Nel's New Day

July 8, 2013

Raise Insurance on People with Guns

Since the horrific Newtown massacre last December, at least 114 children died because of guns—four of them in the week before the Fourth of July, celebrating “independence.” There could have been many more because the government is prevented by law, passed by conservatives, to track these deaths.

In Kentucky a four-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed his six-year old sister after their grandfather left a gun unattended without checking to see if it was loaded. In Ohio, 12-year-old Austin Wiseman shot and killed his nine-year-old brother, Blake Campbell when they were left unattended by their grandparents in a home with multiple weapons. In Louisiana, a five-year-old girl shot and killed herself, probably by accident, after she was locked alone in a bedroom while her mother went to the store.

Many more small children have become killers, but they aren’t the only ones. The same week that the four children were killed, 38-year-old Sgt. Lance McLean of the Hood County Sheriff’s Office (Texas) was shot and killed with an assault-type rifle by Ricky McCommas, an avid gun enthusiast who sold guns from his home. McCommas had recently been charged with sexually assaulting his wife’s niece a year ago.  He had gone to the victim’s home with a gun to convince her to drop the charges. After the shooting, police seized over two dozen guns and 20 cases of ammunition from McCommas’ home.

In the same state, the Armed Citizen Project (ACP) in Houston (TX) is giving away free shotguns to single women and residents of neighborhoods with high crime rates. The group plans to extend the giveaways to 15 cities. People who support the Second Amendment are concerned about more gun-related deaths rather than less crime because of the ACP’s actions.

David Hemenway, a professor of health policy and management at the Harvard School of Public Health, cited studies showing that gun ownership is correlated with more crime. “When there is a gun in the mix, there is much more likely to be somebody dying or somebody incredibly hurt,” he said. Single-mother Cheryl Strain hopes that she will be less nervous firing the shotgun with more training. She’s also having her 12-year-old son Rory practicing.

The more guns people have, the more guns other people can steal. For example, 21-year-old Justin Jaspar drove a stolen pickup to the University of Washington in Seattle to “argue with some legislators” with maps of three college campuses as well as weapons that included a deer rifle, a double-barrel shotgun, Molotov cocktails, and military-grade body armor. He had taken these from long-haul trucker Erik Henderson of Butte (MT) who gave Jasper a ride from Idaho and left him at his house while he went onto another haul. Henderson said he didn’t want to prosecute Jaspar because it would take too much time.

Henderson’s experience is not unique. After President Obama announced his plans to make it more difficult for criminals and people with mental illness to get guns, he ordered the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) to provide an annual report on lost and stolen firearms in the United States. The first one, for the year 2012, came out the end of June, hidden under the excitement of NSA surveillance, IRS so-called targeting, etc.

Nationwide, National Crime Information Center (NCIC) received reports of 190,342 lost and stolen firearms. Texas had the most, 18,874 stolen weapons. Gun dealers reported the loss of 9 percent of the total, 16,667. Of those 5,762 were reported as stolen. The remaining 10,915 firearms were reported as lost. Gun dealers lost over 10,000 guns. The real numbers are certainly much worse because non-dealers are not required to report any missing guns. People are also not required to maintain records of guns they own, including the serial numbers.

Because of the nation’s archaic laws, the ATF traces guns, in the words of The Daily Beast’s Adam Winkler, “the way 17th-century monks copied texts: by hand.” He explained:

“When a gun is found at a crime scene, ATF agents can’t just look up who owned the gun in a computer database. They first have to call the gun manufacturer and find out which wholesaler purchased it. Then they have to get the wholesaler on the line and find out which dealer purchased the gun from the wholesaler. Then they have to call the gun dealer and have the dealer’s files searched by hand to identify the first consumer to purchase the gun. If the gun dealer is no longer in business, ATF agents have to search through files—many of them handwritten—maintained in cardboard boxes, one by one. Because we don’t require background checks on all gun sales, all this work may be for naught. Even if the person who bought the gun is identified, he may just say he sold the gun to an unknown person. For this secondary transaction, which is perfectly legal, there won’t be any files to sift through.”

The ATF goes through this process over 300,000 a year in wasted time costing taxpayers millions of dollars. Law-breaking gun dealers are protected by the law that limits inspections to once a year. With 70,000 licensed gun dealers in the country, the ATF would need seven years to inspect each one because of their limited funding and personnel. In one of the few gun laws this year—all of them supporting gun violence—Congress reduced the penalty for falsifying records from a felony to a misdemeanor.

To make violence in the country worse, conservative states are passing the so-called “Stand Your Ground” laws that encourage more killing. A prime case is the current George Zimmerman trial in Florida. Almost 18 months ago, a man took his gun, got into his truck, and tracked a teenager who was walking through the neighborhood minding his own business. Even after the police told Zimmerman to leave the teenager alone, he got out of his truck and approached Trayvon Martin. What happened from there, no one exactly know, but Zimmerman precipitated the entire situation up until then against special directions from the police. This wasn’t the first time that Zimmerman had stalked people and the police had told him not to do this. Now he claims that it was self-defense.

Zimmerman’s actions follow then Vice-President Dick Cheney’s One Percent Doctrine precipitated by the World Trade Center disaster of 9/11. Cheney’s method of protecting the country from danger is that people are encouraged to destroy the potential adversary with just one-percent suspicion of harm. George W. Bush used the one-percent solution to attack Iraq based on faulty intelligence. “It is not about our intelligence,” the vice president declared. “It is about our response.”

The jury’s decision in the Zimmerman trial will affect thousands of lives across the United States. His exoneration would send the message that creating a situation in which one can cry “self-defense” gives license to kill anyone. As Hemenway said,“Firearms are used far more often to frighten and intimidate than they are used in self-defense.” When arguments get out of control, one or both of those involved may reach for a gun and kill the other.

One study shows that judges perceive shootings by people who claim self-defense, as described by the shooter, are usually not legal uses of self-defense and could be avoided. Approximately half of convicted felons who used a gun in their crimes claim they did so in self-defense. These claims for shootings often come from the desire to shoot a person because someone “disrespected” them with a comment or look–that the person “had it coming to them.”

The greatest proof of guns being dangerous comes from the EMC Insurance Company that ensures 90 percent of Kansas schools. The company won’t give coverage to districts which allow teachers to carry guns. The Wright Speciality and Continental Western Group insurance providers said the same thing. EMC gave “the financial security of our company” as the reason for this refusal.

Maybe this can start a trend. Insurance for smokers skyrocketed in costs. People who have dogs in one or more 11 breeds have to pay extra for their insurance. Insurance companies should do the same thing for gun owners.

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