They fought for gun rights, and we fought for gun regulation. We lost. Instead of giving up, let’s make a new plan. Let’s take on the fight for gun responsibility, beginning with liability insurance on every gun.
Did you know that two of the Colorado state senators who voted for a ban on large capacity magazines are facing a recall election September 10? John Morse and Angela Giron, (right) both Democrats, are being punished for their vote. More importantly, to NRA-types, the recall is a cautionary tale that will shrivel the testicles of any legislators thinking of voting to regulate guns. George Rivera, the former police officer who is challenging Senator Giron, offers no other pretense, telling voters his election “could send a strong message and a chill up and down every politician’s spine, Republicans and Democrats in Colorado.”
Even more mind boggling to those of us not marinated in the gun culture, is that the pro-gun forces paid for this reelection campaign, at least in part, by drawing crowds to a fundraiser by offering free large capacity clips to the first few hundred people to show up in a Boulder gun store parking lot. Morse and Giron have out-raised their opponents 5-1, which is usually a reliable predictor of how an election will turn out, but a ruling this week that prohibits mail voting this September, has reinvigorated the pro-gun forces. They feel if people have to actually show up in person, the passion is all on their side. The ruling has Senator Morse worried. He was spotted this week on a walking tour of his district, telling his supporters they need to “jump through whatever hoop to vote.”
If you don’t live in Colorado, you may not have heard about the recall election. That’s because the subject of guns has fallen out of the national dialogue. Even more frustrating is that weeks after Sandy Hook, while we were all walking around in shock, the gun lobby predicted it would happen. Bob Welch, a lobbyist who spoke at a Wisconsin gun convention last February told the worried audience, “We have a strong agenda coming up for next year, but of course a lot of that’s going to be delayed as the ‘Connecticut effect’ has to go through the process.”
The Connecticut effect = The horror of Sandy Hook fading with time and current events. Time for the nation’s white hot anger to burn itself down to smoke and ashes.
It’s now eight months later. We’ve been through the grief process. We tried, but we got trampled trying to pass what we see as sensible gun regulations, by people who often struck us as two eggs short of an omelette. They insulted Gabby Giffords. They mocked the Sandy Hook parents. They threatened and tantrumed, and spread money on the roiling waters. And we gave up.
The families didn’t give up, of course. I don’t think they ever will. Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly haven’t given up. For those forever changed by gun violence it is an open wound that never scabs over. But for the nation as a whole, Sandy Hook is now just a nasty scar, and the political battle became too hard to sustain. We tried. They were just too strong. Too mean. Too paranoid. They had too much money; owned too many politicians.
No more excuses. We made a promise after Sandy Hook. Now we need to get back in the fight.
I envision you are now nodding in agreement, feeling a little guilty that we allowed the memory of the Sandy Hook massacre to fade, yet wondering, what else is there we can do?
I have an idea.
Abandon the campaign to strengthen gun laws by trying to get a bill passed in Washington. I think we have proven to ourselves that course of action just gives a platform to the most paranoid members of the NRA, and reminds us how many politicians are securely lodged in their wallet. (You thought I was going to say butt crack, didn’t you?)
As Paul Simon advised, make a new plan Stan.
The NRA has based their campaign to oppose any new gun laws on their gun RIGHTS. We tried to counter that position with a campaign for gun REGULATION. It didn’t even come close to working. So here’s the new plan Stan: Instead of relying on government, we use market forces to moderate the behavior of gun owners.
We see their gun RIGHTS and raise them one gun RESPONSIBILITY.
We need to begin a national campaign to require all gun owners to carry liability insurance on every gun they own. We press it at the state level, the federal level, and in our own communities. We use the PTA. We partner with victims groups. But most importantly, we swallow hard and make insurance companies our ally. Big money insurance companies. BIG money. As in more money than the NRA.
Allow me to tell you why this plan could actually work. Mandatory gun insurance has the potential of making BIG money for the NRA. Intrigued?
