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New Strategies in the Battle for Gun Responsibility

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Sure, I’d like to repeal the Second Amendment and get rid of most guns in our society, outside of hunting rifles I guess. That’s not going to happen. The mass murders of schoolchildren might get a couple of liberal states to pass slightly tougher gun control legislation but mostly just freaks out conservative white people that someone might take away their guns and so they buy more and recall politicians who vote for sane gun policies and then more Americans die. It’s a spiraling cycle of a sick and violent nation.

But are there some other strategies we can take through the legal system? Yes, I think there are two alternative strategies we can use that would build upon existing legal and market functions and help create responsibility. First, as has just happened in Wisconsin, we can try to hold gun sellers accountable for their actions in selling firearms to people who are going to use them to kill.

Jurors ordered a Wisconsin gun store to pay nearly $6 million on Tuesday in a lawsuit filed by two Milwaukee police officers who were shot and seriously wounded by a gun purchased at the store.

The ruling came in a negligence lawsuit filed by the officers against Badger Guns, a shop in suburban Milwaukee that authorities have linked to hundreds of firearms found at crime scenes. The lawsuit said the shop ignored several warning signs that the gun used to shoot the officers was being sold to a so-called straw buyer who was illegally purchasing the weapon for someone else.

Officer Bryan Norberg and former Officer Graham Kunisch were both shot in the face after they stopped Julius Burton for riding his bike on the sidewalk in the summer of 2009. Investigators said Burton got the weapon, a Taurus .40-caliber handgun, a month before the confrontation, after giving $40 to another man, Jacob Collins, to make the purchase at the store in West Milwaukee.

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The liability issues raised in the case gained national attention when U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton recently said she would push to repeal a George W. Bush-era gun law that Badger Guns’ lawyers said shielded the store from such claims.

The gun shop’s attorneys denied wrongdoing. They said the owner of the store at the time of the gun sale, Adam Allan, couldn’t be held financially responsible for crimes connected to a weapon sold at his shop and that the clerk who sold the weapon didn’t intentionally commit a crime. Rather, they said Collins and Burton went out of their way to deceive the salesman.

Badger Guns, previously known as Badger Outdoors, has since closed and been replaced by a gun shop called Brew City Shooters Supply. All three entities have been run by Allan family members.

Authorities have said more than 500 firearms recovered from crime scenes had been traced back to Badger Guns and Badger Outdoors, making it the “No. 1 crime gun dealer in America,” according to a 2005 charging document from an unrelated case.

Of course Republicans would pass laws to shield gun sellers from liability but repealing that Bush law makes a ton of sense and simply creates accountability, taking no guns away from people directly but making sure we can crack down on bad dealers.

The second great idea is to force gun owners to buy insurance on their firearms, about which Carolyn Maloney has introduced a bill in the House. Using a feature of the capitalist marketplace and criminalizing gun owners who don’t engage in this is a natural response to this problem that makes a great deal of sense. Given insurance companies’ need to limit their own financial obligations, this could mean that a) the insurance rates could be high, limiting the number of guns most people can own and b) could lead to insurance companies demanding conditions of gun holding that would increase safety. I’m not overestimating what this could do and I think there would have to be a pretty sharp crackdown on those operating guns outside the insurance market, but at least it’s a sensible path forward.

I will tell what is not a good response to gun issues. That’s Andrew Cuomo’s idiotic idea that Democrats should shut down the government until Republicans agree to pass gun control legislation. That’s some Grade A political derp right there. If there’s one thing we need, its more government shutdowns, except this time blamed on Democrats! That’s some presidential material there!

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