Nicholas Kristof (Pulitzer Prize-winning op-ed columnist for the New York Times) wrote an excellent column on October 3 in the wake of the killings at Umqua Community College. But as he points out, the larger issue is not simply mass shootings; 92 Americans die every day of gun violence—homicide and suicide. In 2013, 27 police officers were killed in the line of duty; but that same year 82 preschoolers were shot to death!
In this piece he argues for an “evidence-based public health approach” to gun violence. He notes that we while we don’t ban automobiles or cigarettes, despite numerous related deaths each year, we do regulate them heavily. And those regulations have reduced deaths and injuries dramatically. He brings up guns with fingerprint or PIN protection, as well as storage requirements. But one of the proposals he makes for reducing gun deaths I had not heard before is to require liability insurance for anyone who owns guns. Just as automobile insurance places on the driver/owner a responsibility for the consequences of driving a potentially lethal vehicle, liability insurance for a gun-owner would require taking responsibility for the consequences of that ownership. While that clearly doesn’t control those with illegally purchased weapons, it does place a burden of responsibility on anyone owning a legal weapon. And just because people drive illegally without insurance doesn’t mean we don’t require everyone to carry it.
One of my favorite comments (some years back by a commentator) on the second amendment rights of gun-owners is that she is a “strict constructionist” when it comes to gun-ownership. She said she thought Americans should be able to own as many muzzle-loading muskets as they like (as in the eighteenth century)—just not AK47s with armor-piercing bullets!