The District of Columbia is scrambling to react to a Federal District Court decision that threatens to invalidate the ban on carrying guns for self-defense in DC. The current law in accordance with the direct decision by the Supreme Court in Heller v. DC forbids carrying guns outside the home except by certain classes of armed professionals. There has been a 90 day suspension of the application of this decision for an appeal which could be used to enact legislation which allows registration for that purpose. If DC is required to allow individuals to carry guns in public there are various options in regulating such carrying that are in accordance with the recommendations of this blog.
They should certainly increase the level of responsibility that gun owners have if their guns result in injury. They can pass provisions in the Municipal Code which are parallel to the specific requirements that give motorists a duty not to follow so closely as to strike other vehicles in the rear and a duty not to strike pedestrians in crosswalks. There should be provisions in the DC Code to establish a duty, with a presumption of negligence if not followed, to avoid the following:
- Allowing a gun to make an unintentional discharge.
- Allowing a gunshot to strike an unintentional target or a person not intended to be shot.
- Allowing a gun to get into the hands of an underage person or a person prohibited from possessing firearms.
This blogger has been researching statistics for presentation to the District of Columbia City Council in relation to their bill B20-170 to require insurance for guns. Some of the figures are striking. Firearm homicide for DC over the 10 year period 2001-2010 is over 5 times the national average but firearm suicide is one third of its national average. This means there are over 15 times as many suicides per homicide nationally than in DC. Part of this difference is no doubt demographic. Suicide rates vary dramatically by race, age and gender. But the non-firearm suicide rate per 100,000 persons in DC is 75% of the national average and the firearm suicide rate is only 32% of the national average. That difference is probably due to the scarcity of guns in DC even with the large illegal gun problem. If this difference had not existed then there would have been an additional 142 firearm suicides in DC during the 10 year period.
It’s fair to conclude that DC’s strict firearm laws are saving about 14 lives a year from suicide, but would an insurance requirement have a substantial part of this effect in places where firearms are common. Suicide researchers generally think that most suicides are impulsive and that substitution of means is uncommon. This is an area where removal of the restrictions on firearm data gathering and research is very much needed. Insurers requirements for safe storage can make a large difference. Many informed public health experts believe that even things as small as separate storage of ammunition and keeping guns unloaded will make a substantial difference. A person who keeps his gun at a range or shooting club rather than at home in order to get a lower insurance rate is far less likely to take an impulsive but irreversible and tragic action with it.
The figures in the table all concern deaths by firearm unless otherwise labeled. They are totals for the period 2001-2010 and are taken from the CDC’s WISQARS system. Rates are per 100,000 population and are not age-adjusted.
|All Suicide Firearm or Not
|Non Firearm Suicide