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Gun liability insurance
January 16, 2011 9:36 AM   Subscribe

Is gun liability insurance on the horizon? The idea that gun owners should have liability insurance for their firearms is rarely a political issue, but can no-fault insurance for certain guns stay clear of the second amendment?
posted by Brian B. (125 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
I think this is a great idea. If you want to own a firearm, you should cover the full cost to society of your ownership, namely risk of death/injury to third parties that your firearm creates. Exactly the same situation with other dangerous technologies such as automobiles.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 9:46 AM on January 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is absolutely required. I'd go so far as to say that if you own a gun, and somebody dies due to your gun, you should be considered accessory to the crime or at least partly liable for the accident. I'm tired of gun-rights people thinking that ownership of a gun is exempt from all responsibility to society. If I keep explosives in the basement and my neighborhood blows up, you can bet I'll be held directly responsible. If I have a dog and it mauls somebody, I'm responsible.
posted by Michael Roberts at 9:52 AM on January 16, 2011


Perhaps enforcing sellers to buy insurance on each gun transaction would improve due diligence on sales and reduce gun violence. If you have a record of dealing weapons directly or indirectly to criminals and the mentally insane, your insurance premiums go up. Because insurance isn't paid by owners, this would sidestep contentious issues around zealous interpretations of the Second Amendment and ownership.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:54 AM on January 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


BP has it. Liability insurance for owners would likely be very low. I'd much prefer a risk-pooling approach to sales: there are a couple of gun shops in the DC-VA-MD area that supply almost all of the crime guns used in the District. Strict liability, motherfuckers!
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:01 AM on January 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


No-fault insurance for guns? Guns don't kill people, people just get killed?
posted by mhoye at 10:05 AM on January 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh America, you're hilarious.

Problem: Guns.
Solution: Insurance and lawsuits!
posted by saturday_morning at 10:06 AM on January 16, 2011 [55 favorites]


"Blew a hole through aunt marys garage door while cleaning the muzzle loader, good shot Danny Boone but do you have GUNCO..."
posted by clavdivs at 10:06 AM on January 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Michael Roberts: If I keep explosives in the basement and my neighborhood blows up, you can bet I'll be held directly responsible. If I have a dog and it mauls somebody, I'm responsible.

On the other hand, if someone steals your car and runs someone over, you won't be held responsible for that. So, this principle does have limits, at least in practice.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:10 AM on January 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


Oh America, you're hilarious.

Problem: Guns.
Solution: Insurance and lawsuits!


Well you see the Constitution, written at a time when "guns" were barrel-loaded single-shot weapons that took a trained soldier ~20 seconds to reload, guarantees the right of any American - especially the mentally ill - to purchase 30 round semiautomatic 9mm pistols supplied with ammo from Walmart. So really we have to work within the legal framework we're given.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 10:17 AM on January 16, 2011 [24 favorites]


Problem: Guns.
Solution: Insurance and lawsuits!


Economic incentives have made other similar products, services and activities safer. Liability insurance wouldn't hurt or impede law-abiding gun owners, any more than auto insurance laws hurt or impede good drivers.

Since it is unrealistic to expect the US to enact sensible gun control, maybe insurance would provide common ground, a third way that maintains existing access to deadly weapons, while reducing gun violence.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:19 AM on January 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Health care cost of gun violence in America. The health care and economic costs of gun violence in the US are equally staggering. According to the Public Services Research Institute in 2008, firearm homicide and assault cost federal, state and local governments $4.7 billion annually including costs for medical care, mental health, emergency transport, police, criminal justice and lost taxes. They also state that when lost productivity, lost quality of life, and pain and suffering are added to medical costs, estimates of the annual cost of firearm violence range from $20 billion to $100 billion.
posted by Brian B. at 10:24 AM on January 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


Hmm, let's think of other things you should carry liability insurance for. All of you animal owners now can carry insurance in case your animal attacks anyone. Dog and cat bites can cost people a lot of time and money spent mostly in medical bills. If you want a puppy, it better be insured.

Bicyclists? You are a vehicle, so where the hell is your insurance? You now must carry liability for whenever you hit a pedestrian, or car, or whenever you seem to think the normal driving laws don't apply to you.

Excuse me, sir, your cigarette lighter and/or matches are a danger, their only use is to set things on fire. And they need to be insured.

Okay, I'm done with the silly analogy, but no one other than the far left and die-hard gun control advocates will actually want this, and the NRA will easily defeat expanding the insurance industry to cover their favorite toys. Lastly, as in with automobiles, people who don't have insurance and licenses drive cars quite frequently. Do you really think someone who is hell bent on going out and murdering someone is going to make sure their gun liability insurance is up to date?

Full disclosure: I am not mentally ill. I don't go shoot people. I do own a gun, and have a second on the way. I have large capacity magazines for my 10-22.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:38 AM on January 16, 2011 [8 favorites]


I can see that this will lead to reasonable debate [warning: Beck inside] and really calm down the right wing.

Since their basic reaction to anything is to throw temper tantrums, I suppose it will work out like all the other attempts at gun control in the current climate: backlash fodder without any substantial results.

Though I must say that the prospect of the insurance industry lobby tangling with the armament manufacturers lobby fills me with a perverse glee.
posted by warbaby at 10:40 AM on January 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


the far left

If you think liberals are "the far left" I've got a whole world of human beings you should meet.

(It's all of the human beings, since you live in an NRA fantasy.)
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:50 AM on January 16, 2011 [10 favorites]


All of you animal owners now can carry insurance in case your animal attacks anyone.

Actually, the breed of dog you own can affect your homeowners/renters insurance rates. Some insurers won't insure you at all if you own dogs considered to be particularly dangerous.
posted by jrossi4r at 10:53 AM on January 16, 2011


You now must carry liability for whenever you hit a pedestrian, or car, or whenever you seem to think the normal driving laws don't apply to you.

When I was struck by a motor vehicle on my bicycle, my auto insurance was responsible for my care until my lawsuit against the driver concluded. This a consequence of laws in the state I lived in at the time — either I had to have my own coverage, or lacking coverage, the other party would be responsible until fault is determined. I don't know what the law is in other states.

Lastly, as in with automobiles, people who don't have insurance and licenses drive cars quite frequently.

Generally, there are consequences to doing so. Violators can be fined and lose their automobile, for example. There will be sociopaths who skirt the law, as usual, but economic incentives do change behaviors.

If we're looking for perfection, no law will ever meet that criterion, for anything we regulate. But we, as a society, still have laws, nonetheless, because laws are useful, despite imperfections in enforcement and despite law-breakers breaking laws.

Do you really think someone who is hell bent on going out and murdering someone is going to make sure their gun liability insurance is up to date?

Automobile dealers have to take care of paperwork before selling cars to buyers. Making weapons dealers legally and economically liable for selling deadly weapons to uninsured buyers can provide incentives for ensuring compliance, in addition to penalties to perpetrators that go beyond the act of violence itself.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:54 AM on January 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm tired of gun-rights people thinking that ownership of a gun is exempt from all responsibility to society. If I keep explosives in the basement and my neighborhood blows up, you can bet I'll be held directly responsible. If I have a dog and it mauls somebody, I'm responsible.

Gun-rights people are no more monolithic a group than any other group. But ownership of explosives and dogs are not protected by the Constitution. And if you harm someone with a gun, you're already liable for that, just like if you harm someone with a dog or with explosives. Gun usage isn't magically immune from negligence, etc.

Many gun-rights people are also concerned with registration of individual firearms, as that could ultimately lead to confiscation. If you believe that the justification of the second amendment is to prevent tyranny, you may not be in favor of registration - and you'd need registration to make insurance work. Personally, this gun-rights guy doesn't really see a way around registration - I think it's essential to effectively limit gun violence - but I don't speak for all the gun-rights people.
posted by me & my monkey at 10:55 AM on January 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


How would insurance prevent criminal acts? Will raising my premiums deter violence that imprisonment and the death penalty will not? I suspect the number of "repeat offenders" who would also carry the appropriate liability coverage would be zero.

