Friday March 16th‘s Seattle Times had four letters to the editor, all of which were about the tragedies of three accidental child shootings in recent weeks. The first and last of which were especially egregious in their gleeful exploitation of the terrible shootings. The first writer, a Bob Geary from Seattle wrote, “It’s time for a discussion about enhancing our gun laws to prevent any future needless deaths. Three simple steps might help: First, all guns must be registered so we know who owns them and where they should be. This should be a national database.” Not to sound too obtuse, but, huh?
How on Earth is an entry in a government database going to prevent:
- a child from retrieving their cop parent’s gun from a glovebox?
- a child from retrieving their parent’s gun from under a car seat?
- a child from getting hold of a gun while visiting his meth-head mother?
No, that proposal hasabsolutely nothing to do with preventing these sorts of tragedies and everything to do with accomplishing a legislative goal that has been on the antis’ wish-list for decades. The claims are:
Registration would make the legal owner of a gun responsible for its safe use and transfer to another owner, dramatically reducing the flow of guns from the legal to criminal market.
Registration would also help police track weapons that are passed on to another person in a criminal or negligent way, including “straw” purchases where a legal buyer purchases guns on behalf of someone prohibited from owning them.
I don’t see anything there about reducing accidental shootings. As for being responsible for a gun’s safe use and legal transfer, legal owners are already responsible while illegal owners, by definition, aren’t required to register their guns. Back in 1968 the Supreme Court ruled that requiring criminals to register their guns was a violation of the Fifth Amendment protection from self-incrimination.
“But wouldn’t registration prevent straw purchases” my inner anti asks? No more than existing law does. See here for my illustration of the futility of lost/stolen reporting laws.
Antis blithely toss around utopian ideas like ballistic tracking or firearm registration without ever saying who’s going to pay for it. According to the U.S. census, 15.8% of households move annually and there are 114,235,996 households in the U.S. That means about 18 million moves each year.
Let’s assume that gun ownership and purchasing is distributed the same across the movers as across the population as a whole. According to JustFacts.com, as of 2010 between 40% and 45% of households owned guns. A Gallup poll from 2005 puts that number at 42%, so let’s go with 42.5%. JustFacts also states that as of 2010 there were 300 million privately owned firearms in the U.S. That’s consistent with the 270 million guns in 2007 cited by GunPolicy.org given sales of 8-9 million guns per year from 2007 – 2010. According to numbers from the NSSF, gun sales topped 10 million in 2011 and are continuing to climb, but lets go with 10 million firearms per year for simplicity (and conservatism).
So 310 million firearms in 114 million households is 2.7 guns per household (or GPH). Which means that initially we will have to register 310 million firearms, and then 10 million new registrations annually. Add in registration updates on another 18 million households that move times 2.7 GPH = 48.6 million more registrations.
If we figure that each registration takes 5 person-minutes of labor (receive the postcard in the mailroom, distribute to data entry and actually entering the data), and the average data entry clerk works uninterrupted for 6 hours per day (lunch, bathroom breaks, coffee breaks, pop runs, etc.) that is 72 entries per day. So just for initial data entry you’ll need 4,305,555 person days which is 41,400 employees for 1 year.
Add 10% supervision and 10% support (H.R., I.T., payroll, etc.) and that brings us to 49,680 so let’s call it a nice round 50,000 new federal employees. For one year. The average taxpayer cost of a federal worker is $75,000 so for the first year, just to enter the data (we haven’t even begun to include infrastructure or any of that) and we are looking at a cost of $3.75 billion or about $12.09 per gun. And then the ongoing costs of registration just for data entry will be $587,574,000 per year.
Of course that’s just commercial sales to private parties. According to the Legal Community Against Violence:
An estimated 40% of the guns acquired in the U.S. annually come from unlicensed sellers who are not required by federal law to conduct background checks on gun purchasers.
So registering those sales would add another $235 million or so for a total of $822.6 million dollars a year.
Here’s an idea – let’s spend one tenth of that to put firearms safety classes in every school in the country.
But Bob continues:
Second, gun owners must have liability insurance for their weapons, as we require of the owners of automobiles.
Again, Bob, how would having insurance have kept a meth-head’s son from getting hold of an illegal weapon from her home? Or a cop’s kid from grabbing a gun out of the glove box? No this is just another item off the antis’ legislative wish-list, trying to make gun ownership so inconvenient and expensive that people get tired of jumping through all the hoops and give up.
But even if we were to accept Bob’s argument that gunnies should have insurance, how much should it cost? Well between 1999 and 2009, car accidents caused 475,223 deaths or 43,202 deaths annually. In the same time period there were 7,733 accidental firearm related deaths or 703 annually. In 2006 there were 203 million licensed drivers giving us 21.28 deaths per 100,000 drivers. Now according to MSNBC there are more than 6 million permit holders in the US which gives us 11.72 accidental deaths per 100,000 permit holders. So half the risk means half the liability, right? I currently pay about $30 a quarter for liability on my car insurance so I would just have to pay $15 per quarter for gun insurance right? WRONG!
- Driving is not natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil, and Constitutional right — subject neither to the democratic process nor to arguments grounded in social utility.
- Pools, knives, and pillows cause more accidental deaths than guns so I am not going to let you anti-gun weasels demonize my self-defense tool just because it makes you wet your pants.
Bob finishes his letter with another law which would not have changed the outcome of any of these shootings:
Third, the owner must prove that he/she possesses an effective trigger lock for each weapon.
Yeah and after requiring that you own a trigger lock, the next “reasonable, common-sense” restriction will be that all guns must be kept locked (ask the Carpenter family how well that worked out for them). Then since your guns have to be locked up anyway, they really aren’t useful for self defense so they should be kept outside the house, like at a gun range. As Mafia hit-man Sammy “The Bull” Gravano said: “Safety Locks? You will pull the trigger with a lock on, and I’ll pull the trigger. We’ll see who wins.”
In fact, now that I think about it, in the most recent shooting why did the boyfriend put his gun under the seat instead of putting it in a holster and carrying it with him when he went to pump the gas? Could it be because gun laws aren’t too lax but are, in fact, too strict and that led him to decide not to carry openly at the gas station? Just a thought.
Then there’s the missive from Rachael Levine:
Thirty thousand gun deaths occur in the U.S. every year, approximately 12,000 of which are homicides.
And 17,183 of those are suicides. Since suicide rates are independent of method we can go ahead and remove them from the total which leaves 12,750 homicides and accidental deaths annually (averaged over 1999 – 2009). So now that we have a more realistic number, what does Rachael have to say?
There are those who still believe that the right to bear arms should not be limited in any way. If we could think of 30,000 as the manifestation of a public-health threat that could be reduced or prevented by some inoculation, we would surely demand that this be done.
And once again an anti gunner tries to perform a cost-benefit analysis without looking at the benefits. Tell me Rachael, if your inoculation program would save 12,750 people a year, but would kill 25,000 people a year would you still be in favor of it? Because 25,000 is a very conservative estimate of how many lives are saved annually in DGUs.
Rachael then blathers on a bit more about the costs of guns (again, without touching on the benefits) and finishes up with this little gem:
This is a big price to pay for the antiquated language of the Second Amendment.
And listening to the mindless blather of brain-dead hoplophobes is a big price to pay for the antiquated language of the First Amendment, but as Thomas Jefferson once said:
“I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.”