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LAGNIAPPE: A Woman's Solution to Gun Violence

A Practical Gun Control Solution

Below is a repost from December 2012, right after the Sandy Hook shootings, and at first I hesitated to publish it again. Then I changed my mind.

With yet another god-awful massacre, I think that we in our little community surrounding this blog should have a chance to talk about this uniquely American kind of slaughter. That we elders may have a different kind of take - or not. We'll see today.

This time it happened in my own backyard or, anyway, state. Oregon is deeply divided on gun control. Urban populations mostly take the liberal view of more laws; rural areas like Roseburg where these latest shootings occurred generally reject any attempt to legislate gun ownership.

The proposal below is from another Oregonian, and TGB reader, John Gear. He sent me this that he wrote back in 1999.

John is a second-career attorney in solo practice in Salem, Oregon, who focuses on serving consumers, elders and nonprofits. He wrote this after a young man killed his parents and some classmates in Springfield, Oregon.

After each mass killing since then, he has tried to spread his idea in hope of breaking the stalemate on guns in America caused by absolutists more interested in argument than in reducing carnage.

I know John's essay is kind of lengthy, but it is highly readable and I think you will find the idea to be workable and worthy of wider consideration.

If you do, it would be good for you pass it along far and wide - even your legislators. You can link to it here or at this website.

* * *

We can fix the gun problem. We can make America safer without limiting our right to bear arms. And we can do it without an expensive, dangerous and futile "War on Guns."

To solve the real problem (keeping guns out of the wrong hands without restricting other people), we must use an idea that has worked to limit losses from many other hazards: insurance. That's right, insurance, the system of risk-management contracts that lets people take responsibility for choices they make that impose risks on others.

Insurance is what lets society accommodate technology. Without it, we would have few autos, airplanes, trains, steamships, microwaves, elevators, skyscrapers and little electricity because only the wealthiest could accept the liability involved.

When people are accountable for risks imposed on others, they act more responsibly. Insurance is what enables this accountability.

Rather than trying to limit access to or take guns away from law-abiding adults, we must instead insist that the adult responsible for a gun at any instant (maker, seller or buyer) have enough liability insurance to cover the harm that could result if that adult misuses it or lets it reach the wrong hands.

Who gets the insurance proceeds and for what? The state crime victims' compensation fund, whenever a crime involving guns is committed or a gun mishap occurs. The more victims, the bigger the payout. The greater the damage (from intimidation to multiple murders and permanent crippling), the greater the payout.

The insurers will also pay the fund for other claims such as when a minor commits suicide by gun or accidentally kills a playmate with Daddy's pistol. This will reduce such mishaps.

Insurance is very effective in getting people to adopt safe practices in return for lower premiums.

When a crime involving a gun occurs, the firm who insured it pays the claim. If the gun is not found or is uninsured (and there will still be many of these at first), then every fund will pay a pro-rated share of the damages based on the number of guns they insure. This will motivate insurance firms - and legitimate gun owners - to treat uninsured guns as poison instead of as an unavoidable byproduct of the Second Amendment.

Thus, insurance will unite the interests of all law-abiding citizens, gun owners and others against the real problem with guns: guns in the hands of criminals, the reckless, the untrained and juveniles.

Like other insurance, firearm insurance will be from a private firm or association, not the government. Owners, makers and dealers will likely self-insure forming large associations just as the early "automobilists" did. Any financially-sound group, such as the NRA, can follow state insurance commission rules and create a firearms insurance firm.

That's it. No mass or government registrations. Except for defining the rules, no government involvement at all. Each owner selects his or her insurance firm. By reaffirming the right to responsible gun ownership and driving uninsured guns out of the system, we use a proven, non-prohibitionist strategy for improving public safety.

Each insurance firm will devise a strategy for earning more revenue with fewer claims. Thus gun owners - informed by the actuaries - will choose for ourselves the controls we will tolerate and the corresponding premiums. (Rates will vary according to the gun we want to insure, our expertise and claims history.)

Some will want a cheaper policy that requires trigger locks whenever the gun is not in use; others will not. Hobbyists will find cheaper insurance by keeping their firearms in a safe at the range.

Newer, younger shooters and those who choose weapons that cause more claims will pay higher premiums. That way other owners with more training and claims-free history will pay less. (Insurance companies are expert at evaluating combined risks and dividing them up - in the form of premiums - with exquisite precision.)

Soon, the firms will emphasize cutting claims. That means promoting gun safety and fighting black market gun dealers which is where many criminals get guns. And every legitimate gun owner will have a persuasive reason – lower premiums -- to help in the fight.

