Vice Doesn't Want To Ban AR-15s. They Want Something Just As Dumb

Anti-gunners throughout the nation are begging to ban the AR-15 and similar style rifles. They want them gone. Completely and totally. It’s so bad that they want all semi-auto rifles gone as well in many cases.

But left-leaning publication Vice doesn’t want to ban AR-15s. They seem to believe that the ship has already set sail on that one.

No, they have another idea that’s just as idiotic.

AR-15-style rifles has been involved in a number of notorious mass shootings in recent years, from Parkland to Las Vegas to Orlando to Sandy Hook, to name just a few. Given the gun’s prominence as “mass shooters’ weapon of choice,” some Americans have been clamoring for a federal ban on the sale and ownership of them. Versions of the weapon, modeled as the consumer-facing, semiautomatic version of the military service automatic rifle M-16, has already been banned in a few states and municipalities across the country, and sales of certain models were made illegal nationwide in 1994 by the federal assault weapons ban. But in 2004, Congress declined to renew that legislation and the gun became more widely available, surging in popularity and sales. These days, one in five new firearms sold are AR-15 type models.

While some data from the years the weapon was outlawed suggested there was a drop-off in mass shootings, a University of Pennsylvania study commissioned by the federal government and published in 2004 summed up the ban’s general impact with a frustratingly vague conclusion: “Reducing Criminal Use of the Banned Guns and Magazines Has Been Mixed.” Another study published last year by Quinnipiac University researcher Mark Gius found “the number of school shooting victims was 54.4 percent less” thanks to the federal ban.

Just to interrupt for a moment, but the guns weren’t really “outlawed.” The law banned guns with certain features of a certain number, so gun companies made AR-15s that complied with the law.

There were still plenty of AR-15s to be had, and they were rather popular, which is another reason that claims the ban did anything are ridiculous.

Anyway, let’s get back to Vice:

And that conforms to an axiom of prohibition: If you tell people they can’t have something they want—something they feel they have the right to own—they might just want it even more. This may prove the case even when it comes to, say, new regulations limiting sales of ammunition in aggressive gun-control states like California. Meanwhile, handguns remain the weapons responsiblefor the supermajority of gun deaths in America.

So instead of banning these rifles, states should require gun owners to buy insurance in case their gun is used to kill wrongfully; that way, at least victims and their families might recover some financial damages. In most states, individual gun owners can be held liable, but it’s rare that any one person might have enough money to compensate victims. Mandating insurance would collectivize the risk posed to broader society by the constitutional right to bear arms.

For this to work, gun owners have to decide what duty of care they owe to the rest of the public. If you decide to own a gun, are you willing to bear the cost of it causing the damage it was designed—in the most extreme cases—to inflict? Some might argue this would dissuade people from owning guns legally, simply incentivizing people to buy guns under the table. But it would also force law-abiding gun owners to consider whether a gun that can kill many people quickly is an asset or a liability. If they were more widely sought, insurance companies might policies with discounts on premiums to people who lock their guns up or have a safe record of ownership. As John Gear, a consumer law specialist from Oregon, has noted, “Insurance is very effective in getting people to adopt safer practices in return for lower premiums.”

The writer does note that programs like the NRA’s Carry Guard have come under scrutiny but argues that what he’s talking about is a different matter entirely.

He’s not wrong.

However, what he and people like him propose is still problematic. As was noted with the Carry Guard controversy, you can’t insure against an illegal act, yet that’s what the kind of insurance being proposed is. Carry Guard is blasted as murder insurance despite only paying legal fees should you claim self-defense. It’s not insuring an illegal act, but seems little different than pre-paid legal services in a lot of ways.

But this proposal? It’s literally buying insurance in case of an illegal act.

Talk about stupid.

Furthermore, talking about discounts on premiums and other such free-market language is little more than smoke and mirrors. The moment such insurance was required, prices would skyrocket. For example, the moment people were required to have health insurance, rates increased at a staggering rate in the wake of Obamacare. Granted, there were other factors involved there too, but it’s not the only such case either.

Often, gun insurance proposals often use car insurance as justification for their suggestions, but it’s also an example of the effects of mandatory insurance laws. Make the insurance mandatory, and the prices increase. That’s not me talking, either, but the New York Times of all people.

On every level, this idea of requiring insurance breaks down.

I’m glad that Vice may be looking at options other than another assault weapon ban, but they’re barking up the wrong tree with this one.

Jun 25, 2022 12:30 PM ET