The most obvious benefit of universal gun liability insurance comes by way of compensation to victims. I know money can never make up for the damage a gun can do, but compensation is not an insignificant matter. Consider someone who is paralyzed, or left brain-damaged, or permanently disabled by a gun. That victim would be assured of having things like ramps, and nurses aids, and whatever other therapies he required, guaranteed for his lifetime. Currently, unless the locality has a “Victim Fund,” a shooting victim receives only the benefits his own medical insurance or Medicaid provides, and medical insurance does not include things like home modifications for a wheelchair, or hand controls for cars. The insurance companies wanting to participate in this new, no doubt lucrative market, could also be required to create a fund to take care of victims injured by uninsured guns, making sure anyone hurt by a gun has a recourse to whatever services they require.
Because money is always a great motivator, another benefit of insuring guns is that it would change the behavior of some less than vigilant gun owners. People who leave loaded guns in the bedside table might reconsider that habit, once they are on the hook for a sizable deductible if someone gets hold of their gun and hurts someone else. Insurance companies would no doubt give policy discounts for gun owners who buy trigger locks or gun safes. Premiums would reflect the gun owners’ risk factors, like arrest and psychiatric histories. Stolen guns would be promptly reported by the owner, afraid he would be held liable for any damage it might cause.
The more guns you own, the more it will cost to insure each one. In other words, market forces are likely to cause gun owners to amass fewer guns.
Finally, mandatory gun insurance would result in a legal way to get guns out of the hands of our least reliable and most dangerous gun owners. Honest citizens who want to hunt, or shoot competitively, or protect their home or business will comply with the law and buy insurance. Those with less honorable intentions will not. Once the law is in place, police would be able to confiscate, on the spot, any gun they find that is uninsured. How many gang guns would that take off the streets of Chicago I’d like to make such confiscations permanent. Don’t step up and insure your gun? Lose it forever.
Insurance companies would want ballistic signatures from every gun they insure. They would need it to verify, in the event a claim is filed, that it was indeed the gun they insure that caused the damage. While it is hardly a substitute for a national ballistics registry that would allow investigators to trace the gun that fired any bullet they recovered, police could subpoena ballistics information from insurance companies, helping in investigations and prosecutions, without ever having to build their own database.
Here’s the beauty part of staging this particular battle. The NRA will eventually join it.
I expect the ideologues to squeal and squawk at first. In fact the NRA opposes an insurance mandate the District of Columbia is trying to pass. I’m sure the rank and file will complain being held responsible for any damage their gun might do is taking away their freedom. But I believe the NRA as an organization will eventually come to support the idea. Why? It would be uniquely situated to sell gun liability insurance to its members. There would also be tremendous pressure from the insurance companies that are listed as “Friends of the NRA” on their website. This is America, in the end, money almost always triumphs over principle.
We would call this campaign “Gun Responsibility” and stress that a good man with a gun is ready to man up, should his gun hurt someone else. We would run web ads with before and after pictures of children permanently hurt in gun accidents, with a parent’s voice over talking about what happened to their child, and all the things their child now needs. A new child every day.
If suffering children doesn’t work we’ll use the Zimmerman effect.
I came across an article in the Star-Telegram this week, that reports since the George Zimmerman verdict, phones have been “ringing off the hook” at Texas insurance agencies. Gun owners have looked at the expense George Zimmerman incurred defending himself, and want to buy insurance to cover their own legal expenses, should they be involved in a similar gun incident. I find this a hopeful sign. If a gun owner can admit he might someday need to cover his own defense, it isn’t that big of a leap to admit he might also need to be able compensate anyone harmed by his gun – Good men practice GUN RESPONSIBILITY.
The Zimmerman effect – the gun owners worry that he might not be able to afford to defend himself if he were to be accused of a gun offense – is the way the NRA will be able to change their position and advocate for gun insurance.
“Protect yourself from lawsuits. Buy a comprehensive gun insurance policy from the NRA. You know you can trust us.”
The regulation battle is over for now – at least until the next damaged young man steals his mother’s assault weapon and goes on a killing spree. But the war for gun sanity is not at an end. We made a promise after Sandy Hook, and we need to get back to it.
Jean Ann Esselink is a straight friend to the gay community. Proud and loud Liberal. Closet writer of political fiction. Black sheep agnostic Democrat from a conservative Catholic family. Living in Northern Oakland County Michigan with Puck the Wonder Beagle.