To understand just how loony the pro-gun forces are in this state, all you have to do is juxtapose three stories from today’s headlines: The fatal shooting by a retired police officer of a 43-year-old first-time father in a movie theater; the opening statements in the Jacksonville trial of a man who fired eight shots into a car, killing a teenaged boy; and the recommendation by a committee of the Florida House that would penalize insurance companies for charging gun owners higher premiums.
During a bail hearing for Curtis Reeves, the movie theatre shooter (bail was ultimately denied), a witness testified that as his victim, Chad Oulson, lay dying, Reeves’s wife turned to her husband and said, “That was no cause to shoot anyone.” No indeed—the provocation, a squabble over Oulson’s sending a text message during the previews, was on par with the dispute that led to the shooting in the Jacksonville case. In that incident, 47-year-old Michael Dunn, taking exception to the loud music emanating from a car parked next to his, decided the best course of action was to fire indiscriminately into the offending vehicle. His bullets killed 17-year-old Jordan Davis. Dunn claims he saw a gun in the car, but the only one that appears to have been present at the scene was his.
People, life can be hard. Life can be frustrating, aggravating and, sometimes, overwhelming. In the course of a day, people can really get under your skin. Maybe your neighbor’s son likes to pound away on his drum set at 2 in the morning. Maybe the woman in the car ahead of you is poking along while you’re late for a dentist appointment. Maybe, as happened with a fatal shooting in Flagler Beach two years ago, you are fed up with your neighbor complaining about your barking dogs. And as those of us who are in the second half of life can attest, the days can be full of little aches and pains that, sometimes, can become major aches and pains.
Curtis Reeves, apparently, is one of those achy senior citizens. Media reports have noted that Reeves, who is 71, has arthritis and bursitis, and suffers from some of the other ailments that accompany old age. Chronic pain can make you cranky. What it should not do is give you an excuse to fire a bullet point-blank into an unarmed man’s chest. As for Michael Dunn, it will be left to a jury of his peers to ponder the temperament of a man who started an argument over loud music and ended it with a fusillade of bullets. In his case, his wife was not present to tell him “that was no cause to shoot anyone.”
The NRA hates this particular statistic, but it is irrefutable: If you own a gun, the chances that it will be used to properly defend yourself or your family are minuscule compared with the likelihood that it will be used to end the life of an innocent person. So why shouldn’t insurance companies compute the odds and charge gun owners for their decision to keep a deadly weapon close at hand? If you own a 625-horsepower Corvette, you will pay a much steeper premium than the fellow who drives a Camry.
I am not aware of any Florida legislators who are offended by that, and automobiles, while they can kill, are not intended to be instruments of death. The decision to keep an instrument of death handy makes you a bad risk—not only for insurance companies, but for those of us who feel we have a right to go to the movies, the mall, or sit in our own backyard without having to worry about a gun owner whose bursitis is acting up or who is simply having a bad day.
Flagler Beach’s Paul Miller is paying for the murder of his neighbor with a sentence that will probably see him dying in prison. Curtis Reeves may encounter the same fate. Michael Dunn’s jury might believe his assertion that he saw a gun, but they could also convict him of first-degree murder, effectively ending whatever life he was enjoying before his temper got the better of him.
It’s time for our elected officials to stop being lapdogs for the gun lobby, and to send the message that guns are not the answer to life’s various disputes. People walking around and driving around with firearms make the world a more dangerous place for the great majority of us who understand that a momentary flash of anger shouldn’t mean the end of someone’s life, and the ruination of the lives of all those left behind.
Steve Robinson moved to Flagler County after a 30-year career in New York and Atlanta in print, TV and the Web. Reach him by email here.
Nancy N. says
You forgot the case from right here in Flagler of Nathaniel Juratovac.
And the list goes on…
I’m personally tired of having to watch what I say and do every time I leave the house for fear that my words expressing displeasure with someone over their cutting in line at the store will be met with a bullet.
After all, according to Judge Traynor, were I to say something that resulted in my getting shot I’d have no one to blame but myself for “escalating the situation”.
THE VOICE OF REASON says
Can’t say I agree with all of it, but well said. I especially like the part about the 625-horsepower Corvette!
Guns aren’t the only instruments of murder. People are stabbed to death daily. Should we outlaw knives? Ban their manufacturer? What then would you cut your steak with? Should we cut of the hands of every living man , woman and child so that we can’t be beaten or choked to death? Now this is something to put thought to. Should the insurance company’s be allowed to charge more if you own knives or have hands? Same reasoning. How rich do we need to make insurance companys.