If this is really a way for law abiding gun owners to pay for the sins of their criminal, unlicensed, and apparently unstoppable gun-toting counterparts; then just impose a tax or something - putting the insurance companies in the middle here doesn't accomplish much other than fattening the pockets of a few lobbyists and insurance CEOs, at the expense of those who have not broken any law.
posted by meowzilla at 11:01 AM on January 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


Mister Fabulous: "Do you really think someone who is hell bent on going out and murdering someone is going to make sure their gun liability insurance is up to date?"

Actually, that's an interesting question. I haven't gone looking, but I've never seen an insurance contract cover willful damage. We call that arson or murder, etc. I think you'll have a hard time convincing underwriters to cover illegal acts.

Looks like the argument is that you should be held liable for someone stealing your guns and using them. Which is different than cars, AFAIK.
posted by pwnguin at 11:04 AM on January 16, 2011


The analogies to automobile insurance are terrible. You're going to find it hard to claim that requiring car insurance has made people better drivers.
posted by meowzilla at 11:22 AM on January 16, 2011


I guess that I am naive but I thought that gun owners needed insurance....just like car owners, most homeowners, etc. Wow. On the level, in America, what is the difference between owning a car and owning a gun? It seems that they both kill people (intentionally and accidentally) so, what gives?

And for a chuckle there is this.
posted by zerobyproxy at 11:22 AM on January 16, 2011


To extend a silly analogy:

Bicyclists? You are a vehicle, so where the hell is your insurance? You now must carry liability for whenever you hit a pedestrian, or car, or whenever you seem to think the normal driving laws don't apply to you.

Excuse me, sir, your cigarette lighter and/or matches are a danger, their only use is to set things on fire. And they need to be insured.


and

Many gun-rights people are also concerned with registration of individual firearms, as that could ultimately lead to confiscation.

If we're going to compare gun registration and insurance to car registration and insurance: I have to register and insure my car. If I use it negligently or in a crime, or operate it outsides the bounds of the law, it can be confiscated. However, registration is not likely to enable to government to take er cars, goldurnit!

Sensible gun control policy doesn't necessarily mean all guns will be outlawed all the time. Armed revolution against the government is so unlikely as to be an NRA fantasy. Also, all the lawful gun carriers in the area failed to stop Loughner with their guns, so that fantasy goes out the window as well.
posted by Existential Dread at 11:24 AM on January 16, 2011 [6 favorites]




On the level, in America, what is the difference between owning a car and owning a gun?

Typically, car owners use their cars every day, and the likelihood of a car owner accidentally causing harm is much greater than the likelihood of a gun owner accidentally causing harm. Cars are more complex devices, and it's easier to hurt someone with a car than a gun through a momentary lapse of control or attention.
posted by me & my monkey at 11:31 AM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


You're going to find it hard to claim that requiring car insurance has made people better drivers.

Safe drivers are charged lower premiums than unsafe drivers, and insurance companies encourage safer driving, even when they make money, regardless. A legal requirement for demonstrating financial responsibility provides economic incentives for behavioral changes.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:35 AM on January 16, 2011


However, registration is not likely to enable to government to take er cars, goldurnit!

Well, actually, I would think that if the government were inclined to confiscate cars, it would certainly be easier for it to do this with those cars being registered. But no one thinks the government would confiscate cars. Why would they?

Guns, on the other hand, are certainly the kind of thing that an oppressive government might not want in the hands of its citizens.
posted by me & my monkey at 11:36 AM on January 16, 2011


Predicted new NRA talking point: Guns don't kill people; insurance kills people.
posted by Flunkie at 11:42 AM on January 16, 2011


NRA will easily defeat expanding the insurance industry to cover their favorite toys

The NRA is already in the insurance business. They sell liability insurance to gun clubs and shooting ranges, supposedly at a discount. These policies generally require that all the members of the gun range or club must also be members of the NRA. So the NRA makes some money from the premiums, plus some more from membership dues. More subtly, it further entrenches the organization in the gun community. The NRA can be hard to avoid if you're an avid hunter or participate in competitive shooting. Even if you don't like their politics, you might find yourself joining anyway, just so you can be in a club with a nice shooting range.

If liability insurance is mandated for all gun owners, I expect a significant percentage of the policies will be sold through the NRA. The profits will presumably be funneled into Republican election campaigns.
posted by ryanrs at 11:46 AM on January 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Guns, on the other hand, are certainly the kind of thing that an oppressive government might not want in the hands of its citizens.

I gotta say this is the weirdest pro-gun argument I know of. First of all, when do you determine the government is officially "oppressive"? Is this an individual decision or should you have consensus with your buddies at the shooting range? Once the oppressiveness of the government is established, then what? You stop paying your taxes I guess? Ok. So then they put a lien on your house and the cops come to dispossess you of it. Luckily, you have guns!! You shoot a few cops and the government never messes with you again!! I mean honestly what the fuck.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 11:46 AM on January 16, 2011 [27 favorites]


Do you really think someone who is hell bent on going out and murdering someone is going to make sure their gun liability insurance is up to date?

In Montreal, from 1985 to 1989, 25.1% of homicides were the result of a stupid fight, 19.1% were related to a robbery. Meanwhile, 16.5% were settlings of accounts, 16.5% were conjugal, and 6.8% were familial.

So around half of homicides with determined causes were made by people who were probably far from hell-bent on murdering.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 11:52 AM on January 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Guns, on the other hand, are certainly the kind of thing that an oppressive government might not want in the hands of its citizens.

Governments, benevolent or oppressive, by and large have bigger and more powerful guns than any citizen.

I have never been convinced that the "we need gun ownership to save us from the government" has ever really been true.
posted by edgeways at 11:59 AM on January 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


I have never been convinced that the "we need gun ownership to save us from the government" has ever really been true.

true or not, i'd argue that the mythos serves a purpose.
posted by DavidandConquer at 12:12 PM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I dunno. The US Military has no problems dealing with tanks, but dudes with AK-47s seem to be a recurring problem.
posted by ryanrs at 12:18 PM on January 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Interestingly, when I went to my concealed carry class, my instructor advocated that we should buy liability insurance. His point was that if we ever have to use our concealed weapon, we will almost certainly be sued, regardless of the circumstances and that the costs could be crippling.

The instructor was ex-police, ex-military, and a lawyer. He knew exactly what he was talking about, and I took his advice.

Gun liability insurance is actually ridiculously cheap, and a fantastic idea. Mandating it is de-facto gun registration however, and will almost certainly never pass into law for that reason.
posted by Invoke at 12:22 PM on January 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh, and also also pickup trucks. That is basically the definition of a guerilla army: rifles and pickup trucks.
posted by ryanrs at 12:25 PM on January 16, 2011


I gotta say this is the weirdest pro-gun argument I know of. First of all, when do you determine the government is officially "oppressive"? Is this an individual decision or should you have consensus with your buddies at the shooting range? Once the oppressiveness of the government is established, then what? You stop paying your taxes I guess? Ok. So then they put a lien on your house and the cops come to dispossess you of it. Luckily, you have guns!! You shoot a few cops and the government never messes with you again!! I mean honestly what the fuck.

while i too am mystified at the whole mythology of how an armed and freedom-loving populace could ever recognize or combat tyranny (at least before it was too late), i am a little less mystified at the suspicion that surrounds any erosion of the right to own a gun.

private gun ownership and oppressive governance have never coexisted, and there is a powerful symbolic element to any government proscribing the private possession of weaponry on the part of its citizenry.
posted by DavidandConquer at 12:25 PM on January 16, 2011


Liability insurance wouldn't hurt or impede law-abiding gun owners, any more than auto insurance laws hurt or impede good drivers.