We need to start discussing this now because it will take several years to enact. Gun-control advocates will hate this because it forsakes the failed prohibitionist approach. But the evidence is clear: there is virtually no chance that prohibiting guns can work without destroying our civil liberties, and probably not even then.

And the organized gun lobby will hate it too because most of their power comes from having the threat of gun prohibition to point to. But again the evidence is clear: we have the current gun laws - ineffective as they are - because we have neglected a right even more important to Americans than the right to bear arms: the right to be safely unarmed.

Naturally, many gun owners will resent paying premiums because they resent assuming responsibility for risks that, so far, we've dumped on everyone else. So be it. It is only by assuming our responsibilities that we preserve our rights.

Some will note that the Second Amendment doesn't include "well-insured." But just as the press needs insurance against libel suits to exercise the First Amendment, we must assume responsibility for the risks that firearms present to society.

The problem is real, even such prohibitionist strategies are doomed to fail, even if passed. Sadly, some pro-gun groups have already revved up their own mindless propaganda, blaming Springfield on liberals, TV, Dr. Spock, "bad seeds," you name it - anything but the easy access to guns that made massacres like Springfield so quick, so easy and so likely.

This won't work instantly but it will work because it breaks the deadlock about guns and how to keep them away from people who shouldn't have them without stomping on the rights of the rest of us. Thus it changes the dynamics of this issue and ends the lethal deadlock over guns.

It's time for everyone, people seeking safety from guns and law-abiding gun owners alike, to work together to fight firearms in the wrong hands, and it's time to fight with FIRE: Firearm Insurance, Required Everywhere.


I intend to read this in full. I went to the website and was impressed with the organization and coverage of many, many subjects - could easily get lost there for days!

Excellent idea. Very logical. But of course it will never work. The NRA will oppose anything that imposes any kind of burden or responsibility on gun owners. Even if they get to keep their guns, god forbid they have to buy insurance on them! It's the principle of the thing: no laws that inconvenience gun owners.

Thank you for the post - it is an excellent idea. I will send it to each of my representatives, both state and national Maybe if Oregon could lead the way it would be considered by other states and then nationally. I realize that this idea will be opposed by gun advocates; however, it is better than the alternative of doing nothing and awaiting for the next public slaughter.

The ship has sailed on the 2nd Amendment so we can never get rid of all of the guns, but how about the ammunition? If we control the sale of bullets the gun becomes just another toy. Switzerland has such a program and although all adult men have to serve in the Swiss Army for a time and all have a gun, they have restrictions on how the gun and ammunition is kept. As I understand it the ammunition must be kept in a separate place. There is more to their safety laws and I am unable to recall them, but they have never had a mass shooting.

Australia passed gun restriction laws with a '"buy back'" component within 2 weeks of their one and only mass massacre and haven't had another massacre since doing so. Their legislators did the right thing at the cost of their political careers, but sadly we don't have the kind of men who will fall on their sword in D. C.

The insurance remedy has merit, but then you are inserting the profit motive of insurance companies into the mix and we all know how well that has worked with health insurance. I am not sure how this would work, but it's one way and certainly worth considering.

There are many ways to stop the carnage, but given our wild west mentality I doubt that our craven legislators would pass a single one. That does make the insurance remedy attractive as it's the least threatening to them.

I am afraid to go to any place where there is a crowd for fear some deranged gun nut will open fire. Bernie Sanders will be speaking in Tucson Friday night at our outdoor entertainment center and I would love to go, but the first thing that came to mind was that it would be another place where some psychopath would be able to open fire mindlessly.

The NRA and their enablers will never let any restriction pass. I don't know what can, or will, be done but THIS HAS TO STOP..

Until we get this "Frontier" attitude out of the minds of many Americans, we cannot have any true gun control The right to bear arms may have been a viable concept in the 18th and 19th centuries when it was left mostly up to the individual to protect himself and his family from bandits and marauders, but to own a handgun now is ridiculous. And just how many guns does one need to hunt deer?

I think that we could start by banning most automatic guns, requiring toy manufacturers to clearly mark toy guns, requiring starting pistols to be orange or some other bright color, registering every gun and requiring a gun census every ten years and requiring safety training for every newly purchased gun, Of course no one with mental illness or a criminal record should be sold a weapon.

I also think that the prevalence of guns makes cops think anything at all is a gun, and react accordingly. The more attacks we have, the more people think they have to have guns. This a self perpetuating cycle and needs to have a sort of circuit breaker "installed" to break it.

