What seems lacking in the debate about gun control in the United States is any mention of accountability, other than the occasional reference to liability for gun manufacturers. My guess is that most Americans would view tort liability aimed at manufacturers as the wrong answer. What company would manufacture a single weapon if millions of dollars of damages could be pinned on them for criminal misuse of that weapon? The analogy would be to allowing lawsuits against auto manufacturers whenever a reckless driver caused injury or death.
How, then, can Americans reconnect the accountability dots in a more reasonable way?
We could use the language of the 2nd Amendment itself. If we want greater gun safety, we should be running toward the 2nd Amendment, not away from it.
Here’s what I mean.
Suppose a state were to aim at following the clear language of the 2nd Amendment. Suppose it adopted a law mandating that anyone wishing to own an assault weapon must be a member of a “well-regulated militia,” i. e., a statutorily defined organization chartered and regulated by that state. The militia would be required to purchase liability insurance in an amount sufficient to compensate victims and their families for any injuries or deaths caused by weapons overseen by that militia.
Now, watch what would happen: Knowing that the militia and its members would be on the financial hook (in the form of increased premiums) to a liability insurance company for criminal usage of its firearms, the militia would likely impose storage and usage restrictions on the assault weapons. For example, “all such weapons must be stored at the militia armory located in the member’s county.” And “if a member wishes to practice firing the weapon, all such practice must take place at a militia-owned and operated firing range.” After practice, militia regulations would require the weapon be checked back into the armory and a receipt given to the owner.
If a particular militia decided to get loosey-goosey with its regulations, allowing any old member to take their weapons home and practice at any old time and place, then that militia would be financially liable for any injury or death caused by a member’s weapon. In other words, victims and their families could sue the militia, not just the fanatic who fired the weapon.
The rough outline, above, is only that. A rough outline. Spirited Reasoners can probably come up with better frameworks. The point is that the United States has disconnected personal and financial accountability from gun ownership, leaving it to victims and their families to pick up the pieces after each horrendous mass tragedy.
When we purchase a car, we expect to be told that we must register that car with the state, obtain a license to drive it, and maintain sufficient liability insurance to pay for any damage we might cause. Why is it we refuse to require similar measures for gun ownership?
Don’t let right wing extremists distort the 2nd Amendment by claiming all gun ownership should be utterly unregulated. Insist that they read the text of the Constitution. Remind them that the 2nd Amendment includes the phrase “well regulated,” perhaps for the very purpose of preventing mass shootings by unregulated fanatics.