Thursday, December 20, 2012

Rights and Responsibilities

Although there were many positive responses to my post yesterday, some found my idea to be less satisfactory, calling me a "moron" and suggesting that I should be "hung by (my) shorthairs". And although I don't believe that all gun enthusiasts are vitriolic and unreasonable, there is a definite loud, bully faction of intransigent orthodox gun rights advocates that hated the idea of bringing the capitalism into the mix as a way of checking gun ownership and responsibilities. As such, I want to explore rights and responsibilities, for it seems that only the Second Amendment orthodox don't accept that rights exist within the realm of society and come with responsibility.
Let's take the First Amendment as our example: the first amendment protects our rights of speech and to peacefully assemble. But it is well known that if you use, for example, hate speech, your right to do so is protected but you might end up with a bloody nose. Or, it might be suggested that I be "hung by my shorthairs". Although it is my right to say what I want, I would be foolish to think that I can say anything without consequences. Similarly, speech is not protected if it directly insights danger. For example, yelling fire in a crowded theater has been rejected as protected speech as it would unnecessarily cause chaos and damage. The instigator would also be liable.
Also, with our right to peacefully assemble, it is not our right to do so at the disruption of normal societal activity. For example, if we assemble in the street or on a train track, we would be removed and charged with hindering transportation. Our right to assemble is still in tact but it requires certain adherence to the greater societal good.
Unfortunately, the extreme wing of the Second Amendment advocates consider any responsibilities that are associated with the right to bear arms to also be an infringement. In no other arena of constitutional consideration is there such orthodoxy. Forget that the first part of the Second Amendment says the right to form a WELL REGULATED MILITIA. Forget that all other rights, including the right to vote, the repeal of the 14th Amendment, the First Amendment all exist with legal standards: age, distribution, consequences etc. The orthodox Second Amendment advocate interprets the second half of the amendment only and views it with carte blanche. This is not quality legal ground or a genuine interpretation of the meaning or intent behind the Amendment (which when written was referring to single shot muskets that take a minute to reload and not weapons that can fire a more than a round a second). The reason it's not a solid legal argument, is that the first part of the Second Amendment states that A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state...a well regulated militia is significantly different than anybody with bloodlust can get a gun. Secondly, it says right in the Second Amendment that the militia (however loosely defined) should be "well regulated". This means laws and oversight. This doesn't mean building a doomsday arsenal in your basement with impunity. This doesn't mean you get to own, have and use your guns ad nauseum without any consequence or societal checks on your libelist activity.
It is only through superior propaganda and lobbyist organization that this interpretation of the Second Amendment has become an orthodox reading by so many. And as such, I stand by my suggestion of introducing the insurance lobby into the fight in order to have a Goliath create the standards of liability and accountability in our current gun anarchy. And for this, you're welcome to wish to hang me by my short hairs. I do understand that my words will offend some and I accept my responsibilities with my right to express myself. I also proudly accept that having the dialogue is the first step in hammering out the potential flaws in the idea as well as bringing new ideas forth. I'm not as married to my idea as I am the hope that we can forge a better society.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Practical Thoughts on our Gun Culture

With what seems to be a massacre a week the time to discuss our gun culture in America seems to be rife with opportunity. However, when dealing with policies that have the backings of huge lobbyists and a cult mentality towards any infringement of the right of Americans to slaughter each other, the response by those who want a more reasonable gun laws tends to default to impotent rage. As much as I sympathize with this rage, I have spent a lot of mental energy recently trying to figure out how those of us who want to address the gun insanity in our nation can and do so effectively. In doing so I think I have come up with an idea that could actually work.
Historically, political behemoths, like the NRA, have enough political leverage that they can create and shape the laws that regulate and propagate our weapons. And even with the collective will of the US citizenry currently in a state of outrage where our politicians may actually accomplish something in this area, it will likely be a mere band-aid.
So, how do we fight Goliath? Do we need to motivate an army of Davids? Yes, but I think we should also enlist another Goliath in the fight. So where is this Goliath that not only could trade punches with the NRA, but would be willing to? In the insurance industry.
So, how and why would this work? Let's use the example of car insurance. When you drive a car you carry with that activity a liability: you could damage people and/or property in an accident. By virtue of this liability, you are required to pay premiums on an insurance policy to protect the public at large from the potential of you causing damage. The better you drive the lower your rates. You are also required to comply with licensing standards, vision standards. You have to license your car and register it and reregister it. You have to transfer a title when you sell the car creating a traceable footprint of ownership and liability. You are also required to show proficiency to drive the car. If you want to be licensed to drive something more complicated, like a long-haul truck, you are required to have more advanced and specific licensing. The liability is different as well and so is the insurance. All of this makes sense, because driving a car carries with it certain risks and therefore liabilities.
This is not different from gun ownership. If you own a gun, you present a liability. As such, you should be required to prove competency. You should have to register it and update your registration showing your continued competency. Selling the gun should be trackable like with a car, so those who own guns with certain profiles don't do so without proper training, insurance etc.
So, why would the insurance lobby want to involve itself in this battle? Profits. There are millions of guns and gun owners in this country and insuring them would create new revenue streams for the companies. They would of course, analyze the risk ratios and create premiums based on a profile, like with a driver. Teenagers pay higher premiums than do 45 year olds etc. History of violence would make you higher risk and the like. As such, the insurance companies would be able to help shape the laws that regulate our guns and they would do so with huge coffers and leverage. As such they would be able to make owning an AK 47 more difficult and expensive to ensure than a pistol. And all of this would be based on economics: let the market decide.
Would this mean the end of gun violence? No. Would this eliminate the those dedicated to atrocity from having any access to mass murder weapons? No. But it would require that the guns and ammunition that exists in our shoot-em-up cowboy country be tethered to some responsibility.
I think this would be a first step in the maturing of our relationship with guns. I'm sure these measures would be supported by the police and teachers and probably many other organizations. So there would be some political strength behind this.
Ultimately, I would like to stop the most hysterical and selfish elements of our society from dominating the will of whole.