US Guns: What Should and Should Not Be Done
Recent mass shootings have again focused US attention on something the rest of the world thinks is crazy – permissive US gun laws. In my recent pieces, I have provided documentation on how US gun laws have resulted in a society with as many guns as people and a belief that somehow having a gun will protect you from other people with guns. I have also argued out that the main justification for gun possession – the Second Amendment to the US Constitution – has been badly misinterpreted by the US Supreme Court.
The shootings have rekindled talk about enacting more restrictive gun laws. This often happens with little result as the gun manufacturers and owners, organized and managed by the National Rifle Association, keep further restrictions from being enacted. But in the current climate, I fear there is just as good a chance that bad gun laws will be passed as good. I review both good and bad new laws below.
Whenever you hear the word “ban”, like in “ban” assault weapons, you can be sure it would be a bad law. Why do I say this? Because I have reviewed US history on past and current bans, i.e., drinking (Prohibition) and drugs. My conclusion: they don’t work because of the sizable US market for both products. Worse still, the bans create a criminal element that provides the product to the US market. During Prohibition, American kept drinking with most of the booze provided by a machine-gun carrying mafia. The war on drugs? As I have documented, a complete disaster. Despite spending billions each year at home and abroad, US consumption of drugs is just as high as ever with US jails full of drug “possessors”. One interesting point: the US ranks 10th in the world as measured by total shooting deaths and of the 9 countries above it are from Central and Latin America. Why do they have so many shootings? Most of the shootings stem from the criminal elements operating in those countries to provide drugs to the US market.
b. Another Attack on the Mentally Ill
In reaction to the latest shootings, some have suggested cracking down on people with mental problems. Bad idea. We all have some degree of mental problem, and there is no reason to return to the 1950s when mental hospitals became prisons for reasonably normal people.
Over the last two weeks, I have heard probably 20 gun defenders concede the US has a gun problem but there is nothing the government can do that would make any difference. This is just nonsense. Consider cigarettes – a documented killer that is legal. The program in place to restrict their use is working. What is that program? Restrict cigarette use by age, limit cigarette advertising, and tax them heavily.
So what should we do about guns? I suggest three new steps:
a. Heavier Taxes
Guns, like cigarettes, have high social costs. Consequently, guns should be taxed like cigarettes. A Federal law should be passed that imposes a 100% sales tax on any gun sale.
b. Unregistered Gun Possession Penalties Should be Increased
Right now, penalties for the possession of unregistered guns are administered by states. And as you can imagine, there is a lot of winking and blinking going on. A new Federal law is needed that requiring a mandatory three years in prison and a $100,000 fine for possession of an unregistered gun.
c. Gun Insurance
You are required to pass a driving test and carry insurance on autos. Why mandatory insurance? Because autos are dangerous: people driving autos get in accidents and mandatory insurance means accident victims get compensation.
How are guns any different? Guns are dangerous: people using guns cause accidents and mandatory insurance would mean accident victims would get compensation.
Guns should be treated no differently than cars. Accident insurance for all guns should be mandatory. Gun owners should be required to carry insurance for every gun they own.
The US gun problem is so vast that one wonders where to start. And we hear a lot about “lawful gun owners”. But don’t kid yourself. Listen to the following “lawful gun owners” make their case:
Do you want these people to own guns?
I do not.
The gun culture is so ingrained that there will be great resistance to any new gun restriction proposals. However, I believe the new laws I have suggested above are a good place to start.