Jim R. says
The reason you don’t see frequent knife attacks is that the knife user has to get up close and risks having the knife taken away and used on himself. The gun user can be a complete coward and can shoot from a distance. The cases cited in this article suggest that these shootings were the acts of bullying cowards against unarmed victims. Hopefully they will spend the rest of their cowardly lives in prison.
Now that you mention it, WLK, knives ARE meant for much more than killing, as are our hands. What other than the taking of a life is a gun good for (unless Wayne LaPierre happens to be your interior decorator)? Please don’t conflate items used to benefit people with things made wholly and solely to cause death. THAT’s something to think about.
Michael Randazzo says
The right to defend yourself is given by nature or nature’s God, not by man. So as long as people who mean to do harm to me exist; I have the right to protect myself and my property. This fact is codified in our Constitution in the Second Amendment. Now if you do not feel safe because I have a gun, I invite you to learn that these examples are rare and the exception to the rule. Most gun owners I know I would love to have living next door to me or in my town. Most are trained and skilled in using these firearms and treat them with the respect and safety they demand.
I would not trust a retired cop without personally knowing him with a gun. Did you know police in Florida are only required to fire their guns in training once a year? I would venture to guess I have shot my guns at a range more in the last two years than most police have in their entire careers. Maybe there needs to be more training there.
I took a self-defense gun safety course taught by a trained NRA instructor. More than the required safety course by the state. I don’t want to just have a gun; I wanted to be proficient in using it. I believe most gun owners are just that, desirable of knowing what they are doing with a gun.
Every gun I own i had to have a background check to buy. I got one.
My basic God given right is to protect myself and I can in this state and country with a gun. Would you have me demand a repeal of the First Amendment because I don’t agree with your childish rant? No on the contrary, I would use my guns to defend to the death your right to be so stupid; and speak your mind freely without threats of intimidation or penalty. There’s the difference between one gun owner and a so called journalist. I believe in God given rights for all even people I feel wouldn’t know our Constitution if it were handed to them on a silver platter.
Florida Born says
I understand what you are saying and all, but because a few make a dumb decision, then we all have to pay? I think not, that’s why the 2nd amendment of the constitution is there. Using this logic, then if you weigh alot, do a certain profession, perform certain hobbies that are hazardous, we all should all have high rates, I think not. Secondly, how would the insurance companies track firearms, oh wait I have an idea by violating the 4th amendment and searching your personal documents or property for them right, ah no! I really wish this online news service would report news and not personal opinions.
The majority of gun owners that I know are the most level headed, responsible people on the planet. I am so sick of this garbage.
Capt Ron says
My guns will remain a part of me and my American heritage. When I die, they get passed down to Son, Daughter…then Grandson and granddaughter. As long as there is an America, this will continue.
Jon Hardison says
While I agree that questions need to be asked and that more stringent standards need to be set, I can’t say I agree with the premise here. The opening paragraph states that three headlines are all we need to understand how loony the pro gun forces in Florida are, but the truth is that if all three of those violent acts had been carried out in one day there would still be millions of gun owners that hadn’t pulled the trigger or hurt anyone or been anything other than responsible, safe, reasonable gun owners.
If the argument is that merely owning a firearm increases the risk of a claim on one’s homeowner’s or car insurance, that’s fine, but owning kitchen knives should also cause an increase as should having matches or even tile flooring. Heck, why doesn’t your car insurance go up when you scrimp and buy cheap tires or anything but the best brake pads?
To be clear, I think the NRA are an insane band of extremist nuts that advocate anarchy, so it’s not that I’m being a pro gun loon. But basing legislation on the one sided view this article takes is like hoping two wrongs make a right. Putting companies in a position to essentially fine people for exercising what is currently their legal constitutional right is beyond crazy and from what I understand, there are no stats that justify the action.
Insurance companies should be assuming everyone has a gun. In fact, by that logic, felons should get an automatic discount. LOL!
Nancy N. says
Jon, there absolutely ARE stats to justify charging higher premiums to gun owners, and they are right in the article – the odds are that a gun will most likely be used to kill someone OTHER than an intruder. That’s why the gun lobby has found it necessary to “protect” themselves by putting forth this legislation. Insurance companies don’t make random policies – they are driven by statistics and risk management.
The thing I find ironic is that while the gun lobby is speaking out against the insurance companies’ rights to exercise underwriting to protect themselves from the financial risk of policy holders who own guns because “it’s our right”, many of these same people have no problem opposing the ACA, the death of which would allow insurance companies to continue exercising underwriting to exclude sick people from buying policies. So apparently their right to own a weapon is more important than my right to actually live?
