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On My Mind

A Financial Solution To Our Gun Problem

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In the wake of Newtown and as a Connecticut resident, I kept asking myself one question. What would have prevented Nancy Lanza from giving her son Adam a gun? Nancy Lanza was a law abiding citizen. She bought guns legally, shot guns legally, had no criminal record at all.  Even if we make it harder for some people to buy certain guns and ammunition, chances are Nancy Lanza would still have been allowed to buy those guns. She would have taught  Adam to shoot, practiced targets with him, and permitted him access to those guns.  The laws being proposed right now would not make that very behavior illegal. So what changes if we pass them? Nothing.


But what if Nancy Lanza had to buy insurance for her firearms?  Let’s imagine that. The insurance company would want to know who else in the household would be permitted to use them.  They would attach a questionnaire about permitted users- asking about their criminal background and mental health history. There it was- my “aha!” moment.


No way would Nancy Lanza have broken the law. I didn’t know Nancy, but I don’t believe she would have lied on her application. If Nancy’s insurance company forbade those with a mental health condition access to guns, Nancy Lanza would have kept those guns elsewhere.    


An insurance company would want to know where the guns were stored, who had access to them, if the ammunition was kept separately from the weapon. They might ask about permits, gun safety courses and how many guns were on premises.    Perhaps the insurance company would offer a discounted premium for certain safety mechanisms, similar to discounts for burglar alarms in homeowner’s policies.


Gun safety is a public health issue, and we are in crisis. By 2015, firearm fatalities are predicted to exceed auto fatalities for the very first time. While shooting deaths in 2015 are estimated to rise to almost 33,000, those related to car accidents will decline to about 32,000, based on the 10 year average trend.


Like guns, cars are lethal weapons too, if placed in the wrong hands.  Anyone can own or drive a car, as long as they insure and drive it safely. But we decided long ago that all of us are better protected when we individually carry insurance, take driver’s ed, and equip our cars with seat belts and airbags. Due to our efforts, traffic fatalities in 2011 were the lowest in 63 years. Nor was it a coincidence that the movement to increase the legal drinking age was led by insurance companies. Once they saw how many 18-20 year olds were responsible for fatalities, they lobbied to change the law. Insurance companies are on the front lines of efforts to reduce risk, because the fewer the accidents, the less they have to pay out in damages. I’m betting the same will be true for gun incidents.


There are 88.1 guns for every 100 Americans in civilian hands. The vast majority use guns safely.  The vast majority of drivers aren’t reckless either, but they still cannot drive without a license or insurance. We don’t forbid all people from driving because some people get drunk and get behind the wheel. Nor should we forbid all people from owning guns because a few are criminals.  Insurance companies will do what the government can neither afford nor accomplish- they will reduce the risk of harm to the rest of us by forcing individual gun owners to act responsibly. 


As far as the Constitution is concerned, nothing I am suggesting takes away anyone’s right to bear arms. The Supreme Court has repeatedly said that this right, like our others, is subject to reasonable limitations.


Massachusetts has recently proposed requiring firearms insurance. The NRA advertises firearms insurance on its website.  Pro- gun guests on my radio show have been disarmed (you should excuse the expression) by this idea, agreeing that a private, capitalist solution is an intelligent way to approach a public health crisis.   


Connecticut is in a unique position to lead.  We are both the insurance capital of the world and the former home to Remington and Smith & Wesson. We are even home to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, based in Newtown, CT, an irony too rich to be a coincidence. Requiring firearms insurance may receive some resistance from those who want no changes at all. But in a showdown between the insurance industry and the NRA, my money is on the insurance companies. We lost a terrible battle in Newtown. Let’s win the war in Hartford.



1.      http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-12-19/american-gun-deaths-to-exceed-traffic-fatalities-by-2015.html


2.     http://www.peoplesworld.org/u-s-gun-culture-diagnosed-as-a-social-disease/

3.     http://boston.cbslocal.com/2013/01/19/mass-lawmakers-propose-gun-insurance-bill/

4.     http://www.locktonrisk.com/nrains/ArmsCarePlus.htm

Guns in America

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Newtown turns out to have been our turning point, our line in the sand. Gov Andrew Cuomo led sweeping changes in NY's already tough gun laws. Now guns with certain attachments will be considered assault weapons and will be illegal. Grandfathered guns cannot be sold. No more private gun sales without a permit. Mental health professionals will have to tell on patients who hint they might hurt themselves or others- a bad idea, result of trying to do much at one time. Thousands of people will gather in DC on Jan 26th for a Million Mom March against Guns. Where do you stand?

Recipe for Disaster

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Eloquent words have been spoken in the wake of Newtown. I can't seem to find any. This catastrophe was too close to home.  It's five days since Newtown and I haven't written a thing about it- uncharacteristic for me. Usually I love to write; the words provide a catharsis of thought. Now I know why I've been stalling. The tears are starting to flow.

On Friday, the facts came in as wrong as they came in fast. A school shooting in Connecticut. Where? I live in Connecticut. I have a kid in school in Connecticut. First it was a teacher, then maybe one kid- injured, not dead, then somebody hurt in the foot. Newtown, Connecticut, a scant few miles from our school.  It sounded bad, but not incomprehensibly awful. Between the time I went to a Christmas lunch at 11:30 and the time I came out at 2, everything had changed. 17 kids killed, maybe more. Little kids, kindergartners. What? I called my friend Dave, who lives in Sandy Hook. I knew he had two little ones. He told me his wife had gone to school that morning to help out and she and his son were hiding behind a bookcase, in lockdown. I assumed they were at the very same school, turned out they were at another school in the neighborhood, and had been put on lockdown just in case. I grew a little numb.  Needed to get a show on at 4, find a way to talk about this to an audience. Inside, I was growing cold. If I let a little ice melt, the dam would burst. I'd be lost.

