Category Archives: Justice

A Gun Solution We Can “Live” With

As published in the Grinnell Herald-Register on February 19, 2018

As we mourn the deaths of another 17 young people with their whole lives ahead of them, I have to ask what’s actually changed since February 11, 2013 when the Grinnell Herald-Register published my first article on the subject.  Well in the five years since Sandy Hook some of the states hardest hit like Connecticut and California have enacted progressive gun legislation but on the whole legislation in the US has only increased the risk to American citizens.  Iowa is a good example of a state where reckless legislation is likely to make matters worse while we remain convinced that what happened in Parkland (recently named the safest city in Florida) can’t happen here.  The NRA has since become (whether wittingly or unwittingly) entangled in a Russian plot to create divisiveness in our country.

And the NRA under new leadership headed by our own (Grinnell IA business owner) Pete Brownell is yet to clarify whether they are a lobby for gun manufacturers, or an advocate for their members and the American public. 

Since I wrote this 2013 article the gun owners I’ve talked to overwhelmingly say they will support reasonable measures to curb gun violence.  I wish they would say the same to Pete.  But don’t take my word for it; in the latest polls 84% of Americans think gun registration should be required for guns purchased at gun shows.   I have asked the Herald Register to republish my 2013 article because it puts forth a skeletal plan to empower responsible gun owners to play a role in the solution simply by making sure their guns are passed to other responsible gun owners when they are done with them.  My challenge to NRA President, Pete Brownell is, “walk across the street to Grinnell Mutual (where by the way I started my insurance career) and work out a risk management formula that also promotes growth for both your industries, then tell our legislators what you need to make it work.”

Here is the reprint of “When LaPierre says gun owners will not accept responsibility, he’s got it wrong

Actually what National Rifle As­sociation CEO Wayne LaPierre said was, “Gun owners will not accept blame for acts of criminals.” It may seem like I’m parsing words here but the only difference between the two words is that “blame” implies we have no control over the situation and that simply isn’t true. And either way, he’s got it wrong, because the gun owners I know want to take responsibility and they only need a little help from lawmakers who just don’t seem to get it.

If our second amendment rights are worth saving they must be worth saving for future generations. And by not addressing the problem things will only get worse, causing public opinion to reach a tipping point so that recent big wins will become tomorrow’s big losses for gun rights advocates. The choice is finding reasonable solutions now or face oppressive measures later.

There’s been a lot of discussion about mental illness as a common thread in recent shootings. Mental illness and guns have both been around for a very long time, so neither can account for recent adverse trending. It’s unlikely that we will eliminate either one, so we need to figure out how to keep them apart.  Neither the government nor the family has been up to the task.

I live in Iowa where we issue gun permits to the totally blind and where this year alone we closed down half the state’s mental health institutions. This is not reflective of the good voters of Iowa nor is it what our gun owners want. It’s just one more reason not to trust the government or the lobbyists who buy their votes.

The second amendment was never about skeet shooting, hunting or col­lecting. It’s about defense of liberty!

So I also have to agree with the conserva­tive stance that if we leave gun control up to the government, “how can we know whether they will then impose measures that keep citizens safe or that keep the government safe?” Guns “winding up in the hands of the wrong people” is the greatest threat to our second amendment rights and we will need the help of responsible gun owners to prevent this from happening. But first, we must empower them to do the job.

The NRA says education and training leads to responsible gun ownership. In fact, this works very well when it comes to safety because there’s both a carrot and a stick. The stick, as so eloquently put in “A Christmas Story” is “you’ll shoot your eye out.”

But Charlton Heston’s colorful quote, “when you take it from my cold dead hands” reminds us that there’s another side of responsible gun ownership; guns outlive us all and may change hands many times in a lifetime.

Why shouldn’t I sell my gun to the highest bidder or leave it to my psychotic nephew, Fred? There’s no real stick to discourage this.

When cooler heads prevail we might see that there are solutions that satisfy most concerns on both sides of this argument, so I will propose one. We all want to reduce the risk of injury or death and we already have a private institution designed to deal with risk. I spent 30 years working in the insurance industry so I can assure you this fits the criteria of an insurable risk (large number of exposures, severe loss potential and low frequency of loss). And as in this case,

where it is a societal need to deny undesirable risks and discourage higher risks, insurance underwriting and pric­ing tools are particularly effective.

But we still need the government to craft the stick. Laws need to better define gun responsibility as absolute liability. Certain risks are inherently so dangerous (such as building demolition or passenger airlines) that victims (by law) do not have to prove negligence. Certainly guns should fall under this category.

I would propose that, proof of a million dollar insurance policy be required when guns are registered. The policy attaches to the gun wherever it goes until it is registered to a new owner or destroyed. That means the insurance company remains on the hook even if the gun is stolen (that’s part of the risk).

The original owner’s liability is limited to the million dol­lar covered by insurance as long as he reports the theft and is truthful on the police report. Liability of intermediate owners (such as purchasers of stolen guns) is unlimited. Few people will just sell their M16 assault rifle to a stranger without proof it’s reregistered or fail to report gun theft, because they suspect their nephew, Fred, when in means risking everything they own. 

Gun owners are already held liable for allowing their gun to fall into the hands of children.  Is it too much to ask that they take some precautions not to put them in even more dangerous hands.

Government agencies are sporadic with background checks and have notably botched the record keeping. Insurance companies have a better track record of consistency, accuracy and efficiency in maintaining underwriting records. In other words, they are better prepared to maintain checks and bal­ances that would affect their bottom line which happens to be our bottom line too (to minimize risk).