Are you kidding me? Auto insurance laws hurt or impede good-but-poor drivers constantly, up to and including arrests and jail time. Gun insurance laws would do the same, leading to even greater disparity between the rich and poor (and an even greater dependence on insurance middlemen who do nothing but take from society, of course).

The extent of people's desire to punish law-abiding gun owners is astonishing. If you wouldn't support this sort of law for drinkers -- users of a substance which happens to kill three times more people than guns do per year, including tens of thousands of innocents -- then you should ask yourself why this kind of War-On-Something thinking becomes acceptable when it's applied to guns.
posted by vorfeed at 12:34 PM on January 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


Mandating it is de-facto gun registration however, and will almost certainly never pass into law for that reason.

Assuming that the government can't order you to buy a gun or even health insurance, I would assume that at least some judges would interpret the law to allow a gun seller's insurance company to do a background check, and to allow the practice of being privately assessed to be high risk at some point in the distribution chain. The US government apparently qualifies those sellers already.
posted by Brian B. at 12:40 PM on January 16, 2011


Limit magazines to 8 rounds. Make reloading something that takes at least 20-30 seconds, and concealed carry classes mandatory for all handgun ownership. It is not that hard to stop the high body counts of massacres like this.

private gun ownership and oppressive governance have never coexisted, and there is a powerful symbolic element to any government proscribing the private possession of weaponry on the part of its citizenry.

I think this is a bit of out dated thinking, or at least focuses too closely on "oppressive governance" being a Western-style fascist or communist government. Gun ownership rates are high in Taliban controlled Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan. You might argue that these don't really constitute a central government, but certainly there are oppressed people living in areas where there's a lot of loose to non-existent gun control laws.

It makes things like a Chinese invasion of the US even more implausible, but it does nothing to stop popular, but oppressive policies. You do not see, for example, blacks rising up in the Jim Crow South in armed revolution.
posted by geoff. at 12:41 PM on January 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


private gun ownership and oppressive governance have never coexisted

Heh. So how do you know the former will protect you from the latter?
posted by ryanrs at 12:44 PM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Will this keep my asshole gun-owning neighbor from firing off his toy in the evenings and scaring the piss out of all of the neighborhood animals and people, that would be great.
posted by maxwelton at 12:47 PM on January 16, 2011


"Armed revolution against the government is so unlikely as to be an NRA fantasy."

History would beg to differ on this point, but I understand where you are going with the argument. Throughout history, one of the precursors to a state becoming truly dictatorial is the registration and eventual confiscation of guns.

The number of gun toting lunatics who go out and wreak havoc on society is small relative to the amount of noise and news they generate. A properly trained, well educated gun owner is likely more careful than your average automobile driver.
posted by tgrundke at 12:47 PM on January 16, 2011


why this kind of War-On-Something thinking becomes acceptable when it's applied to guns.

Because guns are designed for one purpose: to kill. Cars are not, alcohol is not. If a society is going allow widespread ownership of devices expressly designed to kill, I think some amount of regulation is necessary.

Also, gun registration is hardly a "War on Guns," any more than car registration is a "War on Cars."
posted by Existential Dread at 12:47 PM on January 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


...obviously, maxwelton's neighbor does not get classed as a "properly trained, well educated" gun owner. Yikes.
posted by tgrundke at 12:48 PM on January 16, 2011


Because guns are designed for one purpose: to kill.

So why do they sell so many .22 rifles?
posted by ryanrs at 12:52 PM on January 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Existential Dread -

While I agree with your points, the argument against registration is to avoid a government coming to power and stripping everyone of their rights by eliminating the last tool the citizenry would have in such an (admittedly) implausible situation.

Look, I don't see us in armed insurrection anytime soon, but that doesn't mean it can't happen. Moreover, in the (again, rather implausible) event that some disaster did strike and I needed to fend for myself and family, I wouldn't want the government going down the list and confiscating my firearm.
posted by tgrundke at 12:53 PM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Heh. So how do you know the former will protect you from the latter?

you took that out of context, so you ignored my point. i'll be more explicit--no, it does NOT logically follow that removing weapons will lead to more-restrictive governance. so even though the perception is more rooted in emotion, in omen, than it is in anything concrete. still, that does not make it any less real.
posted by DavidandConquer at 12:54 PM on January 16, 2011


Emotional omens are less real than the widespread gun violence in this country. Less important, too.
posted by ryanrs at 12:58 PM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


geoff.: Limit magazines to 8 rounds. Make reloading something that takes at least 20-30 seconds, and concealed carry classes mandatory for all handgun ownership. It is not that hard to stop the high body counts of massacres like this.

Eh, that would make any kind of target shooting incredibly annoying, and could easily be worked around by a spree killer simply by carrying two pistols. If I remember correctly, that's how the Virginia Tech killer did it - he used one pistol to cover himself while he reloaded the other.
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:01 PM on January 16, 2011


ryanrs -

Today that may be the case. It may not be the case tomorrow, hence why you want to be very careful and guard against overreacting today.
posted by tgrundke at 1:02 PM on January 16, 2011


If you wouldn't support this sort of law for drinkers

Taxes on alcohol are well-established. I wouldn't mind earmarking such taxes for spending on alcohol-related crimes and injuries in much the same way that cigarette taxes are earmarked for spending on smoking prevention and paying for smoking-related medical costs.
posted by jedicus at 1:04 PM on January 16, 2011


Throughout history, one of the precursors to a state becoming truly dictatorial is the registration and eventual confiscation of guns.

Correlation is not causation. There are plenty of states around today with very strict gun laws that are not any more on the path to 'becoming truly dictatorial' than the US is. The UK, Germany, Japan, etc. In fact, in some ways the US is worse.

And in case you think gun rights somehow magically buy people freedom, I give you Somalia.
posted by jedicus at 1:06 PM on January 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


Because guns are designed for one purpose: to kill. Cars are not, alcohol is not. If a society is going allow widespread ownership of devices expressly designed to kill, I think some amount of regulation is necessary.

We already have "some amount of regulation". What you need to support is the idea that guns should require mandated insurance, and alcohol should not, despite the fact that the latter has three times the lethality.

Note that your argument is not based on what guns actually do in society. It's a moral judgment based on what you think they are "designed" to do. To me, that's not convincing; I don't care whether you think guns have an intrinsic people-killing red aura, I care whether they kill people. The fact is that the vast, vast majority of them don't, and those that do kill fewer people than many of our other vices.

Also, gun registration is hardly a "War on Guns," any more than car registration is a "War on Cars."

There's a major difference between the rhetoric about guns and the rhetoric about cars. Sorry, but if you expect me to notice when the right wing is stirring up violence, I expect you to notice that War On Drugs style gun bans are exactly what many people have been advocating during the last week, particularly on mefi.

Taxes on alcohol are well-established.

We're not discussing a tax. We're discussing mandated insurance. I don't support a gun tax, either, but at least that'd be honest, and at least the money would go to something useful rather than disappearing into an insurance mogul's pockets. This mandated-insurance idea is the worst of all possible worlds, and seems to exist purely because a gun tax will never pass -- since when does that kind of reactionary crap add up to good lawmaking?
posted by vorfeed at 1:22 PM on January 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Emotional omens are less real than the widespread gun violence in this country. Less important, too.

you can say that but my guess is that you have it backwards. the most extreme estimates (taken from Brady Campaign) put gun deaths in the US @ just under 10,000 per year. that's 0.0033% of the populace--too many but hardly "widespread". conversely, the United States was founded on a mythology of self-determinism and on a shaking off of oppressive governance. this has been taught to every one of us since elementary school, and is remembered to us on our currency. my feeling is that our foundation myth will always prove a lot stronger than that 0.003% statistic could ever be. the fact that takes a high-profile even like in Tuscon (or in Columbine) to make most of use even think about sitting up and taking notice is telling.
posted by DavidandConquer at 1:23 PM on January 16, 2011


It may not be the case tomorrow

I'd go so far as to say we will definitely not be under totalitarian rule by tomorrow. On the other hand, 25 people will be murdered with a firearm. You're arguing imaginary, hypothetical threats vs. lots of actual people dying right now. More than one person per hour.

