Requiring gun owners or buyers to provide insurance that will protect anyone injured is one way to address the problem of gun injuries and deaths. The system that I prefer is one that works on a No-Fault basis, eliminating lawsuits, and provides an incentive for each successive owner to have insurance, in order to release the previous insurer from responsibility for new incidents. I wrote about this system and received a number of comments with the most common concerns being: requiring insurance is an interference with a right, insurance will protect criminals and wrongdoers, and insurance companies are greedy and corrupt. To see how the system would work, you can look at the earlier diary. I plan to address all these concerns, the first in this diary.
The Supreme Court found gun ownership to be an individual right in the Heller Case in 2008 for federally controlled areas such as the District of Columbia and extended it to the state in the McDonald v. Chicago case in 2010. The Heller decision attempts to set some rules as to what restrictions work to ban traditional uses for lawful purposes and were found to be unconstitutional, but there is a lot still to be decided. Importantly for the purpose of requiring insurance is the following statement, made somewhat as an aside but prominent in the syllabus.
The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.
The insurance scheme I’m advocating requires only that manufacturers and importers provide insurance. Any requirement that purchasers or individuals acquiring guns get insurance, is a contractual one by the seller intending to satisfy the seller’s contract with the seller’s insurer and perhaps reduce the expense to the seller. This would be the only way for an existing insurer to give up responsibility. It should be a condition on the commercial sale of arms. There are numerous lower court decisions concerning the second amendment since the Heller decision allowing various regulations.
Bringing the two or three hundred million guns existing now in the United States is a somewhat different matter. Simply requiring an owner to get the required type of insurance is straightforward; but, whether it would be found constitutional by future courts is in the future with all the politics, legal and historical inputs and sheer chance that is implied. The insurance needs a general information system connecting gun serial numbers or bullet scans to insurers but need not have information on owners. This privacy for owners is a great advantage of no-fault rather than liability based insurance. I think that it’s likely to be found to be acceptable, because insurance pricing would be reasonable especially for the protected traditional and lawful purposes so should not be an excessive burden on those uses; but that’s just my opinion. There are also other ways to bring existing guns—The legislation setting up the system could establish strict liability for guns not in the system.
Even if existing guns are not covered, most of the benefits of gun insurance will be in place fairly quickly. Various studies has found that most illegal guns involved in violence are fairly new. An ATI report show median time from purchase to crime for guns seized at 5.7 years with an average age in a general gun owners survey average of 13 years with the one owner. Illegal holders turn over quickly so stopping the conversion of legal status to an illegal one would greatly reduce the number of guns in improper hands.
Cross posted in guninsuranceblog