Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Monday, December 17, 2012

In the 13 years since Columbine there have been 31 school shootings. Eleven of the 20 worst mass shootings in the past 50 years have occurred in the United States. We need to keep saying this.

The United States leads the world in gun ownership per capita: 88.8 guns per 100 persons. Second place? Serbia, 58.2. Third place? Yemin, 54.8.

The overwhelming number of mass shootings in the US have been committed with firearms that were legally obtained. I'm not sure where Friday's horror would fit into this: it could be argued that the semiautomatic weapons that were used were stolen. It doesn't make that much difference to me, but it might to you.

I have long advocated for a simple, constitutional form of gun control. Firearms related torts should be strict liability torts. If your gun injures or kills someone, you are responsible unless you can prove that the gun was stolen. Guns that entered the stream of commerce without having been registered to a registered dealer or owner would be guns the manufacturer would be strictly liable for, with treble damages.

Responsible people with guns don't kill and maim, but guns are too available to irresponsible people. My proposal would encourage greater responsibility, which I think we can all agree would be a good thing. I expect that it might also have the long term effect of reducing the insane number of firearms that are out in our society.

The United States isn't a dangerous place the way that broken societies are-- it is dangerous because there are too many guns out there. Comparisons to, e.g. motor vehicles are disingenuous for several reasons. One is, of course, that there is no constitutional right to car ownership. For the purposes of this discussion, however, the more important distinction is that when properly used cars don't kill or injure people. Killing and injuring is what guns are designed to do. I'm fine with killing deer or turkeys or ducks or varmints, but let's be real about this: People who have handguns aren't after woodchuck, and woodchuck are unlikely to be shot in their bedrooms, where they keep their handguns. Anyone who says they have a handgun for personal protection is essentially saying that they are okay with the possibility of that handgun being used in a crime, because handguns -- or automatic weapons-- are by their very nature portable and insecure.

The deranged will always be with us. It is a shame, and absolutely we need better, more compassionate treatment for the mentally ill. What we don't need, and shouldn't want, is to give the insane an opportunity to act on their impulses. The poor bastard that shot up the Arizona shopping plaza had his illness criminalized because he had easy access to sophisticated and deadly hardware. Many others of these poor souls have committed suicide by cop-- a double tragedy, since the police officers that ended the perpetrator's suffering are themselves now burdened with the taking of a life.

It needs to change.

| Comments:
The automobile analogy has one facet that might be useful: the "street legal" aspect. You wouldn't get your Formula One racer registered for use as a family car, and probably not your ride-on mower, at the other end of the spectrum. A gun control law that banned private ownership of semi-automatic weapons would do nothing to infringe the "right to bear arms", just preclude the right to bear weapons designed for mass slaughter. The "Bushmaster" rifle used on Friday has no application in deer hunting, unless the deer are ganging up on the hunters. A low-end ban could also be put into effect, like banning home modifications, which I think may already be illegal.
Well, yes. And the US had a ban on assault weapons, but it expired and Congress lacked the stones to renew it.
Yeah, well that was while GWB was in office.

I don't know why I'm getting two posts up every time I comment. Feel free to delete one, if the option exists.
I assumed it was for emphasis. I assumed it was for emphasis.

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