Source: FBI Uniform Crime Reporting, Murder Victims By Weapon. 9,146 homicides by firearm in 2009.
posted by ryanrs at 1:29 PM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


We're discussing mandated insurance.

Sort of. Gun ownership is not mandated itself. But, assuming a conservative reading of the word, if the sellers were no-fault liable for the public damages caused by guns, then their insurers would want to screen the buyers privately with background checks, and these records would be legally accessed after the fact, not publicly accessed prior. It sounds like the government is involved and meddling, but only in a paranoid sense, not simply for collecting what they were taken for.
posted by Brian B. at 1:29 PM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


What high profile event? Less than 0.2% of congress was shot. That's nothing compared to our precious mythologies and that macaroni pilgrim I made in elementary school.
posted by ryanrs at 1:35 PM on January 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think this is a bit of out dated thinking, or at least focuses too closely on "oppressive governance" being a Western-style fascist or communist government. Gun ownership rates are high in Taliban controlled Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan. You might argue that these don't really constitute a central government, but certainly there are oppressed people living in areas where there's a lot of loose to non-existent gun control laws.

not really your point, but you could take that even further and argue that the current quasi-chaotic state of Afghanistan is the direct result of the local populace having successfully fought off 200+ years of colonial imperialism. hence, privately-owned guns might grant you your freedom, but that freedom can also allow new forms of oppression to grow.
posted by DavidandConquer at 1:36 PM on January 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's nothing compared to our precious mythologies and that macaroni pilgrim I made in elementary school.

you're arguing that pragmatism should trump emotionalism. i'm arguing that human enterprises rarely work out that way. we don't disagree on the "should".
posted by DavidandConquer at 1:43 PM on January 16, 2011


Hmm, let's think of other things you should carry liability insurance for. All of you animal owners now can carry insurance in case your animal attacks anyone. Dog and cat bites can cost people a lot of time and money spent mostly in medical bills. If you want a puppy, it better be insured.

Bicyclists? You are a vehicle, so where the hell is your insurance? You now must carry liability for whenever you hit a pedestrian, or car, or whenever you seem to think the normal driving laws don't apply to you.


As it happens, third party liability insurance for ordinary everyday activities like riding your bike to work are included in the ordinary contents (what US people call renter's) insurance in the UK that can be had for oh, £2 a week or so.
posted by pharm at 2:11 PM on January 16, 2011


We already have "some amount of regulation".

Arizona did not have enough regulation to prevent Loughner from being able to acquire his weaponry, evidently. And despite the relative lack of regulation in Arizona particularly, armed people at the site of the shooting were not able to prevent Loughner from killing and maiming his victims, contradicting the myth of armed, everyday Americans making the public safer.

Part of the disconnect in these discussions, it seems, is that gun proponents seem more interested in making themselves victims of a vast government conspiracy to take away their weapons, instead of acknowledging that other people may have an interest in reasonable, rational means to mitigate the clear harm that these devices continue to cause.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:14 PM on January 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


private gun ownership and oppressive governance have never coexisted

Saddam's Iraq
posted by moorooka at 2:15 PM on January 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


All of you animal owners now can carry insurance in case your animal attacks anyone.

Liability insurance is available for horses. Horses can be involved in accidents without there really being any fault on the part of the horse or owner (people fall off the horse, the horse suddenly jumps and hurts somebody, the horse jumps a fence and is hit by a car, causing injury and damages, etc) and sometimes horses do even attack people. The owner is legally responsible for injury/damages caused by their horse, even if they took appropriate precautions to prevent the incident, and equine liability insurance would pay for these. Makes sense to me.

Why should any other potentially dangerous possession be different?
posted by galadriel at 2:33 PM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Part of the disconnect in these discussions, it seems, is that gun proponents seem more interested in making themselves victims of a vast government conspiracy to take away their weapons, instead of acknowledging that other people may have an interest in reasonable, rational means to mitigate the clear harm that these devices continue to cause.

As a gun owner, I don't see any vast government conspiracy towards limiting my ownership, etc. If you haven't noticed, the fully Democratic congress never once took up any gun control legislation, even with a Democrat sitting in the white house. Assault weapons have been back since 2004. Now that one person shoots up a crowd there are all sorts of laws people want enacted. This reactionary response seems to do little other than annoy.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 3:17 PM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


DavidandConquer In addition to Iraq under Saddam Hussain, which was a textbook example of an oppressive government coupled with an armed to the teeth populous, we can also point to Pakistan and Afghanistan. Guns are not magic talismans that ward off oppression.

And, further, we have examples of unarmed populations that are quite free. Japan comes to mind immediately.

I note that gun owners seem to split into two broad categories: emotionally motivated gun owners, and non-emotionally motivated gun owners.

I fall into the latter category. I own guns, I like guns, I enjoy shooting guns, and I appreciate them as an example of engineering elegance. I also consider it delusional to think that my guns discourage would be governmental oppressors.

Worse, the emotionally motivated gun owners, those who (from my POV) seem to think that guns are a totem, or talisman, or somehow symbols of freedom itself often seem quite hostile towards actual freedom. I know many emotionally motivated gun owners, and they are universally in favor of putting people into Guantanamo forever without bothering with charges or trials, they all think that torturing suspects is a great idea, and they pretty much universally agree that the government should regulate speech and forbid consensual sex outside certain very narrowly defined boundaries.

Quite simply if the only thing standing between me and a lack of freedom is the NRA, I think my freedom is already tossed out the window.

But don't worry, you and the emotionally motivated gun owners have won. Barring a complete change in the political and cultural landscape of the USA there is not even the slightest chance of tighter regulations, much less confiscation. And the rest of us just have to keep paying the price for your victory, over and over and over every time some nutter decides to take his Constitutionally Protected gun and kill a bunch of people. So don't worry, you won, we lost, but we'd all appreciate it if you'd STFU about your sacred rights so soon after the inevitable killing sprees your policies permit to occur. It seems a bit tacky.
posted by sotonohito at 3:21 PM on January 16, 2011 [15 favorites]


Now that one person shoots up a crowd there are all sorts of laws people want enacted.

How very dare they?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:21 PM on January 16, 2011


Part of the disconnect in these discussions, it seems, is that gun proponents seem more interested in making themselves victims of a vast government conspiracy to take away their weapons, instead of acknowledging that other people may have an interest in reasonable, rational means to mitigate the clear harm that these devices continue to cause.

When I see "harm mitigation" based on the supposed harm done by inanimate objects rather than human behaviors, I think of the Drug War, not some fantasy in which The Government's Goons take everyone's guns and then rip off their shirts to reveal SS uniforms underneath. But you know what? I don't like the Drug War, either.
posted by vorfeed at 3:30 PM on January 16, 2011


America, where anyone can has guns and you're a commie if yous says otherwise and by god you be's paying $3,000 to visit the ER.
posted by dougrayrankin at 3:45 PM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


true or not, i'd argue that the mythos serves a purpose.

Which is...? To sell more guns and ammo?

private gun ownership and oppressive governance have never coexisted



Seriously? You want to use the word never there?
posted by edgeways at 3:57 PM on January 16, 2011


BTW, lest anyone get the wrong impression, I'm not a big fan of gun control laws as they currently exist in the US. Our gun legislation is too often based on ignorance and strong emotions. I believe gun restrictions should be guided by, and tailored to, gun crime. But legislation such as the AWB convince me that most gun control advocates do not share my desire for rational, data-driven gun policy. The difference, I think, is that they wish to reduce gun ownership, rather than just gun crime. This shifts their activism from a pragmatic, utilitarian basis to a more ideological campaign that I can't support.

