. The effect of this has been dramatic. We do not have the political courage to reinterpret the “well-regulated militia” clause because of an absurd mythos surrounding guns that permeates our society, but personally I will not give in to the free falling descent to the wild west that we are engaged in by arming myself. I live in a large, modern city on the cutting edge of the future, not Dodge City, and I will act like it.
Gun control advocates say there’s a strong correlation between gun ownership and violence; gun rights enthusiasts say that’s all wrong. Could insurance actuaries help settle that question? It would be interesting to find out how they assess risk as it relates to guns. I suspect the NRA would not be eager to find out.
Would it be a matter of looking at statistics?
What percentage of guns, obtained both legally and illegally, result in injury, whether due to violence or accidents?
And conversely, what percentage of violence and accidents is the result of guns?
If Chris’s proposal were to go into effect, I would think if you have kids in your house, or someone in your household has a mental illness or a criminal record, you would have to pay higher premiums, even if you are a law abiding adult yourself.
Tutta, Possibly this source may offer clarification on your question about violence/accidents due to guns.
Every remotely credible study ever attempted has connected mass gun ownership and violence. So, yes, the actuaries will be seeing that – and pricing it in.
Here’s a good summary of a few decades of research.http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/hicrc/firearms-research/guns-and-death/
I think you mean simple, not easy.
Yes. That old Reagan quote comes to mind.
That said, I do think it might also be pretty easy. Ask around and see if anyone has heard of this idea. This is one area where if people were just given a sound idea to consider they might accept it.
I’m afraid I’ve migrated to the pessimistic side of the gun issue. I’ve come to the conclusion that settling scores with gun violence is quintessentially American. Things will change only if there is a significant cultural shift, and that could take generations to occur. If the Sandy Hook massacre wasn’t enough to be a wakeup call, I don’t think America is ready to change her ways.
“What if”: a gunman entered a state legislative chamber and started firing….or a gunman entered Congress and started firing….or, a gunman attended a campaign rally and started firing, or a major sports venue, and started firing.
Do you think that the power brokers might be more inclined to act?
Shooting a congresswoman in broad daylight didn’t seem to inspire action.
Neither did killing little children at Sandy Hook. That’s not the point of the hypothetical situation. Until those who are in a position of passing laws understand the vulnerability of exposure to mass slaughter of innocent people, they will be unmoved. It’s amazing how personal experience influences otherwise obtuse people. It was just a thought process. We could cite example after example of killing. It’s responsible, effective action that is being suggested, whether it is through the back door with insurance or the front door with better regulations that are enforced.
For the record, since you seem to deal with a whole lot of “no gun” advocates. That is not my position either. I want sensible, effective regulations and I want our nation to calm itself down. It doesn’t matter whether it’s guns, knives, or tire irons, or rope, we have to stop the violence.
Chris, why not just a state registry? Why does it have to be national?
Look at Chicago and DC. It’s almost impossible to buy a gun there and they are flooded with guns. A ten minute drive from the south side of Chicago takes you Indiana’s gun markets.
This is a systemic fix that completely fails if the state next door which you can enter and leave without any customs check allows people to evade controls.
Correct. That’s why the solutions (and it will probably need to involve more than just insurance), need a uniform solution. It’s sort of like levees – build them only on one side of the Mississippi River and the opposing land areas flood. Build them on both sides and areas south of them without protection, flood. This is a nationwide problem. Lifer’s solution is mandatory insurance – I am assuming privitized (this is a GOP blog, after all). Without requirement consistency, enforcement will be a nightmare. Regulations for registry, sales, waiting period, availability of registration information, must accompany any insurance component or we are simply glossing over the problem.
I continue to maintain that there is an fundamental problem in the U.S. with anger management and problem resolution that needs to be addressed. Mandatory gun insurance and more stringent gun regulations will be more effective if we can reduce the hostile behavior prompting weapon use. That will be difficult but it is important that we as a nation begin to resolve personal differences without violence.
This guy doesn’t agree with you Chris,
I think I fall in between you two on the optimism-pessimism scale. I think what you propose will help, but there is still the matter of all the illegal guns out there. I don’t think it’s impossible to clean up, as Mr. Linker does, but is will take a lot of time and effort. I’d like to see these three things to protect the rights of the responsible citizens 1) the insurance requirements you’ve suggested, 2) the training and lisence requirements that I and others have suggested, and 3) all sales/ transfers of firearms must go through an approved dealer. Then I would have law enforcement take the effort that they are putting into that failed war on drugs, and use it towards getting rid of all the illegal guns. I don’t expect that process to be quick or easy. It’s a wide spread toxic mess that we’ve let fester for decades. But the illegal guns need to be taken off the streets, one informant tipoff, one undercover sting at a time.