There is no political will to do this. Makes me sick,

I've heard of this idea before and think it's absolutely workable. Insurance companies are the experts at assessing risk--whether of auto accidents, the likelihood of a building being damaged by a natural disaster, or the age at which an individual will die.

For many activities, the risk changes over time, and insurance companies are experienced at adjusting their rates as risk of an activity increases or decreases--a prime example being the age, experience, and safety record of a driver.

Finally, regulators and insurance companies are accustomed to working together. A person can't get a mortgage without proof of home-owners insurance, and she can't get a driver's license without proof of auto insurance.

I Googled "Where does the NRA stand on gun insurance?" Did you know the NRA has an insurance plan to protect gun owners who shoot in self defense? Couldn't find anywhere that they had any plans for the victims of gun violence or accidents.

We need responsible gun ownership, but I'm not sure how we can get people to listen to this idea let alone to stand up and demand responsibility just like they do for automobile owners.

A large part of the premiums would need to go to enforcement as current gun laws are not very effective now. I like the idea and see it as a tool to reduce accidents, but crazies and criminals will still be out there with whatever they need to do to create chaos. It will be a long, hard uphill battle that I wish big money would take on.

Great idea but I am afraid it too would have difficulty getting support. Members of the NRA actually support better gun control in large numbers fearing the future loss of all guns. It is really the manufacturers that support the NRA with huge sums of money and of course would oppose insurance for the same reasons they oppose any type of increased control and of course it would increase the COST of owning any gun thus they would oppose it.
We can never pass increased control or increased costs of gun ownership as long as there is this kind of money in politics. Sad to say it, I gave up my guns long ago, despite being a 2nd amendment supporter for years and years. The numbers are frightening but since more people are killed every day or two in Chicago and other big cities than happen in these mass shootings it is not the numbers, the horror, the irrefutable evidence than more guns kill more people that will cause the change only a total revolution will change their minds or a very courageous President that will simply Nationalize gun manufacture.

You have a good point, Norma - there's tremendous wealth that might be used for this purpose once those folks mature, break out of the tech bubble they inhabit and realize they can influence society and policies and probably get a big tax break, to boot. The bottom line of the gun policy is the NRA financing enough politicians on all government levels so they can keep regulation at bay. And via many disguises, thanks to the Supreme Court's Citizen United ruling.

With regards to what Darlene mentions, she's unwilling to put her life on the line for what should be an ordinary political gathering. And that's outrageous, particularly because it's understandable for too many of us. Our" pursuit of..." has been high-jacked and is rapidly becoming the norm. So I was impressed with the insurance idea, and would praise the congresspeople if they at least ..... tried. But they will want something for doing that, which is usually votes or money. Are enough Americans "mad as hell!" yet? ("Network" movie)

Also saw interesting video of legal gun-carrying Or. student who, with others, chose not to charge with their weapons - for 2 reasons: 1) Police, when they arrived, might think THEY were the shooter and 2) they didn't know if there was more than one shooter. So much for that argument the pro-gun folks promote.

.I'm all for a revolution if this insanity continues with the crazies calling the shots for nefarious reasons.

"Are enough Americans mad as hell yet."

Canada is no stranger to this issue. and is in no position to moralize.

We have experienced campus shootings, angry ex-employees killing former colleagues, drive by shootings.

No, not so much as in the USA, however, some of us also think twice about attending huge events.

Firearm Insurance might work.

Doing nothing never works.

Two realities come to mind: the shooters are always loner type boys or men who have been influenced by the headlines of other shooters, have mental problems, and they generally have multiple, assault style guns.

If everyone who gave a damn wrote their congressman asking that the media be restricted from mentioning the name of the shooter (the sheriff in Roseburg had the right idea), and that no automatic weapon should be allowed to be sold to anyone but military and law enforcement, we would be taking a major step toward ending this problem. What the heck.....throw the insurance in the mix too, but don't hold your breath that anything logical will be done anytime soon, or delude yourself that there are that many people who really give a damn.. Insurance and background checks sound good, but neither will stop the carnage. The Springfield, OR and Newtown shooter had parents who GAVE them their guns, and they clearly knew their children were dangerous. The Columbine shooters simply took their parent's entirely legal guns.

Second Amendment defenders have lost sight of the fact that guns in 1776 were muzzle loaders, and that legal guns kill far more people than illegal guns, but those facts seem irrelevant to the gun lobby and their lackies (our elected officials).