More facts, more questions. She wasn't ever a teacher there, the shooter's mom. In fact, she had nothing to do with the school. The murderer didn't get buzzed in by the principal- he shot his way in.  The guns weren't even his. They were legal, yes. But they belonged to his mother. His mother??? His mother had 6 guns registered to her name.  She lived with a kid whom she knew to be mentally disturbed from the time he was very little, and still she kept guns in her own home.  Who is this mother?

Nancy Lanza and I might have been friends. Why not? We had a lot in common. Both around the same age, both white. Both choosing suburban Connecticut to raise our kids.  Both invested in our kids, in trying to make sure they were successful in the world.  Both professionals, well-educated, with college degrees.  From what I hear, Nancy Lanza was a really nice person. Really nice. Except she never let anyone into her house. Her marriage fell apart, and she had no male figure in the home to help control her son. She chose to take up shooting as a hobby.  She taught her son Adam how to use guns, viewing shooting as a hobby they could have in common, a way to bond with her socially inept son.   
And she kept those guns in the house.

Nancy and I had something else in common, something we shared with every other parent of every American boy. We all know about those violent video games. Addictive games, where the winner is the person who can kill fastest, most ruthlessly, most efficiciently.  Games that immerse players in a virtual world of warfare, simulated to look as real as possible.  Fake guns, with unreal consequences. Last year, a study from the University of Indiana School of Medicine confirmed what common sense told us all along- that violent video games alter brain function in young men, to a significant and detrimental degree. What a shock.  Parents need to add another "No" to their long list- along with smoking, drugs, alcohol, now we must "No" to violent video games too. 

Here is your recipe for disaster: A disturbed individual. Violent video games. A broken family. No friends. Guns.

Motive. Means. Opportunity. 

How do we prevent the next Newtown? We could do lots of things. I have some ideas. But I'll tell you tomorrow.  Today, I'm still trying to understand how Nancy Lanza could have allowed guns into her home.


Romney Pulls a Gore

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With pollsters and pundits calling the election too close to call, I'll go out on a limb here and made a prediction. Mitt Romney is going to get more votes than Barack Obama. Nevertheless, Mitt Romney will not be our next president, due to a loss in the electoral college. Republicans will go berserk, crying foul, fraud and dirty tricks. Democrats will privately gloat, the memory of the 2000 election debacle seared into their beings. The value of stability will rise above all, and President Obama will be sworn into a second term. But this country will be left bitter, scarred and more polarized than ever. What to do? After two elections in the last 20 years in which the popular choice got defeated, this country must rise up as one voice to rid ourselves of the electoral college once and for all.

As a daily talk radio host, I've got a pretty good feel for what the public is thinking. Even here in metropolitan New York, President Obama is not popular. Today, the Democratic New York Daily News endorsed Romney. Voters who support Obama are largely keeping their opinions to themselves. On the other hand, Romney voters are loud and belligerent, angry at Obama and convinced this country is on a dire path to destruction unless Romney is elected. In Texas, much of the South and the Midwest, Romney can count on landslide majorities of the popular vote. Hurricane Sandy will depress the turnout significantly in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, three states that Obama is counting on for big leads. When you add up all the votes, Romney will score higher. But Obama will win in Ohio, and that will give him the edge in the electoral college. He will win the White House again.

The stakes of staying with the electoral college have gotten way too high. What if Al Gore had taken his rightful place in 2000? No war in Iraq, that's for sure. All those lives saved; all that money saved too. Think where we might be now if we had not denied climate change for the last 12 years. Perhaps Sandy would not be such an unmitigated catastrophe. In 2012, are the stakes any less crucial?

Despite my own support of President Obama, I'm not happy to be predict that he will win on a technicality, on the constitutional anachronism of the electoral college. I happen to believe in the will of the people. A democratically elected leader is the best person to lead a nation, even if I didn't vote for the guy. I know all the traditional, historical reasons why people still think the electoral college should stand. But they pale in comparison to the essential democratic value of one person/ one vote. If Mitt Romney wins the popular vote, he should be president.

Back in 2000, the pathetic ineptitude of Florida's hanging chads should have been a sideshow to the real result: Al Gore won by 500,000 votes. Case closed. But Al Gore was too good a sport -- he conceded to the status quo. Since then, a small movement has arisen to require states to vote all their electoral college votes to the winner of the national popular vote, as a way of circumventing the electoral college. But Americans know that is the wrong approach. A change to the Constitution needs to happen straight, not sideways.

Remember, Al Gore would have won the presidency if he had taken his home state of Tennessee. What are the chances Mitt Romney will win Massachusetts?

Mitt Romney is the kind of good sport Al Gore was. I can see him conceding to the system, because he is the kind of guy who plays by the rules. But you can be sure the Republicans will not take this lying down. They aren't wimps like the Democrats. Here is my other prediction- if Mitt Romney wins but loses, the electoral college will be dismembered once and for all. And good riddance.


It's the Planet, Stupid

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I'm a sucker for coincidences. Basically, I don't believe in them. I'm one of those people who likes to see the Big Picture, the Plan with a capital P. You can't tell me that this enormous storm aimed straight at Washington, D.C,, and including those pivotal swing states of Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio, is not a sign, coming as it is just days before Election Day. As the great P.G. Wodehouse would have phrased it, I am reminded of the following tale:

Pious Joe is stranded in the middle of the ocean in a leaking boat. A passerby throws him an oar to grab onto for safety. Pious Joe says, "No, thank you. I believe in God. I have faith that God will save me. Thank you anyway, but I'll be just fine." The boat continues to lose water.   READ MORE


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