There have been a lot of good ideas suggested to bring more accountability and reasonableness to the gun issue. Doing nothing is not working. It doesn’t matter what set of data one offers, America has a gun violence problem. Granted, the issue is driven by sick people who lack self control (or are psychotic), but there are simply too many incidents and too many innocents getting killed. Should anyone worry about getting shot while attending a movie theater? Are there no safe havens? Where I agree with gun proponents is that guns are merely the weapon of choice, and those who choose to use them to kill are the problem. Where we disagree is believing nothing more should be changed to improve the registration, sale, education, storage, and eligibility of gun ownership.
I do not care how hard it would be to make changes in availability of multi-round clips. It is making gun violence worse and it needs to be changed. Just because something is hard doesn’t mean it is impossible. America can do this. This is a nation who went to the moon when many thought this was impossible.
What hasn’t been touched upon directly in this discussion is the linkage with mentally ill people and steps to address this problem. Even more fundamental to the issue is what is happening in our culture. People are becoming more violent and reactive to less and less provocation. Why? I don’t know why people are so angry, but it is manifesting itself in many venues. We’ve all experienced the Thanksgiving dinner outbursts and narrowing of friendships over pollitical differences. The wise among us, have worked this out to keep the peace and maintain close family relationships. But, it has not been easy and sometimes it is very uncomfortable and confrontational. We appear to have lost our ability to resolve differences without using force, ugliness, or violence. The prevalence of media and their incessant broadcast of aberrant behavior expands the message and the image. I see people who are in their seventies and eighties exhibit anger levels that are disproportional to either their personal safety or the situation. Anger is driving people who in generations past, would have resolved problems more rationally. Guns are a convenient, accessible means to express that unchecked rage.
America is getting a wake up call. We are becoming an angry, dysfunctional society, using vitriol, gun violence, and bullying to compel others to our views. Until we recognize and begin to deal with the underlying anger in our country, there will continue to be gun violence, wife beating, bullying, and despair. Fix this and you make a major inroad to fixing gun violence.
“Where I agree with gun proponents is that guns are merely the weapon of choice, and those who choose to use them to kill are the problem. ”
Yes and no. Would you rather be confronted by someone with a gun or someone with a knife. Guns are easy lethal power that one can use with little to no risk to one’s self. The incident on the French train was a happy exception; usually when someone has all that firepower you get an outcome like Va Tech, or Aurora, or Sandy Hook, or, the list goes on. If I’m coming after you with a knife, I have to get close enough to stab you, and getting that close potentially puts me at risk. You could have martial arts training. You could have access to something like a sturdy chair that could be used to defend/counter attack. That bad people wil always be among us, but we can make it harder for them to do harm.
Rarely does the victim of violence have the choice in how they will be assaulted. It doesn’t matter if it is a gun, a knife, or, a tire iron. You’re still dead.
This week in a quiet neighborhood in a very nice rural area in Texas, an angry man beat a 31 year old to death with a tire iron for striking his truck (and possibly breaking…not clear on that) with a fishing pole – A FISHING POLE – as he passed (too closely and too fast) the younger man and his father walking down the street to the pond. The general story is that the two fishermen were upset that the truck came too close to them and was going excessively fast, resulting in the younger man using his fishing pole to strike the truck. The man in the truck turned around, came back, and beat the younger man to death and badly hurt the older man. A tire iron and a fishing pole. No guns. Just madness and lack of restraint. Now, the truck guy is charged with murder and battery, the younger man is dead, and the father is in the hospital and has lost his son. All of this while walking with fishing rods down a quiet street to the pond.
You think maybe America has a problem with violence?
“I do not care how hard it would be to make changes in availability of multi-round clips”
You want gun clips to be limited to one round? Are you for real?
PW – My comment did not stipulate one round only, that was your assumption, only that the issue of controlling the sale and availability of multi-round clips be part of any real gun violence discussion. I maintain that is reasonable and necessary to avert mass killing opportunities for deranged people.
Are insurers allowed to price in risk, or must they charge the same rate to all?
They should be able to price in risk. The guy with the modern sporting rifle should pay more than the guy with a single shot .410
Yes. It would work just like your auto insurance. And unlike your auto insurance, I think that credit-rating should factor in, along with results from a background check.
And just like your auto and homeowners insurance, training, use of safety measures, etc would affect price and insurability.
Redlining, anyone? Accurately pricing would never fly politically.
It’s not redlining to require a uniform set of criteria to qualify for the lowest rates, as long as everybody who meets those criteria has equal access to those rates.
It is true that people whose lives are disorganized — for whatever reason — probably wouldn’t be able to meet those criteria. If you can’t get yourself together financially, or lack the mental stability, or can’t keep track of stuff and paperwork enough to prove you meet those criteria, then the odds are good you probably shouldn’t be a gun owner anyway.
I’m a general aviation pilot. I’m legally accountable to the FAA for a huge number of things most people don’t even think about: alcohol and drug use, maintaining a standard of good health, keeping my skills and documentation current, ensuring the plane is safe and I have all available information about the flight before I leave the ground with it. There are a lot of people who simply can’t get themselves together enough to manage all these details — and if they can’t, we have no problem saying that they have no right to leave the ground. This system is strict — and rightly so, because if you screw up with airplanes, people die.