Insurance is a way to administer this at a lower cost and assign these costs through pricing to the users, the gun owners.

Now I know this proposal won’t make everyone happy, such as those who rush out to buy semi-automatic guns on speculation that they may soon be outlawed, driving up their black market price. Some gun owners may object to bearing the cost of underwriting the risk rather than sharing with all taxpayers. But I look at this this way;

we all pay for these safety checks one way or another and since there are more guns in this country than people, only owners of multiple guns will end up paying more.

CNN reports over 400,000 victims have died of gunshot wounds in the US since 2001. It’s not these victims problem anymore; it’s ours. So let’s stop trying to cast blame and tell our lawmakers to find solutions “we can all live with.”

 

It’s Time for Grassley to Step Down as Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee

First I have to apologize to my readers (all six of them) who subscribe to my blog “Dare to Ask” at topsawyer.com.  I must retract this passage from my article published last August, “Whether or not he (Senator Grassley) was answering me directly his answer at the Mount Ayr town hall this week shows that the Senate Judiciary Committee is now willing to share with us the 10 hours of potentially damning testimony from Glenn Simpson, a reversal from just a month ago.  Thank you Senator Grassley.” Continue reading

A Letter from the Chairman of the Boorish

USA School District 

Dear Parents, 

Many of you have heard the rumors from your children that their bus driver, Donny J. Trumpet has been drinking on the job and that he ran over playground equipment while shortcutting through the school yard.  I want you to know we are as concerned with these rumors as you and we will investigate them thoroughly.  We did confront Mr. Trumpet about this and he assured us that despite the Smirnoff’s label on the bottle it contained only lemonade or was it iced tea, possibly an energy drink, so I guess it could have been anything.  In any event he swallowed the evidence so this was inconclusive.  As for the damaged playground equipment, that might have been caused by any bus and no one was hurt so “no harm/no foul.”  Continue reading

The Real Story of George Washington and the Cherry Tree

When George was a boy his father came to him and asked, “George, did you chop down my cherry tree?”  George replied, “Father, I cannot tell a lie, but I must respectfully decline to answer in this open hearing.”  His father scratched his head and walked away.

This is the real story of how George Washington saved country and the reputation of a future president.

So if you found yourself scratching your head after listening to today’s Congressional testimony from Andrew McCabe,  Rod Rosenstein, and  Dan Coats, just remember what you have witnessed is part of a grand tradition.

Uncovering the Truth is Hard

I watched yesterday’s Congressional hearings covering foreign actors who deceived us with fake news stories, top officials who outright lied, intelligence officials who know the truth but just can’t tell and unknown parties who leaked the truth to the press. 

Guess which of these groups the Republicans want to prosecute?  

If it hadn’t been for the damn leakers, we could have avoided facing the truth altogether. 

Moral of the story:  If you want to leak information, make sure it’s false or you could go to prison.

Why Whites Can’t be Hate Crime Victims

Wow!  I didn’t expect anyone to actually come right out and say it.  It’s something that’s bothered me for a long time.  But during the July 13th broadcast of “CNN Newsroom,” Ebony Magazine Senior Editor Jamilah Lemieux stated that she disagreed with (President Obama’s) characterizing the shooting of Dallas police officers as a hate crime and using that term for “a group of people that have a history with African-Americans that have been abusive, and we can apply that to either police officers or to Caucasians, I think, gets into very tricky territory.”

Of course that isn’t what the law says.  But the tricky territory she’s talking about is how we all perceive the law.  For most of us we may say Civil Rights but we hear Black Rights.  Despite the awkward euphemisms her message is clear, “Whites can’t be the victims of a hate crime because they are the bad guys.”  She sees the law as a kind of declaration dividing Americans into two classifications, “the haters” and “the hated.”  What bothers me is I see the law that way too.  Now if an old white guy like me and a young black activist woman share the same perception of the law, perhaps everyone in between does too.

That would go a long way in explaining why we can’t heal old wounds.

Can’t we all just get along?

I’ve been attending an interesting “Bucket Course” with this title at Grinnell’s Drake Library given by Dr. J.R. Paulson. This quote by Rodney King, actually, “Can we all get along?” poses some challenging questions about human behavior. One of Dr. Paulson’s main themes is,

“Belief comes first, explanations for beliefs follow.”

The only problem I have with this is it demonstrates what Dr. Paulson calls the “framing bias.” The word “Belief” implies we are talking about something the individual believes to be true. I doubt that I am only speaking for myself when I say my beliefs are hardly ever grounded in truth and almost always represent a concession I have made “just to get along” in society. This makes Mr. King’s statement more an enigma than a question. Continue reading

When LaPierre says gun owners will not accept responsibility, he’s got it wrong.

Actually what National Rifle As­sociation CEO Wayne LaPierre said was, “Gun owners will not accept blame for acts of criminals.” It may seem like I’m parsing words here but the only difference between the two words is that “blame” implies we have no control over the situation and that simply isn’t true. And either way, he’s got it wrong, because the gun owners I know want to take responsibility and they only need a little help from lawmakers who just don’t seem to get it. Continue reading

New prison at Fort Madison Iowa

New prison at Fort Madison Iowa

Not the “field of dreams” image we all want for Iowa?  Will adding to the state’s prison capacity, create an urgency to fill the vacancies?

 A dying Iowan who claims he grew marijuana to treat a painful cancer faces a possible prison sentence. In what Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City calls “waste of taxpayer money”, Scott County jurors delivered a guilty verdict on four felony drug charges facing Benton Mackenzie, 48, whose wife and son were also convicted alongside him.  So will we waste more money by sending this family to prison? Continue reading