Whether or not we are able to reform our gun laws, can we, at a minimum, expand Obamacare to take care of the children who are injured by guns?
In the two previous articles in this series, aimed at discussing practical solutions to America’s gun problem, I posited several common sense steps we could take to change our “anything goes” gun culture without stepping on the Second Amendment. I appreciated the ensuing thoughtful discussions, especially about how requiring liability insurance on every gun would enable shooting victims to be compensated, and indirectly accomplish many of our gun safety goals, including getting guns out of the hands of the element who would not be responsible enough to insure them.
I also liked the suggestions you had to improve on my idea about how we might institute a procedure within our legal system for family and friends to report a gun owner as unstable. Concerned family members, friends, or employers, would be able to ask a judge for a temporary firearms removal order for the period of one year, or until the gun owner could demonstrate to the court that he is not a threat, which would require a mandatory psychiatric evaluation. If you are interested in discussing ways of changing our “anything-goes” guns-on-demand society, I encourage you to read the ideas about temporary gun restraining orders here, and about mandatory gun liability insurance here, and to send me your own suggestions.
We hear about background checks. We hear about banning assault weapons and large capacity clips. We hear complaints from the other side about video games and violent movies. But then the ideas stop and the bickering begins. We don’t hear any discussion about NEW ideas to encourage gun owners to be more responsible. We talk about mental health only in terms of making a “crazy list.” We never have a discussion of what standards a gun owner should be held to, or what recourse ordinary people should have if they suspect a loved one who is a gun owner is becoming a danger. And we never discuss what services victims of gun violence should have available to them. Why is that?
Though adopting a gun insurance law would make this third suggestion unnecessary, I will still offer it as yet another option we have to reform our current gun culture without taking anyone’s rights away:
Whenever a child is injured by a gun, society should do everything possible to give that child as close to a normal life as possible.
Very few shooters are people with deep pockets who can be sued for the millions it often takes to care for a child disabled by a gun. Gun companies certainly have the resources, but they are protected from litigation by federal law. As things stand now, a child paralyzed or brain damaged in a shooting has to hope his parents bought the right health care policy, and have the money for things like ramps and a wheelchair vans, which are not covered by medical insurance.
A person wounded as a child can need special help for the rest of his life. Even children who recover from their injuries can require hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of physical and emotional therapy. If America is unable to get a handle on its gun laws, shouldn’t we at least hold ourselves responsible for the “collateral damage” that we know our gun policy creates?
At a minimum, we should establish a fund that would pay for the medical, psychological and rehabilitation needs of any child wounded and/or disabled by a gun, for as long as he needs such services, just as we do for military veterans. “Firearm Injuries to Minors” would be added to the Obamacare schedule of benefits that insurance companies MUST cover. Paying for this benefit should not be the responsibility of taxpayers at large, nor should the cost be borne by insurance companies. They would simply raise all our premiums. This benefit should be funded by gun owners, all of whom add to the elevated risk of injury to America’s children.
Toll roads charge all drivers a use tax, which they collect to pay for upkeep and to repair damaged roads. It doesn’t matter that not every car does actual damage; everyone who drives shares the burden. The more often a driver uses the roads, the more miles he drives, the more that driver pays, even if he personally never so much as throws a candy wrapper out the window. I think the insurance benefit for child shooting victims should be funded the in same way, with all gun users sharing the responsibility – by placing a sur-charge on ammunition.
A substantial tax on bullets would be the fairest way to fund a child victims’ insurance program. The more you shoot, the more you are a risk; the more it costs you. Since the larger the caliber, the greater the injury, it also makes sense that the larger the caliber, the higher the tax should be. The exact size of the tax would be determined by the estimate of the money needed to take care of the injured children, but we are not talking a few pennies per bullet. A substantial, but not prohibitive, tax of $1 to $5 per bullet would not only fund the children’s firearms injury insurance program, it would use market forces to reduce the number of bullets used and stored.
This insurance provision is in no way meant to be punitive, but it does insist those who choose to use guns take responsibility for the society they have created that has again and again proven unsafe for children. Victims’ parents would still be able to sue the person who shot their child. Shooters would still be criminally liable. And it is not meant to compensate parents whose children are killed. But adding a gun injury provision to Obamacare would mean every child hurt by a gun would qualify for help, no matter how that child was shot, or who the shooter was.
It’s hard to argue that children who are hurt by a gun shouldn’t be allowed whatever it takes to get their lives back as close to normal as possible. What better way is there to guarantee that happens than by a universal rehabilitation benefit, paid for through a tax on ammunition? It doesn’t take anyone’s gun away. It doesn’t keep anyone from being able to afford enough ammunition to go hunting or to defend their home or business, and we could easily carve out an exception to allow shooting ranges to offer tax-free bullets for all ammunition expended on their premises. It’s not as comprehensive a plan as liability insurance on each and every gun, but it would fulfill a moral duty we have to the children we have left unprotected.
The late great George Carlin once said “Gun control? We need bullet control! I think every bullet should cost $5,000.” We know we’re through the looking glass when George Carlin is the only one talking sense. It’s time we take a long hard look at the country we have created and answer the question, what does a society that allows assault weapons on demand owe the children wounded by these weapons?
Shooter image from Freedigitalphotos.net
Writer’s note: I would like to see exhaustive rehabilitation coverage for all innocent victims of gun violence, but I think the best chance of passing such a law would lie in covering children, and expanding the program to adults if it is judged to be a success.