Public Safety and Personal Responsibility


    The debate about gun control has raised the usual themes, centering around the Second Amendment and the sacred right of a free citizenry to bear arms versus the outraged sentiments of victims of gun violence and their loved ones— a debate  with such limited parameters that it could take place nowhere  else in the world but in the  United States of America. Every time we have another mass carnage, Second Amendment buffs immediately claim the answer is to arm everyone, so the “deranged” shooter could be stopped in his tracks by a well-armed good guy… thus turning a settled, civilized society into a Wild West shoot out. “Guns are the answer to more guns.” If this sounds counter-intuitive, that’s because it is.

    What’s missing from the debate are two other bedrock myths beloved by conservatives: personal responsibility, and the profit motive— two equally sacred themes running through American political discourse. Consider how the conservatives demand that people take “personal responsibility” for their retirement, think about the “makers” and “takers” and how the right wing dismisses the poor as slackers. Also, consider how they believe that everything society needs can be provided by private enterprise for a profit—- if there is no profit to be had, then society must not need it. We use taxes and tax loopholes to encourage behavior we think beneficial for society as a whole. So, why not apply these principles to the gun debate?

    Let us require every gun to be registered, and every gun owner to be licensed. The owner is thereafter one hundred percent liable for whatever that gun does. Therefore, if that gun is stolen or given away, and used by someone else, the original owner is liable for what the gun does in these other hands. If the gun kills a dozen people, then the owner of the weapon can be sued; he is as guilty as the actual shooter. He should have kept his gun safely locked up. Liability would force gun owners to show respect for their weapons; they would not only have to be very, very careful about security, they would probably want to buy insurance to protect them from such law suits. A whole new cottage industry providing private profit would spring into being, and you can be  sure the insurance companies would require certain security measures from the gun owner whom they are insuring…. Personal responsibility on steroids.

    The day of the minuteman militia (the gun over the mantel, ready to hand when Indians or redcoats attacked) is passed. We no longer live scattered across a thinly populated frontier, but crowded together in densely populated cities.  New lifestyles require new mores. My father was from South Carolina Low Country, I grew up with a man who hunted regularly, and kept his guns in a locked cabinet (the key on his person), the ammunition locked away elsewhere. One of my earliest memories is watching my father clean his guns, lovingly and with respect. He was also an infantry officer, and guns were his profession. He accepted personal responsibility for his weapons. It is time today’s gun owners acknowledged their personal responsibility.  

    • FreeDem

      Even gangsters live in fear of Japan’s gun laws

      It’s almost impossible to get to a gun in Japan, and selling one or owning one is a serious crime. Fire the gun? Possibly life imprisonment. Gun-control laws are taken so seriously that police will pursue a violator all the way to the grave – and maybe beyond.

      The rationale for this is simple: “Of course, guns don’t kill people; people kill people – guns just make it a lot easier to kill a lot of people. That’s why Japan bans them and that’s why my job was catching people with guns and putting them in jail. Usually, long before they could ever put their finger on the trigger.”

      Those are the words of a retired Kanto-region police detective with more than 25 years’ experience pursuing cases involving violations of the Firearms (& Swords) Control Law. Four of those years were in the Organized Crime Control Division Five, whose sole purpose is to handle drugs or weapons cases, nothing else.

    • Teddy Goodson

      strikes me  a quintessentially American response. We have almost more guns than people; we are now eating our children in our gun mania. We are a braggadocio, bellicose society… but, don’t we also expect people to be responsible for themselves? Of course, whiners will whine: “What if the gun is stolen? You can’t hold the owner responsible!” Oh, yes, we can. If you insist on owning one or more weapons, then secure your stash or get your socks sued off. That should be a great motivator, and would begin to clean up the oversupply of deadly weapons floating around. How can a conservative refuse to take personal responsibility? How, indeed.