Guns are far more ubiquitous than small planes…and far more dangerous when used stupidly. (Also like planes: there are a thousand ways to use them stupidly.) I have no problem with an accountability system that requires people to clear a high bar to demonstrate that they are responsible enough to own and use firearms safely. Government can’t do this because of the Second Amendment — but the private sector can, and there’s no reason it can’t be required to do it absolutely fairly.
“It’s not redlining to require a uniform set of criteria to qualify for the lowest rates, as long as everybody who meets those criteria has equal access to those rates.”
Of course it isn’t. But if the criteria accurately reflected risk, large swaths of young black males would be unable to afford insurance, and therefore, firearms. In today’s climate where voter id is considered racism, there is no way this could stand.
Amend the constitution to only allow single shot shotguns, bolt action rifles and revolvers. The second amendment gives all of the right to arms, the amendment should clarify the limits. The only thing that makes America exceptional is the fact that we do not have universal healthcare and strict gun laws like every other civilized nation.
I would be okay with pump shotguns also. Weapons designed for war should never be in the hands of the general population, you can call them modern sporting rifle all day long, it will not change the origin.
Sporting rifle is the biggest bull shit lie that has been fostered by the gun industry in recent history.
The term is Modern Sporting Rifle, and it’s a bit misleading. The AR was first built over half a century ago.
I use mine for several sports.
It was built for fighting wars, not sport, unless you consider war a sport.
Semi-auto firearms have been in civilian hands for over a century. There is nothing magically dangerous about the AR. It is, however, a fun little rifle…and with its ease of assembly and 100’s of manufacturers making a wide variety of parts it’s like an adult Tinker Toy. You should try one.
And if you have to kill a wild hog, it comes in handy. Again, people who know what they are doing, handle them responsibly, and can cover the financial liability from their circulation, should be able to get them.
The second amendment was written in the time of muskets . Get some balls and amend the constitution to only allow the private ownership of revolvers, bolt action, or pump shotguns. That’s is all a real hunter needs for the sport. Hard to mass shoot after three or four shots and you have to reload.
Crazy times I will tell you.
Mass shootings are a very, very small part of the whole picture. Why don’t you care about the 5K young black males that shoot each other one or two at a time each year? What happened to BLM?
Unregulated possession of guns is a large part of those 5,000 deaths. Reducing the number of guns would gradually decrease this number. Not as much as legalizing drugs or more effective policing in poor neighborhoods, but it would help.
“Mass shootings are a very, very small part of the whole picture”
Mass shooting that kill multiple people that get wide press reporting are rare.
Using this definition, “A mass shooting is when four or more people are shot in an event, or related series of events, likely without a cooling off period.”
How about approx. 1 per day.
OT – I’m shocked – SHOCKED – to find impropriety in this case.
Of course, it won’t make much difference. Congressional leaders are far more worried about political appearances then thw truth.
This article makes an excellent point, that armed citizens are something completely different from an armed consumer public:
We do not exercise the proper due diligence to ensure that legal gun owners are responsible. The bloodbaths will continue until we tackle that issue.
Thanks, that was was very interesting and something to chew on.
Terrific article. Thanks for sharing it.
Sounds, sensible policies Chris.
I’m afraid we haven’t been given the all clear to discuss this yet. We don’t want to politicize this death, as we’ve been told.
In fact, I’m still waiting the appropriate time before we can talk about the Louisiana shooting too. I’m just gonna hold off on “politicizing” until Bobby Jindal gives us the go ahead.
Seems to be taking a long time. Anyone know when this “appropriate time” might be?
As much as I would love to see guns disappear, the costs of insuring guns would be likely be prohibitive. Thus, ownership would be limited to the wealthy. This would be one way to have people focus on income disparity, but I am not sure how acceptable it will be to most people to limit guns to the rich. The insurance could be subsidized but could you imagine the uproar about giving people money to help buy guns.
So only ‘rich’ people drive cars?
Not to put too fine a point on it-but you are right-most insurance actuarial’s would tell you that to be insurable, you shouldn’t have a gun because of the risks involved. If you had a 500 gallon gasoline tank next to your fireplace it might be difficult to insure your home. One conclusion is ‘hmmmm, guns are risky when possessed by people’ and to choose not to have a gun. But, in kinda sorta the same way, anyone can buy a house on the beach in Texas. The maximum amount one can insure is limited-because the question isn’t IF but WHEN your house is going to be washed away. So by fiat, the insurance regulators work with the insurance company’s and rather arbitrarily determine the cost of gun insurance.
More tragic multi-party lawsuits result–until the study showing that if a company spends 10 million dollars or less on a lawsuit that gets dismissed-it’s not really a mass litigation event.
Reference to a simple actuarial table reveals a massive profit opportunity for an insurance company. America is home to a massive population of responsible gun owners who will never have the slightest problem maintain a safe personal arsenal. Insurers would be all over that opportunity.
