The NRA has spoken. The solution to gun violence is more guns. Guns everywhere. Armed guards in every school. They say that more guns don’t cause gun violence, they solve gun violence.
Never mind that their argument is easily disproved. Take a look at the accompanying chart, which shows the rate of firearms-related deaths by country compared to the rate of gun ownership. As you can see, the US is a bit of an outlier, but the relationship between gun deaths and guns is clear – the more any country has of the first, the more it will have of the second. Of course, any five-year-old could have told you that. It takes the tortured logic of the NRA to pretend otherwise.
Unfortunately, in many ways, that cat’s out of the bag. By most estimates, there are already as many or more firearms in private ownership in the US as there are people.
The Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre has finally put gun control back in the forefront of public discussion. The NRA’s solution is predictable – Congress should act immediately to appropriate whatever is necessary to place armed guards in every school. The Wall Street Journal, that celebrated bastion of liberal thinking, estimates the cost of that proposal at $6.7 billion (yes, with a B) dollars. By comparison, US federal spending on education in 2012 comes to $49.9 billion. I’m waiting for the right-wing legislators on the end of the NRA’s leash, the ones constantly barking about cutting spending, the ones that were carrying on in the last election cycle about how teachers were lazy, overpaid leeches swelling the deficit by sucking at the public tit to start barking at the NRA with the same ferocity with which they were barking at the NEA, to start asking hard questions about where the money is going to come from. I’m waiting, but I’m not holding my breath.
If an outright ban on private ownership of firearms, or even handguns, or even semi-automatic rifles with unlimited capacities of ammunition is probably politically impossible, what can be done? I have a proposal.
Let’s treat guns exactly like cars. Just bought another car, and I had to go through the same process I always do. I had to submit paperwork to my state proving that I had transferred ownership of my old car to its new owner, paperwork that proved who the new owner was. Then I had to file more paperwork proving that I am now the owner of the exact car I bought (transfer fee $25). I have to display a license plate on my car that specifically identifies it as my vehicle ($99 a year). Now that I live in Chicago, I also have to buy a city sticker ($80 a year). In addition, I’m also required to carry liability insurance so that, should I kill or injure anyone with my vehicle, or damage their property with it, I can pay for it.
To recap, if you own a car, it is your legal obligation to maintain a provable chain of custody for that specific vehicle with the state – you have to register it, license it, prove when you sell or dispose of it and to whom. In the meantime, you’re liable for what’s done with it. That’s why various municipalities can mail me a ticket if a car registered to me is caught on a red light camera somewhere. Doesn’t matter that they can’t prove I was driving it. My car, my ticket. And you have to pay for the privilege of owning one – license plates, city stickers, insurance. I haven’t heard much whining about how any of that is a violation of my precious liberties. I can own all the cars I want.
So why don’t we treat guns exactly the same?
You want to buy a gun? Swell. I say you register that weapon, by serial number, with the state. And let’s register its ballistics, too, just in case anybody wants to file a serial number off. And no more private sale or gun show loopholes, you buy a gun, you register it. Period. And if you own a gun now that isn’t registered, you go and register that one. And then you pay for a license for that gun, every year. (Hey, you say, I already have an FOID card. Sure, I say. I already have a Driver’s License, but I still have to buy plates for my car.) If your city wants to tack on a city sticker, that’s up to them. Oh, and insurance. Let’s require every gun owner to carry a policy that will cover death, injury or property damage attributable to a weapon registered to them at the same minimum levels required for motor vehicles.
I’m betting you’d see a pretty wide spread on insurance rates. That six-shot .38 revolver you inherited from grandpa would probably be pretty cheap. That 14-shot 9mm, that’s gonna be more. You buy a Bushmaster and a mess of 30 round clips like, say, the Sandy Hook shooter? I’m betting you’re gonna pay Ferrari rates on that.
You lose your gun, or it’s stolen, you have an immediate obligation to report that to the police and to file necessary paperwork with the state. You don’t and your gun is used in a crime later, then you’re still on the hook. In fact, how about a red-light-camera-type law? When a slug is recovered at the scene of a gun crime, tie the ballistics to the last registered owner of the weapon. Maybe the state can prove a criminal act, maybe not, but it can slap the owner with a fine, say $10,000 maybe? No problem for you responsible gun owners, right? You aren’t going to commit any crimes. Your guns are safe. So keep track of your guns or face the consequences, just like I do with my car. Oh, and if NO private legal owner of record shows up, well, there’s always the manufacturer. They own it until they sell it. Everybody needs to keep up with their paperwork.
As the chart shows, more guns equals more gun deaths. But all the gun rights people say “Not my guns, mine are safe, I’m responsible.” Fine, prove it. Establish a solid chain of custody for every weapon and be willing to assume civil and, depending on circumstances, criminal, liability for any death, injury or property damage done with that weapon for as long as you own it (or even after if you happen to “forget” to keep up with the paperwork.) Just like you, and all the rest of us, do with our cars.
You want to own five or ten or a hundred guns? Then you pay for five or ten or a hundred licenses. Just like with your cars. I can already hear the cries from the gun lovers. “But I’ve got 72 guns! I’d never be able to afford that!” Hey, I’d like to own more cars. Be nice to have a convertible for the summer, maybe a van for when I have company, but I’ve got a right to own a car, I don’t have a right to afford one. So I’ve got one. I get by.
The money from the fees can pay for the school guards. The insurance would mean society has a place to go to recoup the massive medical costs and other expenses that private gun ownership creates.
You want to the “right” to own a weapon? Then step up and take the responsibility that goes along with it.
Or shut the fuck up.