Crime, Guns / Firearms

Even When Mass Shooters Are Broke, Somebody Has to Pay

We have a liability gap when it comes to mass shootings and gun violence. It turns out that the perpetrators of violent crime often don’t have the deep pockets necessary to pay for the medical bills and the pain and suffering of their victims.

There’s been a lot of press about how gun manufacturers and sellers were able to lobby Congress for sweetheart shields that protect them from being held liable when their products kill people. But in fairness to the gun lobby (I can’t believe I’m saying that), holding products manufacturers liable just because other people use those products illegally would be a neat legal trick. I mean, we basically blamed Big Tobacco for the bad choices of their consumers, but that’s only recently. The gun lobby now is every bit as powerful as tobacco was in the 1960s.

Of course, the Sixties marked the end of Big Tobacco’s heyday, so there’s hope.

In any event, we’re not going to hold gun manufacturers liable for injuries sustained by victims of mass shootings. And the criminals have no money. And the same people who want us to have as many guns as possible also don’t want us to have universal health coverage so that nobody goes bankrupt dealing with their injuries. So it would seem that most victims of mass shootings are SOL.

Unless the victims are lucky enough to get shot up while on the private property of a rich company… like in a movie theater or something….

Thomson Reuters News & Insight reports that District Judge R. Brooke Jackson has allowed a suit against the owners of the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado to go forward. The suit, brought by victims of the Batman shooting spree, alleges that Cinemark movie theater was responsible for the tragedy according to Colorado’s “premises liability law.”

The judge, who is overseeing 10 federal-court cases consolidated for discovery, found that the victims’ suits raised enough questions about whether Cinemark failed to anticipate that a killer could enter the theater unarmed, sneak out to obtain weapons and re-enter undetected – and whether the theater had in place adequate security to deal with a reasonably anticipated threat – to survive Cinemark’s dismissal motion.

The plaintiffs’ suit survived a motion to dismiss. That doesn’t mean it’ll survive summary judgment. And for the most part, I hope it does not survive summary judgment. I don’t want to live in a world where I have to watch a movie with no shoes on and somebody’s hand up my ass. You know, unless it’s Magic Mike or something.

But, the reason why we’re here is because there are people with real injuries, traumas, and medical bills. Those bills have to be paid by somebody: but neither the criminal, nor the gun manufacturer, nor the government is willing to step up to the plate and help them out. Who is supposed to pay? Charity? God? This lawsuit might not be fair to the movie theater owner, but this situation isn’t really fair to anybody.

My solution, and it’s only a partial solution, would be to make all arms purchasers take out insurance for their weapon. If that weapon is then used to harm somebody, the purchaser’s insurance is on the hook. If an insurance company then wants to charge higher premiums on people who have “lost” or misused their guns in the past, so be it.

I’m sure all of the stupid arguments the gun lobby makes about any proposed legislation would be applied here too. “Criminals won’t buy insurance.” But I’m not talking about insurance that attaches to the user. Car insurance, for instance, attaches to the driver and generally doesn’t cover intentional harm (because you don’t want people totaling cars for the insurance money).

I’m imagining insurance that attaches to the product itself. If the gun is purchased legally, as many of them are in our recent mass shootings, then the purchaser’s insurance should cover any injuries that result from the use of the product. That way, if a son “borrows” his mother’s gun to shoot 26 people, her insurance will cover the victims.

If you did that, you wouldn’t even need new laws to stop “straw purchasers,” a behavior for which there is no laudable purpose.

It’s just a thought. It’s better than having to stand in a TSA line to see Episode Seven, The Search for Smee.

If we’re going to allow these hazards in our society, then innocent people are going to be shot. And when those people are shot, sacrificed to our naked armed bloodlust, then it would be nice if those victims didn’t have to go bankrupt trying to survive their ordeals.

Placing blame for Aurora mass shooting: Is movie theater responsible? [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

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