Lee Cruse says
Insurance covers accidental or negligent actions, not intentional actions. So, insurance would not have been in the picture with any of the examples cited.
For example, If I drive my car into a tree to commit suicide, the insurance company is not going to fix my car.
In 2009, there were 695 people killed by guns in the state of Florida.In comparison, there were 1004 deaths that were alcohol related in traffic crashes that same year.
Maybe the left should push prohibition with gun control.
I agree with you.
The insurance companies are correct and there should be charged higher premiums for gun owners. Like anyone pays higher premiums for new cars or accident prone drivers and or prohibition or higher home owners insurance when they have pools or got pit bull owners or any insurance covering a high liability exposure! Those DUI’s traffic related deaths for sure are properly addressed with higher premiums and hefty court penalties as well. When it comes to the tragic abuses of some gun owners killing innocents we need to start with something, at least higher insurance premiums while all else is GOP opposed!
The assertion made here, and one that is so often made by the gun lobby, is that people also kill each other with knives, so why not regulate those as well. The fact is, year in and year out, the number of people murdered by firearm (and overwhelmingly by handgun) is about five times the number of people murdered by what census statistics call “knives or cutting instruments.” Statistics on gun deaths (of which murder is only a part) in the U.S. are readily available online, but these links provide easy access to the numbers that the gun lobby would rather you not know:
Tom Harvey says
If the insurance companies can’t directly take guns into account, they’ll put terms in their policies that exclude larger classes of situations and incidents. This will include provisionssuch as narrowing the definition of accident or excluding more incidents involving family. That way everyone’s insurance policies will get the restrictions that belong to guns. It’s one way (the other is in the rates) that this will make all policy holders subsidize the gun owners.
Guns don’t people, husbands that come home from work early do..
Every single word you wrote notwithstanding, there is but one, and only one, consideration.
You cannot abridge the core civil rights of people who haven’t committed any crimes because of the actions of those who do.
All the extraneous BS is, when weighed against this fundamental truth, just that.
“…and no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law;”
Nancy N. says
I wasn’t aware that low homeowner’s insurance rates were a civil right.
Insurance companies charge higher rates to various groups they deem high risk for all sorts of things. Younger drivers pay more – whether they have had an accident or not. Live in an urban area? You’ll pay more.
What exactly makes gun ownership any different than, say, the year you were born?
“You cannot abridge the core civil rights of people who haven’t committed any crimes because of the actions of those who do.”
Gee, that sounds as though you agree that racial profiling is illegal. Fancy that!
Diana L. says
Insurance companies charge more for high risk drivers, people with dogs, and if the statistics are there, they should charge more for people that own guns. I don’t want to pay for higher insurance because of others. If you have a gun in your home, you are more likely to be shot by a gun or shoot someone with a gun, common sense. Pay higher premiums if you have a gun and get over it.
Any time a gun story is printed that might bring some sanity to the issue off owning guns… the gun crazies come out of their respective closets. Those of you who cite the 2nd Amendment always leave off the phrase “A well regulated Militia being necessary for the security of a free state” etc…. Guns were necessary for those militias back then but somehow the very important Supreme Court rules that the 2nd Amendment means that every lunatic that can get his or hers hands on a gun should be protected by the Constitution. What the real shame here is that other amendments, specifically the 4th are always degraded by the courts whereas the 2nd is if it were written by some cloud being.
Sherry Epley says
Excellent article Steve and great comments Nancy and others. Many people who have commented here always pull out the FOX and NRA quotes and plaster them all over any article about gun ownership. . . whether they understand or even read the entire article or not.
Insurance companies use valid statistics to assess risks folks and then they assign the higher or lower premiums according to those risks. I personally take great exception to EVERYONE paying a higher insurance premium in our state because some politicians want to kowtow to the powerful campaign contributions of the NRA and their gun totting followers.
Does anyone really believe that it is OK to charge higher insurance premiums to a cancer survivor, or a young driver, or a sports car owner, or someone living in a flood zone or near the ocean. . . but it is not OK to charge high premiums to (statistically proven higher risk) gun owners?
Yet another reason many of the misguided and short sighted in our current state administration need to be voted out in the next election!
Concerned Citizen says
Shouldn’t people with fire extinguishers have higher insurance rates?
Statistics show 96% of them are used in house fires.
Ask Mayor Bloomberg on this, 90% of people agree with this, that’s right 90%. There’s no need to question that 90% figure, it says it right here in black & white.
Isn’t it time we talk about some common sense fire extinguisher laws?
Paul Anderson says
Liberal progressive government cries out gun control?
Look at this brief and see the great deadly threat and murderer on the planet.