A bill introduced earlier this month by a Democratic Washington State senator could have far-reaching impacts if it gets traction, because it would require citizens to purchase liability insurance and provide proof before they could legally buy a firearm.
State Sen. Maralyn Chase (D-32nd District) as of Tuesday was still the only sponsor of SB 5795, which had its first reading Feb. 10. It was assigned to the Senate Law & Justice Committee.
Here’s the stinger: “A person who violates this section is subject to a fine in an amount of up to ten thousand dollars,” the bill says.
This is not a new idea. Two years ago, anti-gun U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced similar legislation in Congress. That was dubbed the “Firearm Risk Protection Act.” At the time, Maloney was quoted by The Hill, asserting that a requirement for car owners to buy car insurance was somehow connected to a 25 percent decline of auto fatalities over the previous decade.
“But gun fatalities continue to rise.”
But was that really an accurate statement at the time? Not according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report data. Liberty Park Press checked back from 2013—the most recent year for which Maloney would have had data at the time – for the previous five years. Firearms-related homicides actually had been in decline, from 9,484 in 2008 to 8,454 in 2013.
How does this shake out for Chase, using the same FBI data? Through the years 2008-2014, data shows that Washington’s homicide numbers varied from a low of 79 in 2011 to a high of 110 in 2008. Over the rest of those years, the number was rather static, ranging from 86 to 101 with most years in the 90s. In a state with a growing population, around 6 million-plus, that’s not bad.
In 2015 something happened. There were, according to the FBI data, 141 firearm-related homicides and an uptick nationally to 9,616 slayings, 47 more than the 94 reported in 2014 for the Evergreen State.
Whether that was anomaly may be evident this fall. The FBI traditionally releases its annual crime data in September, and it is for the previous year.
But is that really the issue? Would a liability insurance requirement to exercise a fundamental civil right have a significant or even modest effect on the murder rate? Would it even be constitutional, or would it be essentially the same as a poll tax?
To somehow compare this proposal to car insurance may be a stretch. Driving is a privilege, owning a firearm is a protected right.
As the events in Whittier, California demonstrated Monday, criminals don’t pay attention to driving laws any more than they do gun laws. There, a recently-paroled Los Angeles gang member who may have earlier killed another man, was allegedly driving a stolen car and was involved in a crash. When responding police arrived to help crash victims, the suspect reportedly opened fire, killing a veteran police officer. The suspect was shot by other cops but is expected to survive.
Now, according to the Los Angeles Times, this guy was recently paroled. Under current law, he could not legally have been armed, so it is a safe bet that during the transaction to obtain the gun he allegedly used, no background check was conducted under California or federal law.
It may also be safe to presume he had no insurance to cover the car he was driving.