The ongoing gun debate had two new elements added to the mix this past week. Vice President Joe Biden suggested that a shotgun was all any individual needed for self-protection. And several states proposed legislation that would to require gun owner’s insurance for anyone possessing a firearm. Do either of these proposals make sense?
Here is what the Vice President suggested in a Town Hall meeting sponsored by Parents Magazine: “If there are bad guys on the property, walk out on the balcony and fire a couple blasts from their double-barrel shotgun. You don't need 30 rounds to protect yourself," he adds, “and a shotgun's easier to aim than an assault-style rifle. Plus, two shotgun blasts should scare off most intruders,” Biden says.
Is he right? Maybe, maybe not. Let me share a personal experience. Back in the 1970s, I lived out in the country on a long gravel road in a rural part of Northeast Louisiana. The closest law-enforcement station was 30 miles away, and there were no neighbors close by.
I was home alone, one evening, and it was little after midnight when I thought I saw a faint flickering of light the through the trees. I got out of bed, and went out on the porch (as the Vice President suggested) for better view, and a yes, I could see several lights on my property, about 100 yards away. I stood there, watching for a few minutes. Then the lights disappeared. I called the local sheriff’s office, knowing that it would be a good while before the deputy could be on the scene. Were they approaching the house? I had no idea. But not wanting to be on the defensive in my own home, I decided to go outside.
Armed with a rifle and a 10 round clip, a semi automatic 9mm pistol, and a spotlight, I slipped out the back door, made a wide circle from the back of my house, and made a rear approach to the area I thought the lights had come from. Two trucks were parked side by side, and I could hear low voices.
I anchored the spotlight on a tree limb, and reeled out the cord to a spot some twenty yards away. I didn’t want to be near the light if shots were fired. After a few deep breaths, I flipped on the light, fired four shots into the air, and yelled a stream of obscenities. The two trucks immediately backed up and hightailed off my property.
An hour later, local Sheriff Buddy Schiele made it to the house and told me that his deputies had stopped the two trucks with four hunters who were illegally hunting deer at night. They had parked on my property, apparently with plans to walk over an adjoining levee in hopes of finding a deer. No harm done, but until that moment, I had no way of knowing whether these were bungling trespassers, or bad guys with malicious intentions.
The point of my story? A shotgun with two shells would certainly not ward of four potential thugs who might have been after more than a deer. I would have been put at great personal risk with just the shotgun. No Mr. Vice President, you need more in a rural setting when you have only yourself to put up any defense.
How about the proposal to force every gun owner to buy liability insurance? After all, if you drive a car, you are required by every state in the U.S. to have liability insurance. So, if drivers have to have auto insurance, why shouldn’t gun owners have to have gun owner’s insurance?
First of all, courts nationwide have determined that driving is a privilege. And not a (second amendment) right as defended by gun owners. A driver is generally on a public highway, built with taxpayer funds, and the “rules of the road” require liability insurance. It should be pointed out that a driver is not required to have either a driver’s license or insurance if the vehicle is driven on private property. I taught my kids and assorted nieces and nephews to drive at our family camp in rural Louisiana, where they could practice on dirt roads. No license or insurance necessary.
Based on my experience as a former Louisiana insurance commissioner, I can also tell readers that the cost of such proposed gun liability insurance would not come cheap. New York is presently considering in their legislature a proposal to require every gun owner to have a minimum of $1 million in liability coverage. I have not sat down with insurance actuaries to figure out specifically what the premium would be, but I would estimate that a gun-owner is looking at a minimum of $2000 a year to pay for such insurance. The insurance premium could be significantly more for someone living in the inner city. Such a cost would price the ownership of a gun outside the reach of the average citizen.
Unless the activity to be insured is considered a privilege, then there is no requirement or a "right" to insure any object or undertaking. I did not have to insure my house, but it just makes good financial sense to do so. There is no requirement that an individual have life insurance. One makes such a choice to protect their loved ones when they die. Many people have general liability insurance coverage on any activity that might subject them to a lawsuit. That would include protection against a lawsuit involving a gun accident. But purchasing such insurance is not mandatory. It’s a choice.
In the months to come, numerous ideas will be floated in an effort to regulate gun ownership. Certainly there are some people who should not be in the possession of a gun. But allowing only two shotgun shells, and requiring mandatory gun insurance are not reasonable, much less practical, limitations that should be placed on law-abiding citizens. The issue is not about hunting. In the face of violent criminal threat, your weapon and your wits may be all you have to protect yourself.