Exactly. I’ve long been suspicious of the gun control argument that you are X/times more likely to be killed by a gun if you have one in your house than you are if you don’t. Even if the multiplier is accurate, it’s curious to me that this is always expressed as a relative number, rather than an absolute one — which is always a strong sign that someone may be trying to snow you with statistics. If the original odds of an event are 10% and multiply up three times to 30%? That’s a real issue, and you may want to address it. If the starting odds are .01% and multiply up to .03%, though, that’s a problem that’s probably not worth the effort to fix.
I’ve been asking around for months for the absolute numbers on this, and nobody seems to be able to supply them. This only bolsters my hunch that the actual risks may be so absurdly low that gun control advocates are using rhetorical tricks to make them sound far worse.
Also: I have yet to hear of a homeowner’s insurance company that even bothers to ask if you keep guns in the house, or considers this as a risk factor when they insure a home. If this was costing them money, you can bet they’d already be asking. Which also suggests that Americans are stunningly responsible with our firearms, and tragedies are not not nearly as common as the gun control activists want us to believe.
It also suggests that such insurance would probably be cheap — and get cheaper as insurers insisted that policy holders get regular training, buy decent safes, and so on.
OK, Sara, let’s try this one. The Centers for Disease Control followed up on 10% of the deaths that occurred in 1993 using surveys to define demographic and other variables. The study linked below focused on those deaths that occurred in the home. Of suicides that year, 72% of them occurred in a home with a gun, vastly higher than the number of homes with guns. Of homicides, it was 42% (slightly higher). The “Odds Ratio” for homicides, a statistical measure of risk, indicates that a person in a gun-owning home was between 10-200% (average: 90%) more likely to die from a gun-related homicide than someone living in a home without a gun. For suicide, the numbers differed by sex: women generally find less messy ways to off themselves (pills), but a male in a gun-owning home was 5-19 times more likely to commit suicide (average: 10.4). Of these suicides, many had expressed suicidal tendencies and had a recent history of drug/alcohol use.
Of the homicides, 32% occurred during family arguments, well over twice the percent that occurred during a robbery.
Again, this is a peer-reviewed academic study based on death certificates and follow-up interviews with kin. It seems clear to me that – on average – a home with a gun has a higher risk of adverse events than one that does not.
And, Sara, your example of 0.01% is interesting. The population of America is ~320 million and 0.01% of that number is 32,000, which is not far from the number of gun-related deaths per year in this country. Tripling that would be an increase of 64,000 deaths, more people than die of pneumonia and flu in an average year. Cutting it to a third would save more people than die of AIDS each year. To paraphrase Stalin, one death is a tragedy, 10,000 is a statistic.
In requiring gun insurance, a new system will be required and/or expansion and adequate funding of the Bureau of ATF. The insurance concept is sounding more like a “political work-around” than dealing with the problem directly. Any measure that establishes a more complete gun registry is desirable, but wouldn’t we would have that same benefit if existing loopholes were closed, gun registry access provided to law enforcement, and the ATF funded sufficiently to enforce gun violations? Most important, will the benefit of insuring guns principally be faster identification of perpetrators rather than prevention or reduction of gun violence? I’m not convinced it will achieve the goal that we all want – less gun violence.
Other industrialized nations manage gun ownership with far fewer numbers of guns and much lower gun violence. Their government controls this process. Why should we give our elected officials a pass for failing to implement proven measures that have addressed this problem in other countries?
Two comments I found on two different news sites that struck me as particularly true. I don’t know what the solution to our gun problem, except I know it’s more complicated than a smaller, more isolated country’s would be, but if school and theaters mass murders don’t shake us I don’t know what will. Apologies to the owners of these comments for lifting them.
The first comments was.
“Americans refuse to watch reality. This is the reality of your country and its screwed up gun laws. You sanitize your mass murders, so you just hear about twenty children dead instead of seeing what an assault rifle does to a child. Just like you refuse to show the dead soldiers so that it makes the wars more bearable.
If I had my way I’d plaster your TV with the gore of your mass shootings, every night. I’d make every American see the ruined faces of the six-year-olds at Newtown and the blood drenched cinema at Aurora. You love guns? Fine, then you can love what guns do in the hands of maniacs.”
and the other, which I will say is true of any political extremist:
“Rightwing people do not observe the world and then take a political position. They take a political position first, and then arrange their perception of the world to fit that position.
So when they see this sort of horrible shooting, which challenges their position on gun control, they conclude the facts cannot be right — because the facts challenge their position. So it must be a “false flag operation.”
Hence, the screams of “hoax” flying around right now. It’s all Hilary deflecting from Benghazi.
I do think that we are sheltered from the grim reality of death by our media with our governments full okay. I think if they showed the shredded and bloodied bodies (limbs missing, heads half missing) of children and soldiers being carried, sentiments might start to change. We are offered a sanitized version of events. It’s easier to hear “dead soldier” than to actually see their body. As long as it’s not seen, it’s more acceptable somehow. Easier to process and compartmentalize perhaps.
