Gun Liability Insurance
by Liam White on Friday, March 8th, 2013
A historically controversial issue, gun control has captured even more media attention in recent months given the Newtown school shooting last December. The question at hand is not simply whether one supports gun control – there are many complex proposals and compromises being suggested nationwide. These ideas range from placing armed guards in schools to having background checks for all prospective gun buyers. Lawmakers in various states, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, and California, have supported the proposal to make all gun owners buy liability insurance. The insurance would cover damage in gun accidents, charges that totaled to approximately 174 billion dollars in 2010 according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The law would include discounts for “safer” users – people who have locks securing their guns, have less dangerous weapons, own fewer weapons, or have participated in a gun safety training.
One goal of this requirement would be to reduce illegal gun accessibility. According to the CDC and the National Vital Statistics Report, firearms killed 31,328 people in 2010, 97.3% of whom died in murder or suicide. With the very minimal background checks that are currently in place, “legal” users can easily buy guns and sell them to criminals. Those who are unable to purchase guns legally can easily access them in the black market or even in gun shows since they do not require background checks at all. Breaches in the system will only encourage more people to acquire guns illegally. The liability insurance, on the other hand, would make it much more costly for gun owners to sell firearms to criminals, hopefully discouraging illegal gun sales.
More importantly, the proposal would incentivize safer gun use. If one could get back some money for locking up his or her guns in a cabinet, why not? If taking a course on how to prevent gun accidents means saving some extra cash, who would not sign up? In the process of money-saving, the regulations would save lives. When finances come into the picture, people would be more likely to be responsible with their firearms, reducing the number of deaths from gun accidents. While moral responsibility encourages safer gun use, financial incentives have proven more effective. Gun buybacks in both metropolitan areas and small counties almost always lead to thousands of guns being turned over to government officials.
Still, like gun control itself, the proposal has its opponents. Some argue that it violates the constitutional right to bear arms. But the liability insurance itself would challenge safe gun use. Americans would still be able to own guns. People have the “right” to own a car, but they are still required to pay for insurance on their vehicles. Like car insurance, the proposal incentivizes more responsible use.
The National Rifle Association supports optional liability insurance. This approach, however, defeats the main purpose of the proposal. Without being legally obligated to buy insurance, gun owners will be less likely to join the program. In turn, financial incentives would prove less effective.
There are many obstacles in instituting meaningful gun control due to the pro-gun lobby, but to say that the liability insurance would take away people’s second amendment rights is groundless. The insurance would serve as an immediate and effective solution to reduce gun violence and should be discussed with all seriousness in Washington.
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