I liked doctafill's last comment - doing nothing never works - how true. Not being American I can only sympathise with your frustration. To an outsider it seems unbelievable that such a situation should be allowed to continue - but then your Constitution is so powerful and so inspiring in many ways that one can understand the reluctance to meddle with it. Also the electoral power of the gun lobby is mind blowing. The Insurance method sounds like one possible way forward. I wish you all the best of luck in stopping this mindless carnage.

Like most women, I love it. Undoubtedly the irony will be lost on the Right Wing and they would never approve a law so written.

I have given serious thought to the liability insurance proposed by the lawyer on yesterday's post and still fail to see that how it would stop the carnage. The insurance companies would love it, of course, and that might make it possible legislatively. However, a mentally unstable person will not care about paying higher premiums.and that seems to be the only 'stick' in this proposal. The 'carrot' being a method of keeping track of who owns the weapon (like enforcing background checks supposedly does now.) It is one weapon in the arsenal of reforms, but is not a complete solution. As long as anybody can buy an assault weapon the mass killings will continue.

I think that until we have a federal mandate that makes owning any type of military weapon illegal. we will continue to see one disaster after another.

There are many suggestions and one I like is the correct reading of the second amendment as stated in Republican Justice Stevens dissent in the Heller case ( It can be googled). He claims that Justice Scalia twisted the words of the amendment thus giving legal standing to the claim that any citizen has the constitutional right to own a gun. Prior to that it was settled law that the words "well regulated" meant just that. In other words, the government had the duty and the power to regulate ownership and laws concerning the right to bear arms.

As I see it three things need to happen to stop the carnage.
1: Go back to the original meaning of the Constitution regarding the Second Amendment, thus restoring the power of the executive branch to regulate the sale and laws governing gun ownership.
2) Pass laws banning the sale of military weapons.
3. Close the loopholes that allow mentally ill people to buy guns and make the weapon owner financially liable for any damage incurred by the use of the weapon. ( Perhaps this is where liability insurance would strengthen this law. )

This is such an important issue that we can't let it drop after the bodies are buried as we tend to do.

I volunteer many hours each week with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in Amerca/Everytown for Gun Safety. But even after reading countless articles and posts and attending a national training, I had NEVER heard of this gun insurance idea. Thanks, Ronnie. I plan to do some research on this.

Everytown has an excellent easy-to-use resource bank for gun violence issues, many charts constantly updated and everything is documented for sources.

I agree ... the perfect solution. Republicans should welcome the idea since they believe in personal responsibility.

I thought this was a fairly moderate idea, and me being a gun owner loved it up until I started reading the comments. "What a great STEP FORWARD!" "We should also ban Military weapons!" "How many pistols do you need to hunt a deer anyway?"First of all you aren't making friends when you consider this to be a hill-climb. We are both trying to meet to a rational conclusion, but once a law is passed it is essentially set in stone. If you act like every step is a step closer towards total progress that reaks of "one more step, one more step, the gun nuts are losing ground!" This leads me to my next point: modern military weapons are just as effective as civilian weapons. The ar-15 is a great hunting rifle (in fact is also as effective) and sporting weapon. It is also a civilian rifle. Semi-auto Shotguns are sold in my state to civilians for practical civilian purposes (dove hunting, trap shooting). Their only advantages lie in their attachments. The only relatively dangerous attachment is the "high capacity magazines." Some politician dubbed that any mag over 10 is "too much." In reality a school shooter can carry as many magazines as he wants and reload them just as fast. High cap mags are slower reload and shoot at the same rate as smaller mags. Drum magazines are unwieldy and jam easily. Whoever banned bayonets is a moron (go ahead and ban them they ARENT USEFUL and are impractical, but if the goal is fewer deaths than you aren't even aiming down range). Last of all, it doesn't matter how many pistols I have. It is just as fast to switch between 15 pistols as it is to reload 15 magazines. I actually live in a state where running into a deer on the road is a real threat. Some people carry a pistol purely for the purpose of putting said deer down if that is to happen. Hunters in dangerous territories also have pistols in case they get attacked by a bear while they put their rifles down. This is an actual threat especially in mountainous regions. In reality, owning lots and lots of guns is just as dangerous as owning one really well stocked with ammo. Owning an AR is as dangerous as owning a semi-automatic hunting rifle that if I showed you a picture of youd think was "ok." The only thing military weapons have better than other weapons is extended mags, modding, and durability. And none of these things cause school shootings. I'm all for background checks. I keep my guns locked up. I make sure to follow the law to the letter. I also know that fully automatic rifles are a common sense ban. In making laws, try to keep those of us who aren't insane out of it.

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