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.