Gun Safety Laws Make Sense and Save Lives

I applaud the decision of the Oakland County, Michigan, district attorney to charge with manslaughter the parents of the boy who killed four comrades last week.

If ever a case has demanded such an accusation, it is this. Parents bragged on social media that the dangerous weapon was the boy’s birthday present; when a worried teacher caught the boy ordering ammo online, the boy’s mother texted him, “LOL. I am not mad at you. You just have to learn not to get caught. The next day, after the boy’s behavior worried the school authorities, the parents “categorically refused” to remove him from school for the remainder of the day. So… bang!

In New Mexico, “manslaughter” means that the accused should have known his driving was dangerous, but “acted with willful disregard for the safety of others,” causing someone’s death. This would cover the Michigan case. Nonetheless, our legislature should review our law and consider changes that clarify the applicability of laws to gun cases, without violating the constitutional rights of gun owners.

I suggest compulsory firearms insurance, similar to compulsory auto insurance; a law on secure storage; and including a notice with firearms licenses or permits stating that “the license holder acknowledges that he understands that firearms are dangerous and that allowing criminals, children and people who are emotionally or mentally unstable to own firearms endanger them and unknown third parties ”. It may seem silly to make gun owners recognize that guns are dangerous, especially in the hands of children; but no con artist could scare away someone like the Crumbleys by claiming that they didn’t think other people’s safety was involved when they let their struggling teenager have easy access to a machine gun.

One of the advantages of compulsory firearms insurance is that it would be illegal to own an uninsured firearm. This would facilitate prosecution when a person acts with willful disregard for the safety of others.

While the erroneous 1988 United States Supreme Court ruling in Heller v DC significantly expanded individual gun rights, it conceded limitations. The Second Amendment sees the law as useful to “a well-regulated militia”. Insurance and licensing are appropriate regulations, although stricter gun laws that severely restrict who can obtain such licenses would not be followed. (A few states have considered mandatory insurance, and I think San Jose, Calif., Passed such an ordinance this year, but I couldn’t find a Supreme Court ruling one way or the other. ) Rep. Carolyn Maloney, (D-NY) introduced the Firearms Hazard Protection Act in 2018, requiring proof of liability insurance prior to purchasing a firearm, but this did not been adopted. Supporters noted that the number of car fatalities fell 25% in a decade, but gun deaths continued to rise.

Insurance would be market based. Insurers specialize in weighing risks and calculating odds and costs appropriately. Since auto insurance premiums are car and driver based, so a 19 year old man with a Porsche and two DWIs pays more than the proverbial little old lady, a hunter who never had a incident with his rifle would pay less than a beginner buying a semi-automatic. People would be financially discouraged from purchasing the most dangerous guns and encouraged to take gun safety courses and adopt safe practices.

Safe storage rules could save lives, educating and encouraging well-meaning gun owners to do the right thing. More gun owners would know the rules and follow them; and ignoring them would help clarify responsibility for a shooting.

We must do more. These steps are common sense.

Peter Goodman, resident of Las Cruces, writes, takes photos and occasionally practices law. His blog at http://soledadcanyon.blogspot.com/ has more information on this column.

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