Gun Control Debate 2013: Mandatory Firearm Insurance is the Newest Ridiculous Proposal

While we should not be surprised by now at the ridiculous proposals rolled out by our government, the gun insurance proposals springing up around the country nevertheless cause a face palm from any rational thinker. The new gun bill proposal in D.C. would mandate purchasing a $250,000 liability insurance policy. The D.C. Council is currently considering the proposal, which would mandate coverage for negligent and intentional acts not taken in self-defense, with the intention that it would provide compensation to individuals whose person or property was in some way injured or damaged as a result of the use of a firearm. Gun insurance proposals are ridiculous, something easily seen once thought through for longer than the lifespan of a mayfly.

Recently, gun insurance proposals have been springing up around the country, with California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland introducing it as part of larger gun control packages. New York's policy would mandate having a minimum of $1 million in liability insurance, or forfeiting the "privilege" of owning a firearm. Excuse me, a privilege? Gee, for some reason I was thinking gun ownership was a right … The classic adage "Car owners carry insurance, why not gun owners?" vies for one of the worst thought-out arguments ever made. The NRA does already offer "excess personal liability and self-defense" coverage to its members covering accidents if you wanted to purchase it, but aside from this, there is no good reason whatsoever to begin mandating firearm insurance.  

The cost of buying insurance for their firearms would render some, if not most, owners incapable of even owning a firearm. Firearm insurance could easily be too expensive for a middle-class worker to even purchase, discouraging this right of ownership by people who abide by the law. Setting a maximum charge of firearm insurance by the company risks many lawsuits that could easily bankrupt them. A single civil suit can bring in millions of dollars in damage, and since thousands of people per year are murdered by firearms in America, essentially every one of those suits is grounds for a wrongful death case. Millions of paying customers would be needed to provide the compensation for a single award. The liability insurance would potentially be so expensive that a very small number of people could afford it.

Let's take a brief look at how insurance works. Every person does not get the same quote for the same coverage. Just as how a teenager with no driving record has higher insurance costs compared to a 60-year-old woman who hasn't had an accident in 30 years, firearm insurance would be considerably higher for some people rather than others. In fact, the people it would be higher for is the 20-year-old African-American in Detroit, versus the 55-year-old married woman in Florida. She would get a great rate on gun liability insurance, while the 20-year-old in Detroit wouldn’t even be able to afford it. Since the youth in Detroit is much more likely to be involved in a firearms incident, his premiums would be higher. This basically concentrates firearm ownership to those with money, leaving those who may need to be defended the most defenseless. Essentially, a gun insur­ance man­date will have a dis­parate racial impact. Insurance companies would not be able to accurately price the risk of thousands of individual policies. Responsible gun owners would end up overpaying to compensate for the fact that companies would try to turn a blind eye to factors such as race, and the cost will be higher across the spectrum.

While we're on the topic, let's insure knives as well. 16,547 people were killed with knives between 2000 and 2008, the second-most used weapon to kill after firearms. To look further into the problems with insurance, insurance does not typically cover acts committed intentionally, much less the intentional acts of others. Insurance often excludes criminal behavior by the policyholder. Unless gun insurance liability is somehow broadened widely to include acts committed by others, if someone steals your gun, such as with the Newtown massacre, the insurance would not cover it. Most guns used to commit crimes are illegally obtained anyway. Looking at this realistically, someone planning to commit a crime most likely does not purchase insurance for their weapon. Making the connection yet? Many shooters in gun homicides could legally own their guns before their crimes, either because they are too young, because they are felons, or because they live in a city which has made it very difficult to own handguns. They are not going to acquire liability insurance simply because they are now told they have to. People with their rightfully owned, purchased, and insured firearm are not the ones committing the crimes in the first place, and if their gun is indeed stolen, as would most likely be the case if involved in a crime, insurance will not cover it. Non-criminals are not usually held liable for criminals' crimes.

To be implemented, gun insurance would be tantamount to gun registration. In order for companies to give auto insurance, they must know the year, make, model, ser­ial num­ber, and use pur­pose for each automobile owned. This will be true for guns as well, so your friend who owns 15 guns for recreational purposes will essentially have to register them and insure each one, surrendering all pertinent information. And, cue the privacy invasion and constitutional scrutiny.

When addressing accidental firearm deaths, the only conceivable aspect covered by insurance, we see that accidental deaths by firearms are relatively low compared to other categories of accidents. There were 14,000 injuries and 600 deaths in 2011, and while at first glance this may sound high, it’s actually not; dozens of kids a year drown in buckets, and the rate of accidental firearm death is much, much lower than the rate of accidental drowning, with oftentimes the firearm damage covered by other forms of insurance.

With D.C. being more dangerous than 95% of cities in the U.S., it's a fair bet that any gun insurance would be highly priced and unaffordable to all but the wealthy in D.C. After all, insurance is usually relegated to the states. Firearm insurance creates a barrier to our constitutional rights by making it a financial burden for a law-abiding citizen to purchase and maintain his or her firearms, potentially leading to disarmament. Perhaps this is the intended outcome, along with a registry of the remaining guns left in owners' hands. Mass shooters won't be deterred by any such law, and it would hardly be effective in the face of criminal activity. There are many issues with mandating firearm insurance, of which I've barely scratched the surface here.