On the other side, I tend to dismiss gun owners who claim they need protection from government tyranny. I find it hard to believe that is actually the case. And I'm pretty sure they don't believe it either. I suspect pretty much nobody becomes a gun owner because they fear the government. Instead, people become gun owners because they enjoy hunting, or skilled marksmanship, or maybe for personal defense. Or perhaps they appreciate the precise mechanism and action of a gun. Or they just think guns are cool. Fair enough. I think that's a better reason to own a gun than fear of government oppression.

The big problem with the tyranny argument, and the reason I especially dislike it, is that some people truly believe it. And those people—the people who have armed themselves against the government out of genuine, honest fear—are crazy. Anyone who buys a gun for the explicit purpose of resisting a totalitarian US government is paranoid and delusional. They shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a gun.

(I guess what I'm saying is, your gun advocacy better not remind me of Tim May. This rule also applies to discussions on race.)
posted by ryanrs at 4:35 PM on January 16, 2011


But don't worry, you and the emotionally motivated gun owners have won. Barring a complete change in the political and cultural landscape of the USA there is not even the slightest chance of tighter regulations, much less confiscation. And the rest of us just have to keep paying the price for your victory, over and over and over every time some nutter decides to take his Constitutionally Protected gun and kill a bunch of people. So don't worry, you won, we lost, but we'd all appreciate it if you'd STFU about your sacred rights so soon after the inevitable killing sprees your policies permit to occur. It seems a bit tacky.

nice. i actually favorited your post before i read that sentence. i favorited because i agreed with what your were saying! so ya know sotonohito, before you tell someone to "STFU", you had at least better be sure that you're talking to someone with whom you disagree.

now for the record--and it looks like i have been too circumspect here--i favor stronger restrictions on gun ownership, i do not believe that guns stand between freedom and tyranny, i do not like the direction in which the Supreme Court has moved, and i believe that the NRA has caused more harm to gun owners than any other political organization.
posted by DavidandConquer at 5:00 PM on January 16, 2011


every time some nutter decides to take his Constitutionally Protected gun and kill a bunch of people

Loughner-style crazy is not a significant cause of gun-related crime. Shooting deaths occur in a steady stream of ones and twos. Mass killing are the rare exception.
posted by ryanrs at 5:29 PM on January 16, 2011


Because guns are designed for one purpose: to kill.

So why do they sell so many .22 rifles?

To kill small pest animals - that why we have ours.
posted by rfs at 6:14 PM on January 16, 2011


Barring a complete change in the political and cultural landscape of the USA there is not even the slightest chance of tighter regulations, much less confiscation.

Someone tell California - they just passed a law that adds a bunch of regulations on buying ammo - fingerprinting required, mail ordering prohibited.
posted by meowzilla at 6:15 PM on January 16, 2011


You're going to find it hard to claim that requiring car insurance has made people better drivers.

It sure as hell makes me a better driver. I know the size of the difference between what I pay (with a clean record) and the crippling amount some of my friends pay for insurance, and when I get the urge to, say, go just a little bit faster... and then a little bit more faster... (which is ALL THE TIME), the thought of ending up with their insurance rates is, quite seriously, the single most effective thing stopping me.
posted by -harlequin- at 6:20 PM on January 16, 2011


Someone tell California - they just passed a law that adds a bunch of regulations on buying ammo - fingerprinting required, mail ordering prohibited.

And a gun store with doubled prices opens in Primm, NV in 3... 2... 1...
posted by vorfeed at 6:37 PM on January 16, 2011


I was going to comment on this, but I think I should just stay out of this.
posted by XhaustedProphet at 7:29 PM on January 16, 2011


In case anyone is confused, the murder rate in america is way way down these days. Armed assholes shooting up crowds are still rarities. Making policy based on statistical outliers is how we get to barefoot testicle fondling in airports.

This proposed insurance mandate seems insane to me. So a gun owner is a victim of a crime. Their gun is stolen. Now if someone commits a crime with that stolen property this lawmaker wants to victimize the former gun owner again? How can anyone but the thief and subsequent murderer be liable?
posted by subtle_squid at 8:38 PM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Because guns are designed for one purpose: to kill.

You say that like it's a bad thing.
posted by bradth27 at 8:39 PM on January 16, 2011


Here's some great data on the whys and hows of murder. It's quite a bit more detailed than other statistics I've seen.

FBI UCR Expanded Homicide Data Table 11 (2009)
Number of murders by <circumstance, weapon>

For example, if you look under Prostitution, it shows there were six people murdered that year in circumstances related to prostitution: two were killed with handguns, one with a knife, one was beaten to death, and another one strangled. In one case the weapon is unknown.

Twenty-four people were killed during rape. No firearms were used.

One person died in a sniper attack. They were shot with a rifle.

One defenestration.

Separate figures for:
1) murders over drugs (487)
2) murders while on drugs (93)
3) murdered with drugs (45)

The data is quite detailed, but not so much that you can't see the whole.
posted by ryanrs at 10:32 PM on January 16, 2011


Some data to support my previous comment. 90% of murders involve a single victim.
posted by ryanrs at 10:37 PM on January 16, 2011


Hmm, let's think of other things you should carry liability insurance for. All of you animal owners now can carry insurance in case your animal attacks anyone. Dog and cat bites can cost people a lot of time and money spent mostly in medical bills. If you want a puppy, it better be insured. . . Lastly, as in with automobiles, people who don't have insurance and licenses drive cars quite frequently. Do you really think someone who is hell bent on going out and murdering someone is going to make sure their gun liability insurance is up to date?

Nice a slippery slope with a side of nirvana fallacy.
posted by IvoShandor at 11:14 PM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


So why do they sell so many .22 rifles?

Um.... a .22 is deadly too, the perception that it is not contributes to careless use of such cartridge.
posted by IvoShandor at 11:23 PM on January 16, 2011


Are you kidding me? Auto insurance laws hurt or impede good-but-poor drivers constantly, up to and including arrests and jail time.

Cite, please. I have never heard this argument before; Without data, it smacks of a non-reality based polemic to me.
posted by KingEdRa at 11:59 PM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


The "violent overthrow of government tyranny by individual gun owner" argument is a fantasy. In the event of the collapse of the Republic, Individual gun owners would be a source of volunteers for an insurgency, but would have a very hard time doing much more than a low intensity conflict. On the other hand grouping together to form a political action committee, that's power.
posted by humanfont at 3:33 AM on January 17, 2011


Michael Roberts : I'd go so far as to say that if you own a gun, and somebody dies due to your gun, you should be considered accessory to the crime or at least partly liable for the accident.

Major flaw with that reasoning... A gun in my possession will injure someone in one of five ways:

1) I use it in against you in self defense (your fault)
2) Someone else uses it against you in self defense (your fault)
3) Someone else uses it against you in a crime (their fault)
4) Someone else accidentally uses it against you (their fault)
5) You don't know how to hold it to avoid slide-bite (your fault)

Notice the pattern there?


norabarnacl3 : I gotta say this is the weirdest pro-gun argument I know of.

Only if by "weird" you mean one of the main reasons the Founding Fathers saw the need to have an armed populace. Utility, then defense from foreign invaders, then defense against an oppressive government.


/ and let's not get onto the bogeyman of "but the kids!" - Unless you already campaign 250x harder for the banning of automobiles
posted by pla at 3:45 AM on January 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hmm, let's think of other things you should carry liability insurance for. All of you animal owners now can carry insurance in case your animal attacks anyone. Dog and cat bites can cost people a lot of time and money spent mostly in medical bills. If you want a puppy, it better be insured. . . Lastly, as in with automobiles, people who don't have insurance and licenses drive cars quite frequently. Do you really think someone who is hell bent on going out and murdering someone is going to make sure their gun liability insurance is up to date?