It’s far too easy to hear about civilian children being killed by our bombs overseas when we don’t see the damage. It’s “over there” and we can placidly think “casualty of war” and “collateral damage” and go about our day. Out of sight, out of mind. We’re numb to it now.
I often think the future of warfare will be so sanitized it will be like the Star Trek episode where Kirk and party landed on a planet that had computers fighting their simulated war. If your sector was “hit” you reported to a “disintegration booth” to meet the casualty counts. When I was a kid that long line of people placidly standing and chatting while waiting their turn creeped me out.
“I do think that we are sheltered from the grim reality of death by our media with our governments full okay.”
I was reading some stories about the murder of Emmit Till earlier this week. One thing that made that story catch fire was his mother’s choice to have an open casket funeral, so the whole world could see the ugly reality of what happened to her son. That’s a tough call, but I wonder if that’s what it’s going to take. I read some descriptions about the conditions of some of the child victims’ bodies after Sandy Hook. But that will never have the same impact as seeing it.
There is a statistically significant portion of Americans who believe Sandy Hook was a “false flag”.
The gun nuts have hit on the perfect defense of the indefensible. Simply say it didn’t happen, and then no further action need be warranted.
The people who dream up and spread Sandy Hook conspiracy theories, are just plain scum. They’re a few notches above the total bottom (AKA the Dylan Roof types), but they enable those worst scum. They are a disgrace.
John Galt, your entire first reply is a perfect example of what I’m talking about — all the stats you cited were expressed in relative numbers, leaving me wondering: 90% more likely than what? I can’t know, because you didn’t cite a single absolute figure. (And yes: these are the numbers I’ve heard before, and I find them unsatisfying because I have no way of putting them into any context.) Telling me “X is Y times more likely when Z” isn’t useful if I don’t know how often X actually occurs in the real world.
Your second reply did finally get there — 32,000 gun deaths, or about .01% of the population. Those are absolute numbers, expressed as a percent of the overall population, which creates a far clearer context for how big the problem really is.
I know this relative v. absolute thing seems like a persnickety thing to fuss about, but I run into this in political discussions constantly. It’s a misuse of statistics, because it tends to take problems out of their real-world context and makes them look bigger than they are (which is why partisans on all sides use it). That’s why in fields like public health and epidemiology, relative stats aren’t considered acceptable at all.
And I’m well aware that suicide is far and away the leading cause of gun death. It’s about 60% of the overall total, in fact. Which means that getting guns out of the hands of people with suicidal tendencies could save lot of lives very quickly. In a vast number of those cases, the person has friends and family who are acutely aware that they are suicidal, and usually have nowhere to turn for help. Addressing this could cut the gun death rate dramatically, and fast.
Chris’s suggestion of getting insurers involved might get more traction on this front. It’s not hard to imagine insurers asking for evidence of mental stability before they write the policy. Governments can’t do that, for all kinds of good civil rights reasons — but the private sector sure can.
Sara, in the paper to which I linked they used real numbers. There were 490 homicides and 1,049 suicides in their dataset which included a randomly selected ~10% of death certificates. When they tried to follow up on these with interviews, not everyone said yes, so they got data from 5% or so of the deaths that year. Of the 490 homicides (multiply by 20) 188 occurred in homes with guns. Of the 1049 suicides (multiply by 20), a staggering 734 occurred in homes with guns. Multiplied by 20, this is nearly 15,000 people out of the 20,000 who committed suicide that year. Is that sufficiently large?
Statisticians use relative numbers (percents) when they are extrapolating from a representative sample to the entire population. It is a well-accepted approach. I understand this can be hard to grasp when you are trying to think about number of people affected, but does it really matter whether it is 10,000, 15,000, or 50,000 people offed themselves with guns if the data indicates that those in households with guns are three times more likely to do so than in those without guns?
“There’s a grim side to this problem. One of the biggest obstacles to pursuing a regulatory scheme along these lines is the fierce opposition from gun control advocates. Lots of people are still in love with the idea that they can address this issue by adding new incremental restrictions – an assault weapons ban, or magazine size limits.
I think they are wasting their time, but they see a program like this as a form of capitulation.”
As a progressive gun owner who’s written on this subject myself: this is the core insight here. The real agenda of the progressive gun control folks (some of whom are my allies and friends on other issues, so I’ve spent many hours debating this with them) is to get the things banned entirely. Any proposal that doesn’t achieve that end is a complete non-starter for them. They’re not interested in harm reduction strategies, or in ways to increase the level of competence and responsibility exercised by gun owners. For legislation to interest them, it must include the word “ban” in the title. There is no other acceptable solution for them.
Ignoring harm reduction is a huge oversight. Over 80% of gun deaths in the country are due to just three situations: suicide; events related to gangs, drugs, and/or cops; and domestic violence. There are fairly straightforward things we could be doing about those three buckets of problems that would probably halve the number of gun deaths in a matter of a few years. But you won’t find the gun control people advocating for any of those measures (in fact, they’ll sneeringly dismiss such proposals out of hand) because they don’t involve banning guns. (Secretly, they fear that if the death toll did drop, public support for a ban might drop with it.) To me, this disinterest speaks volumes: their priority isn’t saving lives, but banning guns.
