OP-ED: Make gun owners buy insurance
America has just surpassed a grim milestone, with more than 250 mass shootings blasting the nation in only 216 days, at a rate of more than one act of gun carnage per day in 2019.
In recent days, mass shootings in Brownsville, Brooklyn; Gilroy, California; Southhaven, Mississippi, El Paso, Texas; and Dayton, Ohio have killed more than three dozen people across the country, with others wounded. As of Aug. 14, this epidemic of firearm violence has, according to the Gun Violence Archive, caused 9,166 fatalities and 18,226 injuries; of these victims, 412 were children under age 12. In comparison, 12 U.S. servicemen have been killed so far this year in Afghanistan.
America has all types of insurance, some mandatory. There’s unemployment insurance, homeowners insurance, fire insurance, flood insurance, earthquake insurance, travel insurance, health insurance, life insurance, et cetera. Auto insurance is compulsory in all but two states, and drivers’ licenses are required nationwide.
The time has come to legally impose firearm insurance on all gun owners and anyone purchasing pistols and rifles. If drivers and owners of vehicles in most states are legally mandated to buy insurance, the same must be true for anyone buying, owning, and using firearms. After all, we license the operators of automobiles and trucks to help ensure public safety, and guns clearly put that safety at risk as well.
Firearm insurance should be compulsory and retroactive in all 50 states. Proof of insurance should be strictly required before purchasing pistols and rifles, as well as ammunition.
As with auto insurance, rates will vary according to the type of weapon being purchased — AK-47s would involve higher rates. And the more firearms one owns, the more one will pay to amass them. If the law is strictly enforced, this could reduce the number of handguns and rifles, and those who stockpile guns will find maintaining an arms depot to be expensive.
One can immediately hear the National Rifle Association howl about alleged infringement of Second Amendment rights. But the constitutional “right to bear arms” very specifically stipulates this should be “well regulated” — and what could make guns be more well regulated than insurance?
We could do some good things with money raised from firearm insurance. We could compensate victims of gun violence, and help fund mental health care as well as trauma and grief counseling.
As always happens after these tragedies, we are being told by the gun industry and its mouthpieces that we must not publicly discuss and politicize what has just happened, out of respect for the dead. Of course, this is a delaying tactic, employed in the hope that the public will take its eyes off the prize of common sense gun safety — at least until the next armed outrage.
In contrast to those endless and ineffectual thoughts and prayers, demands for national discussion of this plague is paying the victims, survivors, and their loved ones the very highest respect.
If by some chance Congress is called back into session this summer, gun insurance must be on the agenda. Of course, in an America awash in violence, hateful rhetoric, and division, firearm insurance is no panacea for ending the tragic pandemic of mass shootings. But it can curb this horrific trend and, along with other sensible measures, help heal our wounded nation.
— Ed Rampell is a film reviewer in Los Angeles, California. This column was produced for the Progressive Media Project, which is run by The Progressive magazine, and distributed by Tribune News Service.