As someone who actually worked in personal lines insurance in Ontario for a year, I can tell you that most of these 'crazy things' you list as slippery slope items are actually already covered by most general liability insurance policies that smart people buy when they get their home insurance. Mostly because those are liabilities you already have and if you don't have insurance those liabilities will probably cost you your house. I'm sure this also the case in the U.S.

Also, car insurance has improved road safety for all drivers, even the uninsured, in that the insurance industry was motivated to lobby for road and vehicle safety measures in order to keep claim costs down. Now however, there is a bit of a problem that medical advances resulting in greater survival rates for severely injured people is creating a situation where the industry is financially hurt more by a serious accident survivor than a fatality which will probably lead to some interestingly perverse positions on road and vehicle safety in the future.
posted by srboisvert at 3:58 AM on January 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Major flaw with that reasoning... A gun in my possession will injure someone in one of five ways:

1) I use it in against you in self defense (your fault)
2) Someone else uses it against you in self defense (your fault)
3) Someone else uses it against you in a crime (their fault)
4) Someone else accidentally uses it against you (their fault)
5) You don't know how to hold it to avoid slide-bite (your fault)

...
6) I get angry and shoot the target of my rage.
7) I accidently shoot you.
8) You and I are at a location with an armed assailant, each pulling out our guns to take them down. I think it's you, and shoot you.
9) My child gets ahold of it and accidently shoots you.

But no, those couldn't happen. Because you, unlike everyone else, are special?
posted by Lemurrhea at 4:40 AM on January 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Only if by "weird" you mean one of the main reasons the Founding Fathers saw the need to have an armed populace. Utility, then defense from foreign invaders, then defense against an oppressive government.

Of course, the guns the Founding Fathers knew of were muskets and single shot rifles, right? I don't think they envisioned the government having an air force, tanks, ICBMs, automatic weapons, and over a million people in a standing army. The argument is really inapplicable in modern times.
posted by IvoShandor at 5:57 AM on January 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


*isn't
posted by IvoShandor at 6:05 AM on January 17, 2011


/ and let's not get onto the bogeyman of "but the kids!" - Unless you already campaign 250x harder for the banning of automobiles

False equivalence. Automobiles have vast, vastly more non-killing utility than firearms. But leaving that aside, sure, I'm entirely in favor of more public transit, higher fuel taxes, more programs to curb drunk driving, stricter licensing requirements, and other measures that would reduce the number of automobile-related deaths.

So I see no hypocrisy between that view and a view that, with limited, highly-regulated exceptions for traditional hunting weapons, guns should not be owned by private citizens. And, part and parcel of that, the police should be largely disarmed, too, following the British model. While we're at it, let's cut the military down by about 50%. Maybe the argument about needing guns to protect ourselves from an oppressive government would lose some of its weight if the government stepped things down a couple dozen notches itself.
posted by jedicus at 8:14 AM on January 17, 2011


Jeebus. I need to pay attention here.
posted by IvoShandor at 8:18 AM on January 17, 2011


Part of the disconnect in these discussions, it seems, is that gun proponents seem more interested in making themselves victims of a vast government conspiracy to take away their weapons, instead of acknowledging that other people may have an interest in reasonable, rational means to mitigate the clear harm that these devices continue to cause.

And another part of this disconnect is that gun opponents often propose solutions that are either unfeasible due to the Constitution, or don't actually address the problem, or are excessively onerous. Outlawing large magazines, for example. How many shootings will that prevent? How many deaths? One, even? It's trivial to change the magazine of a semiautomatic pistol - so much so that a minimally trained or practiced user can do it without slowing down. Outlawing specific makes and models of guns as "more dangerous" - in my own experience, this tends to be completely arbitrary and not based on any real-world differentiation in functionality.

There are real measures that could be taken: better mental health screening in general, better screening of gun purchasers. But neither side seems to be interested in focusing on those things.

Of course, the guns the Founding Fathers knew of were muskets and single shot rifles, right? I don't think they envisioned the government having an air force, tanks, ICBMs, automatic weapons, and over a million people in a standing army. The argument is really inapplicable in modern times.

An air force, tanks, ICBMs - those aren't especially useful in an insurgency. That's why we still have the infantry. To hold a corner, to secure a patch of ground - that requires infantry. And infantry weapons aren't all that different from civilian weapons. We haven't been all that successful in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we're not all that worried about civilian casualties there.

Making policy based on statistical outliers is how we get to barefoot testicle fondling in airports.

I fly quite a lot, and have not yet had my testicles fondled in this way. I'm kind of disappointed, actually. Although I'm not into feet, so maybe it's better that I've avoided it.
posted by me & my monkey at 9:43 AM on January 17, 2011


Lemurrhea : But no, those couldn't happen. Because you, unlike everyone else, are special?

For #7 and #9, you repeated #4 with more specific "someone"s.

For #s 6 and 8, I have to admit that I didn't consider arguing from the POV of a murderer (#6) or that I might wake up one day in a bad action movie (#8... Can you see if we can get Bruce Willis will play my part in the based-on-a-true-story big-screen version?).

But point to you, those could physically happen.


IvoShandor : The argument is really inapplicable in modern times.

Just because We The People would lose if it actually came down to open warfare doesn't weaken the argument.

Would the government realistically have the nerve to just to send the military into a major city to put us all down like rabid dogs? And what would it gain by doing so, other than convincing the fence-sitters (usually the majority in civil conflicts) to take up arms themselves?

Put bluntly, the government could unambiguously "win", but only if you define that as ruling a prison camp in a desolate wasteland.
posted by pla at 10:45 AM on January 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is absurd. I stand by my argument. The "oh but we have to be able to stop teh tyranny" argument is inapplicable in modern America.
posted by IvoShandor at 11:25 AM on January 17, 2011


Bravo, Ivo.
posted by puddinghead at 11:51 AM on January 17, 2011


puddinghead : Bravo, Ivo

Sarcasm? Because he, uh...

He didn't actually bother to make an argument. He just pointed out that the government has bigger guns; conveniently failing to respond to any of the criticisms of that stance since presented... Most notably, whether or not the government has the will and ability to use its superior firepower against itself on a large scale.

It makes a nice soundbite to say that the founding fathers didn't imagine M16s and nuclear weapons; That ignores whether or not you could get even the most loyal of soldiers to use them against his own countrymen.
posted by pla at 1:18 PM on January 17, 2011


Cite, please. I have never heard this argument before; Without data, it smacks of a non-reality based polemic to me.

Around here it's not unusual for someone to lose a significant chunk of their month's pay by being pulled over in a car with expired insurance, having the car impounded, and having to pay fines, impound fees, and insurance costs to get it back. Note that these are people who are living paycheck to paycheck and do not have savings, so they're forced to choose between paying for insurance, paying these fines, or buying food and other necessities... and they often choose the latter, which means they end up with a bench warrant, and the cycle starts again (leading to jail time). This happens all the time in areas where people are poor but have to drive in order to work.

In short: mandatory car insurance is regressive. The poor, especially urban poor, pay a much larger percentage of their income for insurance premiums (and sometimes even a larger premium in absolute terms!) than the rich and middle-class do, only to receive fewer benefits and smaller payouts. Cites here, here, here, and here.
posted by vorfeed at 1:28 PM on January 17, 2011


That ignores whether or not you could get even the most loyal of soldiers to use them against his own countrymen.

If the military won't turn its weapons against civilians, then why do the civilians need guns again?

In short: mandatory car insurance is regressive.

Then the answer is to increase the earned income tax credit, make the overall tax scheme more progressive, and fund better public transit so that owning a car isn't a requirement for functioning in society and so that, to the extent it still is, it's affordable. One could also imagine a government-run, non-profit insurer. The answer is not to allow the moral hazard of driving a car without insurance.
posted by jedicus at 1:33 PM on January 17, 2011


This is absurd. I stand by my argument. The "oh but we have to be able to stop teh tyranny" argument is inapplicable in modern America.

