Now that the NRA instituted waiting period for discussing gun control in public after a mass shooting has nearly passed, ideas are emerging about which policy changes would be most effective in deterring future events.
Most of these ideas are centering around the banning of large-capacity magazines and new sales of assault weapons and while I support both of these measures, I don't think they will have much of an effect on the number or type of weapons in circulation nor do I believe that they will deter gun violence.
But there are two ideas that are being pushed that could make a big difference but they need broader support to get traction. Please consider them
1. Ammunition Excise Tax:
We do it for cigarettes, alcohol and gasoline in order to defray to both defray the costs to society incurred by their use and also, especially in the case of tobacco, to deter their use. This would be a simple and easy method of deterring the careless use of ammunition, driving up prices so people would think twice before expending dozens of rounds in a drive-by.
Also, it skirts the 2nd Amendment concern-trolling that direct bans on weapons themselves incur, and the money raised can be used for gun safety programs and to defray the health and societal costs of gun violence.
The amounts would have to be considerable. Currently 9 mm hollow-point rounds sell for $0.46 each online. If that amount were doubled with a $0.50/round excise tax, it would double the cost and force purchasers to reconsider the purchase.
This may not stop spree killings, but it might have a measurable impact on street crime and New Years Eve gunfire celebrations, both of which incur a larger human toll.
2. Gun Owner Liability
Currently, approximately 500,000 guns are stolen each year in this country and more than a quarter of all guns that are used in crimes were stolen from their registered owners. Currently it is not mandatory to report a theft. In 9 states already, gun owners can be held criminally liable for the death or injury of a child if their gun was improperly stored and causes injury. There is fairly extensive legal precedent for charging somebody with negligence or reckless indifference for behaviors that lead to preventable harm, so why not extend that to gun ownership.
If my gun is improperly stored and stolen from my home or person and then used to cause injury or death, I should be held liable for providing the weapon.
I say this as someone who owns guns. I know for myself, if the threat of liability was present I would have to consider whether it was worth keeping my guns -- even though they are both (working) antique keepsakes that we inherited from loved ones. I don't think I'm alone in this.
If we are going to make a measurable dent in gun related injuries and deaths, we need to begin thinking beyond simply controlling new sales of mega-clips and assault weapons. We need to begin thinking in terms of how we can modify our existing structures to inspire a widespread change in attitude and behavior.
To wit: $7.00/pack cigarettes have done more to prevent smoking than banning the sale of cigarettes to those under 18 ever did.