OTOH, competence-and-responsibility strategies like Chris proposes would probably be eagerly embraced by a lot of the folks I know at the range. They are proud of their ability to own and use firearms safely and well, and are more aware than anyone of how dangerous most gun owners are. They’ve already made investments in good training and strong safes; and they tend to think everybody else should do that, too.
The NRA wouldn’t support this, but a lot of their members would. Which is, of course, another reason for gun-control activists to reject this idea out of hand.
Ms Robinson – This gun control activist will gladly support Chris’s plan. It goes beyond what I thought was reasonable to ask.
I think many of those that ask for bans are people who are deeply affected by shootings and without much thought, ask for a simple fix.
I don’t want to ban anything.
It’s good to hear from you: you are the first activist I’ve met who didn’t think that a total gun ban is the only acceptable way to tackle this problem.
I have a lot of old political friends who work for some of the national anti-gun groups — the ones that that propose and promote the various gun-banning laws. And you’re right: every time something like this happens, they are able to recruit new spokespeople from the ranks of grieving families and friends — people who aren’t policy experts, but are hoping to turn their rage and pain toward something constructive. These folks end up fronting for a package of policies that hasn’t been re-thought in the past 30 years — and also hasn’t done much to slow down the carnage in the places where these laws have been enacted. The basic premises of their campaign cannot be questioned — and then they wonder why their bills fail to get passed, over and over again, while the body count mounts.
I’ve been trying to get them to re-think this focus on banning guns (including bringing up the insurance option) for the past few years. Their resolute resistance to alternative approaches has been pretty depressing, and I’ve actually lost friends over it. They don’t want to hear other perspectives, and aren’t interested in exploring other options — especially if those options might bring them onto common ground with responsible gun owners, whom they regard with some hostility.
As progressives, we’re supposed to be less locked into our cognitive biases and more open to other perspectives than conservatives are. But on this issue, at least at the leadership level, I’ve seen a degree of epistemic closure at work that would do the most hidebound FOX-watcher proud. Congratulations on escaping it. It’s a rare thing.
Sara – “you are the first activist I’ve heard that doesn’t want a full on ban”
I guess that could depend on your definition of “activist” but a total ban seems like a pretty extreme radical position. I don’t think I know anyone who wants a total ban, and I hang with a pretty liberal crowd.
Myself and most people I know support sensible gun control, much like Chris’ plan. A total ban seems both unrealistic and undesirable.
Sara Robinson: Interesting post. I want to comment on your statement: “The real agenda of the progressive gun control folks… is to get the things banned entirely.”
Not all progressives want that. In fact, there’s a Democratic Socialist running for president who said that such people need to understand that most gun owners in rural areas are law abiding hunters — but that people in rural areas need to understand that in urban areas, guns mean something very different. His view is that we can seek practical solutions or we can fight culture wars, and the latter does no good.
What a concept: practical solutions that address the problems while accepting that we have many different cultures. I see GOPlifer’s proposal in the same light — and I’ve heard something like it proposed by progressives as well, with the recognition, as you said, that the NRA would never permit it even though most of their members probably would.
So although you seem to live among a set of gun control culture warriors, that’s certainly not the whole story, nor i suspect even the majority story. Also, even among the most extreme “ban them all” gun control people I’ve encountered, not one was ever glad of a gun death. It’s just what they are accused of, e.g. accused of “politicizing” a massacre by saying passionately that things don’t have to be this way.
Bernie is wonderful. As a progressive with rural roots, I understand the culture he’s coming from, and appreciate his willingness to explore a wider range of solutions. I also know that he’s taking a lot of grief from the gun control crowd, who think he’s awful on this subject because his voting record has been selective, nuanced, and thoughtful, with the needs of Vermonters in mind.
I don’t think my friends are glad of gun deaths, not at all. But they are surprisingly committed to one very narrow (and at this point, fairly antique) set of solutions, to the point where they won’t even consider the possibility that there might be other more practical, modern, or innovative approaches to the problem. As someone whose day job within the movement is encouraging people to think bigger and longer-term, this has been a source of much frustration — more so because it’s coming at a high and largely unnecessary political cost to the left.
Yes, JohnGalt, it does matter. Because without that rooting in actual numbers, people are invited to grossly overestimate the risks — a temptation few seem capable of resisting.
I have friends who refuse to bring their children into my house because they know I own firearms. (The fact that they’re kept in a locked and bolted safe cuts no ice with them.) I have friends who were horrified when I took a summer road trip through Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana, because People There Have Guns. (“I would NEVER go there! It’s not safe!” Seriously. I was told this. Apparently, some progressives are now writing off entire states over this.) These are clear signs of people who have lost all perspective on this issue, to the point where they can no longer accurately assess the true level of risk.
