Guns and Responsibility

There was another school shooting today, this time in Indiana. Fortunately, no one was killed, although two were wounded. An unarmed science teacher saved the day.

Seventh-grader Ethan Stonebraker said the science teacher likely prevented even more injuries by confronting the shooter, who he said pulled out a gun and opened fire while the class was taking a test.

“Our science teacher immediately ran at him, swatted a gun out of his hand and tackled him to the ground,” Stonebraker said. “If it weren’t for him, more of us would have been injured for sure.”

We don’t know where the shooter got his gun. But we’ve had a number of recent circumstances in which shooters used their parents’ guns, or who were not supposed to have guns according to a court but were indulged by a parent.

I’d like to direct your attention to a post at a blog called Stonekettle that I have found recently. The blogger describes a conversation between himself and someone opposed to gun control laws. The blogger argues that there should be enforceable laws making the owner of a gun legally responsible if that gun is used in a crime, including a mass shooting. The other person objects:

If someone takes my car without permission and runs someone over with it, am I liable? The same answer applies to if someone took one of my guns without permission to murder someone else.


Yes. You can be held liable depending on circumstance.

Tony might want to check the laws of his state.

You see, in many states failure to properly secure your vehicle does make you liable under the law – not to mention, being grounds for claim denial by your insurance company.

For example: In nearly every state it is illegal to leave a running car unattended, even on private property, even if the the door is locked, and in some states even if you use a remote starting system with anti-theft lockout capability.

If you leave your car unsecured, with the keys in the ignition, you can be held liable for its theft and subsequent use in a crime.

Likewise, if you loan your vehicle to somebody unauthorized to operate it, or who is impaired, or who is not covered under your insurance, then you are liable for whatever happens with that vehicle. You are most certainly liable if your kids take your car and kill somebody because you left the keys where they could get them. You’re responsible for both the kids and the car.

However, if you take reasonable steps to secure your vehicle and to keep it out of the hands of unauthorized users, then the law generally does not hold you accountable if someone steals your car.

This is no different whatsoever from what I suggested.

Very simply, if you own a gun, you are responsible for it. If you leave it where your child can get it, and your child takes it and shoots up his science class with it, you should bear some legal responsibility. Likewise if a loaded gun is left where a toddler can get it, and the toddler kills himself or a sibling, that is not an “accident.” The owner of the gun is responsible for that shooting, and he or she should be legally responsible also. If you can document that you keep your guns in a safe or secure, locked cabinet, and a master thief gets into your house, picks the locks and steals the gun, and you report this to police, then you are not liable. Otherwise, you are. And if there are soft headed judges who routinely hand out suspended sentences for irresponsible gun ownership, maybe we can talk about mandatory sentences.

I do think that if gun owners get the message that they can get hit with serious fines and jail time for what is done with their guns, I suspect we’d see a lot fewer school shootings, at least.

Further, gun violence — including the costs of law enforcement and medical bills — are estimated to be costing U.S. taxpayers $100 billion a year. Gun owners should be required to pay for liability insurance to help pay for that. I’d tack additional sales taxes onto gun sales as well.

Are there any sensible arguments why this isn’t a good idea?