You know what else is inapplicable in modern America? The "oh but we have to be able to stop teh poverty" argument. I mean, people are so poor and other people are so rich -- the former can obviously never beat the latter, so what's the point in having useless things like soup kitchens, food drives, wealth redistribution, etc?

I don't think the Founding Fathers envisioned the government having a political process which rewards corporations at the expense of the people and over a million people in a standing National Guard to put down revolts, either. Let's just forget about it.
posted by vorfeed at 1:34 PM on January 17, 2011


Then the answer is to increase the earned income tax credit, make the overall tax scheme more progressive, and fund better public transit so that owning a car isn't a requirement for functioning in society and so that, to the extent it still is, it's affordable. One could also imagine a government-run, non-profit insurer. The answer is not to allow the moral hazard of driving a car without insurance.

I understand what you mean, but you just said "let them eat cake". These are poor people. Poor people living below the poverty line out in the sticks. They do not have W-2 forms. They do not file taxes. There is no public transit. Even if there were, it would be economically unfeasible. And there's no way to get to a "government-run, non-profit insurer" when people believe that car insurance is both an absolute given and a moral issue. After all, why should the government pay for the morally bankrupt? Why should My Taxes go to insurance for people who won't pull up their bootstraps and carry their own weight to the American Dream blah blah etc?

I agree that we could fix the insurance system, but that requires we admit the problems inherent in insurance, and that's not happening. Insurance is becoming even more entwined with our economy, not less (e.g. the new healthcare bill), and the sort of thinking behind mandatory gun insurance is exactly why. Here is something you do but I don't do, so I should not have to pay the cost of your responsibility etc. Meanwhile, we're balkanizing our own society and economy, and corporations are making a tremendous profit on the deal. Why is this a good thing, much less moral? Because then Your Taxes don't have to pay for Those Mean Gun Owners anymore?

Wonderful, congratulations. I hope State Farm sends you a thank-you card.
posted by vorfeed at 2:03 PM on January 17, 2011


These are poor people. Poor people living below the poverty line out in the sticks. They do not have W-2 forms. They do not file taxes. There is no public transit

Please provide data backing up your implied assertion that there is a large number of people for whom an inability to afford car insurance is a problem yet they do not file taxes. Note, not 'have a W-2.' I'm talking about not filing taxes at all, such that they would be ineligible for, among other things, the earned income credit.

And even assuming your assertion is accurate, then the answer there is to address the broader issues of income inequality in the US. That means things like improving education, internet access, healthcare, and employment opportunities in rural areas, especially for women.

Wonderful, congratulations. I hope State Farm sends you a thank-you card.

Uncalled-for. I have no great love of insurance companies. I support a government-run, no-fault compensation system for medical injuries, for example.

But you've already shot-down a government-run, non-profit insurer, so what's your answer? Make insurance optional? Here's what happens if we did that: Since people are terrible at long-term thinking, weighing probabilities, and judging their own abilities, many people will go without insurance, even if they could actually afford it. Those people will eventually cause significant damage to the bodies and property of others through accidents, damage they cannot afford to pay for out of pocket. Without insurance, they will be sued in tort. The end result will be judgments, liens on property, and garnished wages.

And if you think a government-run, non-profit insurer would be politically impractical, then simply having the government pay for everybody's car-related accidents would be utterly impossible. And even if it were possible, such a scheme would have significant negative effects. Since it couldn't address unsafe drivers by increasing their insurance premiums (there are none in such a system), the only thing left would be to revoke or limit licensure for unsafe drivers. That would be worse than the mandatory insurance system. The alternative, not doing anything about unsafe drivers, would lead to difficult to control costs.
posted by jedicus at 2:19 PM on January 17, 2011


If the military won't turn its weapons against civilians, then why do the civilians need guns again?

Neither "the military" nor "civilians" are monolithic entities. I think you'd agree that US soldiers would be less willing to engage US civilians in combat than, say, Iraqi soldiers or civilians. On the other hand, you'd probably also agree that, in certain situations, they might do it anyway.
posted by me & my monkey at 2:50 PM on January 17, 2011


Please provide data backing up your implied assertion that there is a large number of people for whom an inability to afford car insurance is a problem yet they do not file taxes.

I find it pretty amusing to be asked to "provide data" backing up the obvious assertion that there are millions of very, very poor people in America. But very well: the income threshold for tax filing is $18,700 for a two-person family in which neither person is over the age of 65. The US government estimates that between 13% and 17% of Americans are living below the poverty line -- that's below $14,570 for a two-person household -- in any given year. And 88% of Americans drive to work.

Also, note that I said these people don't pay taxes, not that they're not supposed to. For many people living just over the tax threshold, filing taxes (especially if they work for cash and can thus plausibly claim to be below the threshold) is another thing which often has to come after buying food and gas.

But you've already shot-down a government-run, non-profit insurer, so what's your answer? Make insurance optional?

In a perfect universe, I would indeed have the government do this -- there's a progressive income tax, a certain amount is put aside to allow USDOT to make insurance-style payments each year, and everyone gets their portion of the excess back at the end of the year, if there is any. In this universe, I don't have an easy answer, nor do I think there is one. Moving to a straight cents-per-mile insurance scheme would help, because it would prevent the kind of premiums-gerrymandering which raises rates for the young and/or poor, but I don't think there's a whole lot we can do while the insurance companies are so entrenched.

I am sure that the solution doesn't involve coming up with more categories of mandatory insurance, however, and that's what we're talking about.
posted by vorfeed at 2:53 PM on January 17, 2011


the income threshold for tax filing is $18,700 for a two-person family in which neither person is over the age of 65

Not two-person family but rather a married couple filing jointly; beyond being married the size of the family is immaterial. However, you omitted several things that can trigger a requirement to file: claiming the Earned Income Credit and earning more than $400 in net self-employment income are two that are likely to apply to the working poor, particularly the first one. And claiming the EIC is very much worth it, especially if you have at least one child.

For many people living just over the tax threshold, filing taxes (especially if they work for cash and can thus plausibly claim to be below the threshold) is another thing which often has to come after buying food and gas.

That's one of the great things about the EIC. For people with at least one child, the EIC is typically a couple thousand dollars, which is way more than the cost of filing taxes. Even if you have no children it can be a few hundred dollars. It literally pays for itself. And, I would argue, it should be a lot larger, paid for with higher tax rates for the wealthy.

The US government estimates that between 13% and 17% of Americans are living below the poverty line -- that's below $14,570 for a two-person household -- in any given year. And 88% of Americans drive to work.

You're comparing apples and oranges and drawing an unsupported conclusion. That 13-17% is all Americans, whereas that 88% is American workers. It's entirely possible that there is little overlap between people living below the poverty line and people who drive.
posted by jedicus at 3:10 PM on January 17, 2011


Oh America, you're hilarious.'

Funny ha ha, or he he?
posted by America at 3:51 PM on January 17, 2011


It's entirely possible that there is little overlap between people living below the poverty line and people who drive.

That 88% statistic came from a PDF which explains, as others I've linked to do, that there is a significant overlap between drivers and low-wage workers, including people living below the poverty line. This link suggests that only about 20% of American residents below the poverty line (and 12% of the near-poor) are without household access to a car, for instance. Likewise, this link suggests that the percentage of commuters below the poverty line who drive is around 65%. "Commuting to work by car, with no passengers, is the most common choice for both above- and below-poverty commuters." (note that commuting generally equals better-paying jobs and better access to open jobs, especially for the urban poor).

Tell you what: why don't you provide cites to support the notion that poor Americans don't drive, and/or that auto insurance premiums aren't a hardship for the poor?

