It is common sense that ownership of an item brings with it a degree of responsibility to use the item both thoughtfully and safely. I can’t imagine too many disagreeing with that general premise although I am sure there are some. The requirement to carry mandatory liability insurance by those who own automobiles is an example of state government acknowledging that ownership brings with it that level of responsibility.
Similarly, the government has the right to tax if a government mandate is not met. This was made clear in Supreme Court Justice John Robert’s majority opinion to uphold the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. In the majority opinion he stated that the individual mandate is Constitutional because Congress has “the right to levy taxes”. The individual mandate, of course, is a key component of the Affordable Care Act since, by requiring everyone to have health insurance and subjecting those who do not to a tax penalty, costs are kept down and affordability of health insurance coverage is managed.
That brings us to gun ownership and the need for mandatory liability insurance to own a gun. We already know the staggering numbers regarding gun deaths in America as compared to other “civilized” societies. Last year handguns killed 48 people in Japan, 8 in Great Britain, 34 in Switzerland, 52 in Canada, 58 in Israel, 21 in Sweden, 42 in Germany and 10,728 in the U.S.A. Since the Newtown massacre on December 14, 2012, there have been 986 mass killings in the United States.
If these statistics are not enough to warrant taking some serious measures to stem the tide of gun violence in America then consider this. According to Nicholas Kristoff of the New York Times, “More Americans die from gun homicides and suicides every six months than have died in the last 25 years in every terrorist attack and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined. More Americans have died from guns in the United States since 1968 than on battlefields of all the wars in American history. American children are 14 times as likely to die from guns as children in other developed countries”. Now, I realize that we are limiting ourselves by only comparing ourselves to “civilized” societies and that if we compare ourselves to uncivilized barbaric societies the statistics might be a bit different, though I doubt it. I think, however, that the overall picture is clear and something needs to be done and done now.
After every shooting incident like the recent ones involving a church Bible study group in Charleston, South Carolina or the attack on two Chattanooga, Tennessee military facilities or the killings at a movie theatre in Lafayette, Louisiana or the murders in a school cafeteria at the Marysville-Pilchuck High School north of Seattle or the murders at Umpqua Community College or the news team in Roanoke or the Delta University shooting of a professor or any of the other almost daily shootings, we hear the same rhetoric about something needing to be done among the usual “our prayers are with the victims and their families”.
Well, requiring mandatory liability insurance for the purchasing of guns is a significant step in that direction and let me tell you why.
What better industry to administer and monitor the requirements of gun ownership than the insurance industry? True, high premiums may serve as a deterrent to some gun ownership, but is that really such a bad thing if it weeds out any individuals determined by the insurance company to present an unacceptable risk?
If high premiums are a concern, then discounts will be more meaningful. Discounts for those purchasing “smart” guns which possess technology to allow only the owner to use the gun would be encouraged. So would discounts for the use of lockboxes when the owner is away and the gun is left in the home. Think of how many six year olds would avoid the trauma of shooting their nine year old sibling simply because they stumbled upon an unsecured firearm while daddy was at work.
By requiring mandatory liability insurance we will create a situation in which it is easier to track chain of custody of the individual gun since no one who no longer owns a particular gun will want to continue insurance coverage. This will more likely result in notification by the former owner to the insurance company of the sale of the gun in order to drop the coverage. This is a critical step in dealing with the issue of “straw purchases” in which individuals who can pass a background check purchase guns for those who cannot pass such checks.
True, those among us who are well aware of the locations of the oft-mentioned “black market” of guns – I, for one, have no idea where the black market is located and I seriously suspect neither did most, if not all, of our mass shooters – will totally disregard these new requirements. This is much like those among us who drive their cars without automobile insurance. However, if we can at least implement some level of responsible controls over the legally obtained guns, we will have a much better chance of preventing these guns from getting into the hands of those that present a much greater threat to our safety and well-being as a society.
Furthermore, these “hands” are not just the hands of criminals, but include the hands of children in a home that may stumble upon an unsecured gun. It includes the domestic abuser who just happens to find a gun in the heat of an argument. It includes the relative with a mental condition that makes him or her unstable and, thereby, a threat to the safety of those around him or her.
Clearly, no institution is better prepared to take on this responsibility for tracking guns and gun sales than the insurance industry. The infrastructure is already in place. Best of all, those outlandish nonsensical fears that “the government is coming to take away my guns” will finally be put to rest once and for all since the interests of the insurance industry always outweigh the interests of the government and the society it serves: see universal healthcare a.k.a. “Medicare for all”.