It’s not about who held the gun and why he used it the way he did.
It’s about a country where there are by some counts more guns than there are people, about the heartbreaking frequency with which they take one, two, 27, 49 lives in less time than it takes to tap out a text asking what to bring home for dinner. It’s about military-style weapons in the hands of anyone with an easy-to-get permit and about more than half of the 41,000 suicides in this country each year.
Whether you cleave to an uncompromised view of the Second Amendment or see room in its Enlightenment-era punctuation for a more nuanced reading, the latest massacre, in Orlando, Fla., has got to give you pause.
So what to do?
It’s not feasible – perhaps not even desirable – to ban guns, and despite some rhetoric to that effect, there’s really not a serious movement to do that. There might be a strong case for a ban on assault-style weapons such as the ones used in Orlando and Sandy Hook, but political reality makes that seem unlikely as well.
A step in the right direction, one that keeps guns in the hands of responsible owners while adding a greater layer of accountability to the right to bear arms, is to require all owners of firearms to have special insurance policies.
Make it a requirement that before purchasing a firearm, the prospective owner must have proof of insurance.
There is already precedent for the state to require insurance for the exercise of certain privileges; we all must have auto insurance, for instance. Motor vehicles are not created to inflict harm, but damage to people and property is a consequence of their use. And we have gotten along just fine with some restrictions on rights enumerated in the Constitution: Felons can’t vote, the age of majority is arbitrary and has been shifted. Free speech is also guaranteed, and yet we have decided as a society that we can accept some limits on the First Amendment for the greater good.
And, of course, the Constitution makes no provision for licensing guns, but we do it.
Let’s make an economic case: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2000, the most recent period for which data are available, total medical costs from gunshot injuries were $822 million, with total productivity losses topping $16.6 billion. The number of gun-related homicides has remained essentially flat since then.