The same goes for the tax stuff. Yes, the EIC is great, but do you really expect it to make it worth filing taxes for folks who don't know it exists, are intimidated by taxes, may owe years' worth of back taxes in the first place, and can't afford to have somebody do their taxes for them? This is the sort of thing that does not always occur to you when you're living between paychecks -- again, it's a "let them eat cake" sort of statement.
posted by vorfeed at 4:03 PM on January 17, 2011


People will never agree with people. Now can we stop the bickering?
posted by dougrayrankin at 4:39 PM on January 17, 2011


NO, ASSHOLE!
posted by ryanrs at 5:55 PM on January 17, 2011


You know what else is inapplicable in modern America? The "oh but we have to be able to stop teh poverty" argument. I mean, people are so poor and other people are so rich

What the hell?
posted by IvoShandor at 8:54 PM on January 17, 2011


What the hell?

Why, it's only the same thing you said: one side has an overwhelming advantage, therefore there's absolutely no point in trying to stop them, no victory that might be worthy in its own right, however minor, and no value in resistance, even for its own sake. Hey, it's not like we can stop tyranny or poverty, so let's just quit worrying and learn to love the bomb, right?

Frankly, the argument against 2% of the people owning 95% of everything is much more inapplicable in modern times than the idea of taking on an occupying army with small-arms, but that doesn't stop any of us from making it. Some things are worth fighting for, even if it's bound to be a losing battle.
posted by vorfeed at 9:36 PM on January 17, 2011


Some things are worth fighting for, even if it's bound to be a losing battle.

So, what, you're advocating the violent overthrow of the government? You certain it's going to be necessary therefore sensible gun regulation has no place in our society? I'm done with you and I'm done with this argument.
posted by IvoShandor at 9:44 PM on January 17, 2011


All I'm saying is that your argument, such as it is, is ridiculous. Rights don't stop being rights simply because new technology has made them relatively ineffective -- if they did, we'd have ditched the Fourth Amendment long ago.
posted by vorfeed at 10:36 PM on January 17, 2011


IvoShandor : So, what, you're advocating the violent overthrow of the government? You certain it's going to be necessary therefore sensible gun regulation has no place in our society?

From what Bizarro-world version of vorfeed's post did you manage to pull that sparkling turd-gem of an interpretation?

I don't call many people trolls, not matter how much I disagree with them. But I will say that you clearly do not intend to take this conversation seriously, in the sense of reading and responding to those points your opponent(s) actually present.


I'm done with you and I'm done with this argument.

Yes. Though you never started.
posted by pla at 3:29 AM on January 18, 2011


Ah, I should probably apologize, Ivo. I worded that too harshly, in that while you ignored vorfeed's words, you didn't significantly misrepresent the underlying reason we have the 2nd amendment.

No one here has advocated 534 more Arizonas in the immediate future.

The founding fathers, however, recognized that all - ALL - governments grow progressively more oppressive and power-crazy over time.

They gave us every means they could think of to delay that over time, and to deal with it when the government finally goes too far.

Personally, I would say that you don't need to worry, we currently live as a population of fat dumb and happy television zombies, in no danger of staging a successful uprising. The Romans understood that, possibly the biggest flaw in the Founding Fathers' plans - People will bear almost any offense if given bread and circuses.

But someday, yes. The food will run out, the airwaves will go dark, and the taxes and police rape-squads will keep coming. And then, perhaps enough of us will still believe in our rights to help you or your descendants.
posted by pla at 3:40 AM on January 18, 2011


"Barring a complete change in the political and cultural landscape of the USA there is not even the slightest chance of tighter regulations, much less confiscation."

Late to the party, I know, but as others have mentioned, this hasn't stopped the state of California from these sorts of shenanigans. Classic example is the SKS rifle, which with the stoke of a pen had many models become a felony to possess, and the "listed" AR-15 style rifles.

Here is a scan of the letter from the Attorney General talking about it.

So yes, there is actually a chance of tighter regulations and confiscation. It's happened before.

Now on topic: liability insurance is fairly cheap, and I have it. I also carry a policy to (hopefully) protect myself while providing emergency medical services. EMS providers often wind up the target of money seeking lawsuits.
posted by drstein at 11:35 AM on January 18, 2011


DavidandConquer It's a couple days late, but for what it's worth I offer my most humble apologies. I must have misunderstood what you wrote earlier, and I should not have singled you out.
posted by sotonohito at 7:07 AM on January 19, 2011


The food will run out, the airwaves will go dark, and the taxes and police rape-squads will keep coming. And then, perhaps enough of us will still believe in our rights to help you or your descendants.

You understand the difference between fantasy and reality, right?
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:32 PM on January 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Pope Guilty : You understand the difference between fantasy and reality, right?

Yup. As someone else already said to me, "But no, those couldn't happen. Because you, unlike everyone else, are special?".

Despite almost every country on this planet, ever, having an upper limit between violent changes in government of around 300* years, we can do better. We won't succumb to the external pressures that make an empire untenable; the internal corruption and greed that make the government a worse choice than death; the insolvency that makes the government exist in name only; the social and economic stratification that makes the poor hate the rich, the rich fear the poor, and the middle class nonexistent.

* With one and only one notable exception, which currently looks on track to outlast us, too, if they don't give in to Western criticism about how they run their country
posted by pla at 3:43 AM on January 21, 2011


It requires the political awareness of a trout.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:25 AM on January 21, 2011


pla "But no, I'll be the super duper special guy who gets to live in exciting times and solve complex problems with the simplicity of shooting people I disagree with!"
posted by sotonohito at 7:46 AM on January 21, 2011


sotonohito : [Random ad hominem that directly contradicts what my opponent said upthread]

Pssst, scroll up a bit and you'll see I put that in quotes for a reason.

I think it safe, though, to call this thread dead if we've reached this level of discourse.
posted by pla at 8:53 AM on January 21, 2011


I think it safe, though, to call this thread dead if we've reached this level of discourse.

We never even went very far with rights and responsibilities regarding insurance. If we assume that everyone can have a gun if they can pay for the potential damages it causes while under their legal ownership, then the obverse of that argument is that people who are unwilling to pay for such damages should be able to have guns. So is the latter how we interpret our civil rights? If so, then how can we sue people for gun accidents?

I would also suggest that a receipt or bill of sale be our de facto registration. In other words, one should be able to show they own the gun under suspicion, or have it confiscated until we do. The seller's name is on the receipt, and they would be co-responsible for criminal actions if the current owner never had insurance when sold. In other words, the seller would need insurance to sell it to the uninsured.
posted by Brian B. at 9:51 AM on January 22, 2011


private gun ownership and oppressive governance have never coexisted

Hahahaha. Oh dear.

Quite apart from the examples of Saddam's Iraq, Pakistan etc. etc., I don't think America has treated people of colour, the poor or women that brilliantly for, well, its entire history. They don't seem to have risen up. Perhaps those armed white guys were off-putting.

But hey, if it doesn't inconvenience white men, who cares, right?

Ah, how do I love the endless persecution fantasies of the gun-advocate, so full of 'nice guy' adolescent heroism and "you'll all be sorry" conclusions

("and then I'll save the weedy liberals from the scary black 'rape squad' and they'll all look ashamed and resentful, and try to stammer out 'you realise this proves nothing', but I'll just smile a wry John Wayne smile and say 'guess it'd be too much to say thanks, huh?' before I stroll off into the sunset...")...
posted by lucien_reeve at 9:03 AM on January 23, 2011


Quite apart from the examples of Saddam's Iraq, Pakistan etc. etc., I don't think America has treated people of colour, the poor or women that brilliantly for, well, its entire history. They don't seem to have risen up. Perhaps those armed white guys were off-putting.

Or perhaps your version of history is just as much a self-serving fantasy as the one you're decrying.
posted by vorfeed at 12:44 PM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


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