And I do blame the way statistics have been used. These friends know that I’m “90% more likely” or “300% more likely” to be killed one of my own guns. (I hear this, often.) But they don’t know the answer to the question, “More likely than what?” In the absence of that baseline information, they’re conjuring hyper-inflated worst-case scenarios in which I, as a gun owner, apparently live every moment of my existence at the very cusp of imminent death. This is insane — and it would be funny, if some of these people weren’t leading national gun control groups.
Again: this is a common way people in politics use stats to tell stories — and the resulting narratives lead directly to a misinformed public stampeding its panicked way toward bad policy because, absent actual numbers, they’ve vastly overestimated the threat. And it absolutely does matter — because that fear makes it nearly impossible for people to engage innovative proposals like Chris’s in a clear-headed, open-minded way.
Sara – again, you must he on the extreme front lines ofnthe gun control fight in your area.
What you are saying is a common pro gun control position (ban all guns) does not match up at all with my real life experiences.
I don’t consider banning guns a common mainstream position among gun control activists. That’s an extreme position held by a very few.
I almost want to compare it to right wingers who want to criminalize homosexuality. Sure, those right wingers exist. But that’s not the mainstream position on the issue; Banning gay marriage is the mainstream position. Criminalizing homosexuality is a pretty fringe position, much like banning guns is.
I like the idea but it seems the insurance industry has weighed in on this issue before. They seem to reject the idea because unlike cars or houses, people purposely take this firearms and do intential harm to other people. Deaths by vehicle on the other hand are generally accidental in nature.
Jimi Grande – senior vice president of federal and political affairs for the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies
“Liability coverage is designed to protect against accidental damages, most of which involving guns would be covered under a homeowner’s insurance policy. While some policies may provide coverage for liability stemming from the intentional use of a firearm for defensive purposes, no liability insurance product covers intentional acts of malicious violence, whether committed with a gun, a car, or any other instrument that is used as a weapon to deliberately harm people,” said Grande. “It is inconceivable that any insurer would offer such coverage, either as part of a homeowners or renters policy or on a stand-alone basis.”
It is real hard for the free market to work if no one wants to participate. I suspect any insurance program would have to be administerd by the fedral government, certain states (they know who they are) would always refuse to participate in such a plan. Plus there is no way to control the onslaught of derp that would come from such a proposal.
Rob, this isn’t people “in my area.” These are the board members, executive directors, comms directors, and so on for the national groups leading the fight. And in private, they make no secret about the fact that banning guns is the only solution they’ll accept — which is why they’re really only interested in giving public support to measures that are about banning something (certain guns, certain magazines, certain ammo), too.
Insuring gun owners doesn’t lead to that endgame, and so they won’t support it. In fact, I’d expect them to fight it tooth and nail.
We’ve tried a lot of banning this and that over the past 30 years, and most of it hasn’t really help as much as they’d hoped. But the people leading the movement can’t be persuaded to let go and consider alternative solutions, any more than some of the most committed conservatives right now are willing to consider alternative positions on same-sex marriage.
I will admit that this is a far harder-core position than you or I are likely to see on the ground in most places. Most Americans are a lot more moderate and sensible than your average activist, on either side. But I also know first-hand that gun owners who darkly suspect that the gun control leadership will ultimately accept nothing short of a full ban are absolutely correct in that assessment.
Sara, you mentioned that you have written on the subject. Any links so I can read?
I did some Googling, and it was in vast long ago, at the beginning of my blogging career, on a blog that apparently no longer exists. (And a lot of my best stuff on this subject went to private e-lists of liberal activists — it’s never been an issue I led with, having other things to talk about.)
More recently, though, my tension with this issue ended up becoming the stuff of a Pacific Standard article…http://www.psmag.com/politics-and-law/sandy-hook-the-agony-of-the-liberal-gun-lover-82964
Thanks for sharing that, Sara. There are crazies on both ends of the political spectrum. I’m glad you speak out on your position. I’m not comfortable around guns even as I accept that others feel differently. I think those who flaunt guns (Jade Helm, Ferguson) do great harm to gun rights proponents, lending credence to the “ban all guns view”. These demonstrators present incendiary, threatening, and unnecessary demonstrations of force. I think most of us simply want gun owners to store your guns safely so kids don’t get hurt or killed, use them responsibly, register them, and don’t be intimidating in public. It’s the people who are prone to violence, mentally ill, and criminal who I worry about most, even though at any time, any of us could be a victim, intentional or not, of gun violence. It’s too out there to ignore.
Agreed. Chris mentions that Americans are, overall, astonishingly safe with their firearms. There are about 300 million guns in the country, in about 100 million hands. And yet only one gun in 10,000 will ever be used to harm a human being. That suggests that we actually do have a staggering number of people being extraordinarily responsible. But, given the size of our population, even small percentages lead to a stunning number of tragedies — and that small fraction is what we need to be focusing on if we’re serious about cutting the death toll.
