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.


  1. Thank you! I've been thinking the same thing about holding gun owners responsible/liable for the potential carnage caused by their weapons and requiring liability insurance, for those who choose to own them.
    Much like I'm required to have insurance on my car, for any potential damage it might cause.

  2. What a 'GREAT' idea!!! How could 'Teapublicans' argue with a 'free market' solution? 'Life Insurance' and 'Health Insurance' could also get in on this, offsetting their minor losses from the ACA. Everybody wins. This is a brilliant way to enforce a 'moral value' and 'assign responsibility' for 'risk' to our society. Brilliant! Well thought, Jerry!

  3. Wow why hasn't this been done. We need to send you to Washington