I’ve been thinking about what the state can do as far as gun control in the next session. Most sensible regulations will get caught up in Rodney Tom’s GOP Senate. And I’m not sure I’d want to test our state constitution or the current US Supreme Court, even now. But it seems to me that we could probably fine the gun manufacturers for every death by a gun in Washington.
I’m thinking something large enough that it would impact their bottom line, but not enough that it would put them out of business. So every murder, every suicide, every hunting accident, every police officer shooting that ends with a death gets, say, a $2000 fine for the manufacturer of that gun assessed at the end of each year. Doesn’t matter if it was legally purchased, stolen, or whatever — you made the gun, you pay a price.
We can use the money to go to gun safety programs if you like. Or victim compensation. I’d be fine with just putting it in the general fund, but I wouldn’t want the legislature to become dependent on it, since the goal is to have it not produce any money. In any event where the money goes isn’t as important as getting it in the first place.
A fee like that would encourage gun manufacturers to make their guns in a way that won’t be involved in killings any more. A problem with regulation is that the manufacturers will just do the minimum. Putting a direct cost on dead people will encourage them to make guns that won’t cause problems, and will let the market decide what’s the most effective way.
If the best way to prevent gun deaths is safety training, the manufacturers will invest in that. If it’s locks or fingerprint technology, the manufacturers will invest in that. If it’s designing guns that are fine for hunting, but bad for school shootings or street crime, they’ll do that. If it’s just not having super, super irresponsible ads,* they’ll do that. In any event, let’s put a price on dead people and make the people who manufactured the tool of death pay.
All that said, I know that the legislature probably won’t do that with a GOP senate that has a pretty gun loving chair of the Law and Justice Committee. And depending on what the courts say it might need a 2/3 majority since it’s a fee; if that does happen, put it on the ballot.
* From the article linked above “Don’t let those emotions show or that glass be full of anything but non-light beer, because your buddies can “revoke” your Man Card at any point.” On top of the heaping helping of sexism in those ads that the article focuses on, really, associating your weapon with drinking beer? Really, Bushmaster? That’s responsible gun ownership, Bushmaster?