Make Them Pay

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?


  1. 2



    That’s what I’d want. “So every murder, every suicide, every hunting accident, every police officer shooting”

  2. 3

    oxbrain spews:

    I think you’ve managed to write the worst thought out article I’ve ever seen on this site.

  3. 4

    EvergreenRailfan spews:

    Article I Section 24, of the Washington State Constitution is our version of the 2nd Amendment, and it is a little more defined.

    SECTION 24 RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS. The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain or employ an armed body of men.

    The benefit of the Washington State Constitution being written in 1889 and not 1789.

  4. 5

    wharfrat spews:

    If I’m injured by a tool on a work site, even if properly used, OSHA or WIOSH can step in, investigate and apply consequences including fines. If I get my fat feet stuck in a floor mat and hit the gas and brake at the same time the Highway patrol can give me a ticket for being too stupid to drive and NHTSA can go after the manufacturer and installer. If guns are, as some commentary insists, merely a tool, then treat the use and misuse like any other tool.

  5. 7

    Tea for everyone spews:

    So by your logic, the car and Motorcycle and airplane company’s should pay a fine for every vehicular death.

  6. 8

    Moderate Man spews:

    You’d have to figure out how to get around the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act that prohibits gun manufacturers from being held liable for crimes committed with their guns. You’d have to show the guns were defective, and the US Supreme Court and other Federal Courts have already dismissed many suits brought by local governments and individuals against gun manufacturers under this act – if a gun does what it is designed to do, namely shooting a bullet, the feds generally won’t allow a state to hold the manufacturer liable for what that bullet does after it leaves the gun.

    A possible interesting twist is here – http://www.newyorklawjournal.c.....1121110213, but note the federal courts haven’t ruled on this yet, whether a manufacturer can be held liable if they knowingly violate a gun control law.

  7. 9


    @ 6

    Be careful. We don’t want to overdo it. We might restrict that, initially, just to DUI-related deaths. Fine BOTH the maker of the alcoholic beverage and the automaker in those instances.

    Unless, of course, the automaker is or recently has been owned by the US government.

    When RR gets here he can talk about how to do this, only he’ll be totally serious.

  8. 10

    Zotz sez: LaPierre should be looking over his shoulder. spews:

    Goldy @slog is on to something, paraphrasing:

    Let’s hire police officers for every school. Pay for it with a $75 impact fee on folks who own guns.

  9. 12

    ArtFart spews:

    What’s the real take-away from the revelation that we now have fewer traffic fatalities than gun-related deaths? How about requiring that every assault rifle and handgun be equipped with crash-resistant bumpers, air bags and anti-lock brakes?

  10. 14

    Politically Incorrect spews:

    I actually worry more about the civilian authorities having firearms more than I worry about firearms in private hands.

  11. 15

    Zotz sez: LaPierre should be looking over his shoulder. spews:

    @11: Because the status quo basically externalizes costs to producers and socializes risks, let’s let the market rule, shall we?

    I’d prefer scaled liability insurance, pre 1896 antiques excluded. You could own a glock or a tactical weapon but it’d cost you, say a $1000 per year each. Hunting weapons get a nominal rate say Goldy’s $75 a year.

    And mandatory jail time and a big fine if you get caught without insurance, 1st offense, no exceptions.

  12. 16


    @6 and 7,

    I know you’re trying to go reductio ad absurdum here, but for cars that might be reasonable. Of course there isn’t the societal problem with regulating cars that there is with guns, so it’s probably less necessary. I’m also not sure it would be as clean: If a Ford hits a Toyota and someone dies, it would have to be divvied up in a way that it wouldn’t for simply whatever gun was used no matter what. Alcohol is much trickier since one drink isn’t going to kill someone like a bullet or a car crash.

  13. 17

    Expat(!)Chad spews:

    One hopes that the distracted physician’s entropic posts are not an indication of the precision he employs in his professional life…

    or maybe he’s just the average conservative loon.