It's Time for People to Start Paying Insurance Premiums on the Guns They Own
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Kentucky State Representative Leslie Combs had an embarrassing moment last Tuesday.
During a meeting with fellow State Representative Jeff Greer, she accidentally fired her Ruger semi-automatic handgun. No one was hurt, but bullet fragments flew all over the room, damaging the carpet and a nearby bookshelf.
As Combs told a local news station, she was trying to unload the gun when it went off:
Why at that particular moment? I kind of had it on my brain. I had it in my purse ... I carried it usually, and I thought I want to put that sucker away. And I did. And I was going through the process as I have been trained to do, had it pointed in the proper direction like I've been trained, was disarming it like I've been trained to do, and ... like I said I am a gun owner. ... it happens.
Representative Combs is right — mistakes happen when you're dealing with weapons of war like the Ruger semi-automatic handgun she had in her purse.
But the end result isn't always as innocuous as what happened in her office on Tuesday.
Ultimately, guns are dangerous tools created for one purpose and one purpose alone: killing. And all too often, a mistake with a firearm causes serious injury or death.
The number of unintentional gun deaths every year hovers around several hundred. According to Gun Policy.Org, there were 554 accidental gun deaths in 2009, 606 in 2010, and 851 in 2011.
Tragically, children are often the victims. Mother Jones estimates that of the 194 kids killed in the year after the Newtown massacre, almost half — 84 — were killed by accident.
One of those 84 children was three-year old Ryder Rozier, who shot himself with a loaded gun he found in his uncle's bedroom.
Another was six-year old Brandon Holt, who was shot and killed by a friend who was playing with a .22 caliber rifle he found in his house.
The plague of accidental gun deaths has continued into 2014. Just last week, there were 23 different accidental shootings of children, eight involving preteens.
As long as guns are accessible and available, unintentional gun deaths will happen. This is just reality. Guns are dangerous weapons.
That's why it's time we started treating them like cars.
Like guns, cars can kill. Every year, tens of thousands of Americans are killed in car accidents. Cars are two-ton hunks of speeding metal, and if not used carefully, they often kill people.
But owning a car is actually more difficult than owning a gun. Before you can legally drive on your own, you have to pass a test and get a driver's license. And if you own a car and want to drive it around, you have to register it with your local department of motor vehicles. You also have to insure yourself and your car.
We require car owners to do these things because we think it's important to put some accountability into the use of potentially deadly machines.
However, thanks to tireless efforts by the gun industry and its front group, the NRA, no such system exists for gun owners. In fact, just the mention of "gun registration" gets the far-right worked up into a frenzied panic.
In reality, though, there shouldn't be any difference between owning a gun and owning a car. Guns and cars are both powerful and potentially deadly. Yet we only require car owners to register their vehicles and insure themselves against accidents and death.