Can We Make Mass-Killings Less Likely?

In order to legally drive I had to get a driver’s license. To get one, I had to be 15 or older, pass a vision exam and take a driver’s test. The license also served as an identity card. I had to carry it with me at all times because if an Officer of the Law asked to see the license, I was required to produce it.  Today, some 75 years later, my license can be revoked if I no longer meet driving standards. Every driver has to be licensed even if he/she does not own the vehicle.

When I purchased my first car, a used 1941 two-door Chevy, I had to be of age and meet certain physical, mental, legal and other standards in order to drive it. They were imposed to help ensure that I would not engage in activities that could harm others. The law also required that I get insurance. That guaranteed that if I got into an accident that harmed someone, they could be compensated. The registration certificate identified me as the car’s owner along with its vehicle identification number (vin) and the license plate number The registration was updated annually after the car was inspected and I paid the license and insurance fees and the taxes. When I sold the car the license plate was changed and its ownership was transferred to the new owner.

“Guns”
I find myself wondering, why aren’t “guns” treated in a similar way to vehicles? Legislation and licensing with the objective of keeping of track of weapons capable of 1941_Chevrolet_Special_De_Luxe_Business_Coupe_PBA341mass-killings, their owners and users, and the death, destruction and harm that they can cause, could make it possible to limit some of the damage those weapons cause and to hold the perpetrators accountable for their actions. Recently there has been a significant increase in civilian mass killings. Not only have the perpetrators used assault weapons but, in the US, the UK, France, Germany and Canada, vehicles have also been used as weapons.

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Civilians and Assault Rifles: An Economist’s Perspective

Why don’t those who insist on, and benefit from the policies they propose pay for the damage those policies cause?

Let’s begin with assault rifles. Saturday’s devastating attack at an Orlando night club is a classic example: 49 people were killed and some 50 more wounded in attack by a single shooter with an assault rifle — an AR-15 — and a five shot pistol.

It is hard for me to understand the value of anyone having an assault rifle in a civilian setting. I am not challenging the value of owning a pistol for self-protection or a rifle for hunting game or for target and sport shooting. An assault rifle is something else entirely. Yet there are those who are against prohibiting anyone from having one, or placing any restrictions on those who do.

What we saw Saturday, and in the numerous incidents that preceded it, is a civilian using an assault rifle to kill and injure a large number of individuals. The loss is painful to victim’s families, loved ones, friends, the community of which they are a part, and to all of us. Moreover, the community, including those of us who are opposed to allowing anyone outside a military setting to have an assault rifle, must bear the cost of the damage caused to the victims and the injured.

It seems reasonable to me that those who benefit from such policies such as: the manufacturers of the assault rifles, clips and ammunition; the wholesalers and retailers who supply them to the public; the Gun Lobby that promotes that position; and all those in favor of it, should be the ones to pay for any damages.

Those damages include reimbursement for

• The death, pain and suffering of the victims and those, who by their very presence at the time, were affected by the incident

• The first responders; the police, including the costs for the subsequent investigation and prosecution; and any personnel and facilities that provided assistance after the incident

• The hospitals and the medical and support personnel who treated the victims, including those who require follow-up psychological support

• Those who donated blood, including reimbursement for their time

• Any other costs that are the direct result of the shooting incident

None of those costs would have been incurred if the incident had not happened. And it would not have happened in the way it did if the assault rifle and the ammunition were not in the perpetrator’s hands.

Therefore, those who promoted a policy that made the incident possible should take responsibility for it and cover the costs that their position made possible.  The rest of us who are opposed to allowing civilians to have assault rifles should not have to bear those costs.

The Cost of War

We all know that war and any other aggressive action, by its very intent, causes damages and destruction. It is likely to cause death, damage, destruction, injury and disability to the “enemy” — and to ourselves and our own forces as well. Moreover, each action always involves time, energy, resources and funds — all of which could have been used for something else. It is essential to understand and plan for the resources required before taking any action.

Moreover, any action will almost certainly provoke a “retaliatory response” requiring additional resources to react to it. There is an almost instinctive, virtually automatic, retaliatory reaction to any initial aggressive act — meet aggression with aggression. Frequently it leads to an escalation of the conflict. Robert McNamara was Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War. His important post-Vietnam advice was — understand your enemy before engaging in hostilities and taking any action. Add to that the likely collateral damage and the potential for unforeseen and unintended consequences and the additional cost of providing compensation and restitution for any damages and injury caused, certainly to one’s own forces, and perhaps to others as well. All those factors contribute to “The Cost of War.” Be mindful of them. Continue reading “The Cost of War”

Gun Control: A Balanced Approach

It is time to take a broader approach to gun ownership, one that recognizes the rights and responsibilities of gun owners and non-gun owners alike. Looking at the gun control problem from the perspective of an economist, I have put together a proposal that I think addresses the issues. The program is based on sound economic principles including that a role of government is to serve the public interest and not private or corporate interests. The ideas presented here protect private rights while simultaneously promoting the public interest.

Consider making the requirements for owning a gun similar to those for owning and operating a vehicle. In order to do so, the vehicle must be registered, and the driver must have a valid operator’s license. It proves that he/she has maintained the necessary qualifications required to operate a motor vehicle. Moreover, the owner pays for the operator’s license, registration fee and an annual fee that varies with the size of the vehicle. Why can’t we treat firearms in a similar way? 

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Gun Control from an Economist’s Perspective

Firearms have the capacity to do harm to others. So along with the right to own weapons comes the responsibility to help ensure that they are not used for that purpose. There are, of course, valid reasons for using for them, like when there is a threat to one’s life, that of the members of the household or one’s property, or for hunting and recreational purposes.

The essence of this proposal is to acknowledge the right of anyone to bear arms as long as they are competent to do so. Along with that right, however, comes their role and responsibility to attempt to ensure the arms do not do harm to others and if they do, to compensate those who were injured. The following proposed program are designed to accomplish those ends.

Currently the real and financial burden of gun violence falls on those who are injured and their families, on non-gun owners, and on taxpayers. It also requires additional funding to to cover the costs of the police, other first responders and others who provide help and of the resources required to recover from the harm done by gun violence.

The proposed program has three components:

• The first is a registry that identifies all gun owners and the firearms they own and provides for a background check to ensure that they are competent to own those weapons. As a first step the flaws in the current system that make accomplishing those objective harder must be corrected.

• The second is to establish a pool to compensate those who are harmed by the illegal use of those weapons.

• The third is a gun buyback program to create the incentive for gun owners to give up their weapons, especially those that can be used in mass murders.

If no guns were in private hands there would be no need for these programs. Rather than placing the burden of the cost of gun violence on the victims and taxpayers, the objective of these programs is to transfer some of the costs to those who elect to own guns and the suppliers of firearms and their paraphernalia.The purpose is to make gun violence less likely and to compensate those who are harmed by it.

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The Role of the NRA in Protecting Gun Owners Rights

For those of us who are old enough to remember and for those who have read the history, in the height of the Depression in the 1930s NRA stood for National Recovery Act — not National Rifle Association.

Today’s NRA nominally promotes the rights under the Second Amendment of the Constitution of those who choose to hold guns for self protection. In fact, it is a highly sophisticated lobbying organization of gun manufacturers, importers and dealers who masquerade under the guise of that right.

Today’s NRA has become a very powerful and effective lobbying organization that promotes the corporate interests of manufacturers, importers and dealers of weapons, paraphernalia and bullets. They have been very effective at the federal, state and local levels influencing the legislative and judicial system in introducing private interests laws that do not protect the public interest. In doing so they pervert the legitimate right of gun owners.

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