Which is why putting our problem-solving focus on the Big Three — suicide, gangs/drugs/cops, and domestic violence — makes empirical sense to me. And getting insurers involved this way could have a striking effect on #1 and #3, and possibly do some good on #2 as well.
As that article suggests, I’m also intensely interested in the question of why we’ve become so damned violent. For much of our history, a much higher percentage of American households owned guns — and yet we didn’t see the kind of wanton, crazy violence we’re seeing now. Which suggests that the problem isn’t (entirely) about the guns — it’s about something new and toxic going on in our hearts and minds.
Americans are not a happy people. (In fact, we show a lot of the symptoms of a country headed for some sort of revolutionary crackup.) There’s a lot of economic stress that’s turning into social and emotional stress — and in the US, that kind of stress always takes on a nasty racist, sexist, and nativist edge. Things are getting ugly, for core reasons that don’t have much to do with guns — but the guns are an accessory that’s certainly making things much uglier.
I’m with you: I want all of this to just stop. But what we’ve been doing hasn’t worked. It’s time to back up and re-think the problem, and see if we can come up with some better answers. But I don’t think the people (on either side) who are personally and professionally locked into the current battle are going to be the ones doing that re-framing.
It would be a rough ten years implementing this. Get ready for a dozen Branch Davidian-type events and a hundred Richard Weaver standoffs. That’s what it would take. The ATF better staff up big time.
I love your plan. How do we get the wheels in motion to get it done? Do we need a counter-NRA type of lobbying organization?
There’s a grim side to this problem. One of the biggest obstacles to pursuing a regulatory scheme along these lines is the fierce opposition from gun control advocates. Lots of people are still in love with the idea that they can address this issue by adding new incremental restrictions – an assault weapons ban, or magazine size limits.
I think they are wasting their time, but they see a program like this as a form of capitulation.
Just like the millions of illegal immigrants, the guns are here to stay. We would be better off without them, well, sure, I suppose. Let me click my heels…..are they gone? The author’s suggestion pisses everyone off-the surest sign of a good idea.
Wow – how simple and how true. Why nobody has come up with this in earnest is beyond me. Liability insurance – yes!
It has been proposed before by House. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., who filed the Firearms Risk Protection Act of 2013 (HR 1369).
Ok. so this sounds reasonable and I’d support it in theory. However, doesn’t a plan like this just make our society even more absurdly litigious than it already is? So if this already existed, the Roanoke families would then sue Vester’s insurance company? Are we then trying to have the insurance companies play the role of “deciders” of who can cheaply own a gun and who cannot? This might work but it will also mean that every shooting comes with a mountain of lawsuits. I would hardly consider that a plus.
Yes, it would be terrible if we replaced mass shootings with lawsuits. Amirite?
Look, if people were actually held financially liable for the damage created by mass gun ownership, the simple fact of the matter is:
1 About 75% of current gun owners would decide pretty quickly not to be gun owners anymore
2 gun sales would collapse
3 Safety regulations that have been bottled up for decades like mandatory gun locks, etc would be adopted overnight
4 people who continued to own guns would be far more responsible in the way they handled them
5 a lot of the dumbest, most dangerous, most irresponsible gun owners would either be priced out of ownership or head off to jail instead of continuing to flood the country with a dangerous product.
6 And over time, our gun problem would largely be forgotten.
Think of it as the “self-deportation” option for the gun control problem. This is just too easy.
I would be absolutely thrilled if we replaced mass shootings with a problem of too many gun lawsuits. I would write a check to make that happen.
Sorry Chris. I’m not trying to argue. I’m just trying to figure out how it would actually work and what our society looks like afterwards. I am absolutely on board with the fewer guns goal and this is the best idea I’ve seen for how to get there.
So if owning an un-registered gun is a federal offense would this exacerbate the over-crowded prison problem or help alleviate it? The penalties would need to be harsh or they would be ignored. Would fines be enough?
Something tells me there wouldn’t be a whole boatload of white Southern gun owners landing in prison, regardless what laws we pass. A few of the worst would find that fate, and as another commenter mentioned there would be a few…how shall we say…colorful standoffs, but the overwhelming majority of gun owners would comply without more than a grumble.
I think in addition to financial liability, people should be held *criminally* liable for any injury resulting from misuse of a gun that they own. You own it, you are responsible for securing it. This includes all of the “accidents” where little Jimmy gets a hold of a loaded gun and shoots his brother. That is not an accident, that is criminal negligence. The gun owner should be held criminally responsible. It also includes all of the idiots fooling around with guns they think are empty, but oops! they’re not. If people were put on trial for murder, there might be a lot fewer “accidents”. Here is a blog that updates all of the “accidental” shootings weekly. It’s a really interesting read. http://www.dailykos.com/news/GunFail
I think the term you’re looking for is “market forces.” Imposing costs through liability is how the risk gets priced.
Pricing-in externalities. It could work to resolve or mitigate lots of different problems.
Yep. I should clarify that my earlier comment was in response to csarneson’s comment, not your follow-up.
Of course. Welcome to the forum, by the way.