So have the arguments.
America is uniquely set up to have a particular problem with firearms. It has a mythologised cowboy culture of self-reliance and individualism – taken to a ‘toxic’ extreme. Misinterpretations of the constitution (in regard to this issue) now enshrined in law. A stubborn belief, despite the statistics, that guns help, protect people and solve problems rather than cause them (or make them worse).
The USA’s culture further worsens the problem by being so militantly against things like universal healthcare or government provision and social investment. Things that are know to be effective in reducing crime and violence and in the case of medical care, better mental healthcare provision would doubtless cut such incidents significantly.
Even these basic facts, and the fact that gun control works in every other nation, are contentious in America. There is absolutely no way that the public, or the Republican Party, nor much of the Democratic Party will ever be persuaded to pursue an effective gun control (or banning) agenda, nor any way such would succeed. Such a change would be incredibly hard to enforce in the USA anyway and would not really begin to bite for a long time – longer than an electoral cycle.
If any solution is to be found here, it’s going to need to account for the intransigence of American politics and the utter hostility towards the best known measure – gun controls and bans. It’s also going to need to work around the hostility to increased social provision and investment.
Innovative and lateral-thinking methods of addressing the problem will need to be come up with if any progress is to be made.
My idea, which I humbly submit for consideration, would be to treat guns more like cars. To combine and extend current basics and to introduce a new controls and methods of minimising harm.
- Guns need to be licensed, controlled by age similarly to cars – which we also recognise require responsible and careful owners.
- Gun licenses, perhaps, should only be issued to those able to pass a basic test. A written test on proper storage, conduct and safety. A practical test of safe control and target shooting.
- Licenses should be restricted from being issued to people with certain mental or physical issues and those guilty of certain crimes (and should be revoked if these develop).
- Licenses are compulsory and cost money, yearly, not unlike UK Car Tax. Per weapon.
- There should be compulsory gun insurance, similar to compulsory car insurance. Insurance for each weapon (group rates) which pays out should your gun harm or kill anyone, or be used in a crime. It doesn’t go to compensate you of course, rather it compensates the victims. You can act to minimise risks and costs, or you can pay more.
The most important and innovative part, I think, is the last. Insurance companies don’t care about anything but the bottom line. They would be motivated to do factual research so that they can do effective risk assessment and set levies appropriate to the cost. Insurance companies may even deny insurance to high risk clients, which would take a ‘ban’ out of government hands, or bankrupt organisations like the NRA which might, initially, insure the uninsurable until they run out of money.
The additional costs that would introduce into gun ownership and the additional tools it would provide for arrest and legitimate confiscation should have a good effect. Especially in poorer communities where gun violence is a larger risk. It should work to depress the number of weapons owned, while allowing those that absolutely insist on owning firearms to still have them. It would encourage safer behaviour and measures taken to minimise risk (lower power, lower capacity, properly stored and high tech safeties) which would reduce premiums.
The additional tax revenue would allow more government programs to tackle related issues – if the political will could be found – and the non-tax revenue involved would provide a boost to business.