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In addition to the assault weapons ban, and closing loopholes for unregulated sales at gun shoes, an additional proposal to reduce the number of guns that fall into the hands of irresponsible parties is to pass new laws requiring gun owners to register them, maintain liability insurance, and be liable for negligence in the case they are used in a way that harms others people's lives if they were not kept in locked storage with trigger locks.  

This proposal would still allow 2nd amendment gun ownership, but raise the cost to those criminal, or marginal elements that might be caught with unregistered, uninsured, or improperly stored weapons, and make it easier for police to stop and intercept those  with unregistered, or uninsured weapons, or weapons that are not their own. Although critics raise what appear to be valid objections, and even constitutional issues, it's an interesting new angle I haven't read about before, and the discussion may raise awareness and increase the use of safety precautions such as trigger locks, and locked storage.    

Robert Cryan and Reynolds Holding, propose this new approach in a guest column in this Reuter's op-ed, Congress should push for mandatory gun insurance.

Congress should push for mandatory gun insurance. Firearm ownership is a U.S. constitutional right. But as last week’s massacre again demonstrated, it comes at a cost. Requiring liability coverage could be one way to keep the most dangerous weapons from unstable hands without infringing the law.

The biggest legal obstacle to gun regulation is the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment. The right to bear arms has generally trumped strict limits on ownership, especially since the Supreme Court’s 2008 decision extended the right to individuals. Imposing a hefty insurance policy could make owning a firearm prohibitively expensive for some and create constitutional problems.

But tying the price of coverage to the cost of gun incidents could work. And there’s a strong argument that damage caused by firearms gives the government a “compelling interest” to require insurance, the test for infringing a constitutional right. There’s already a precedent: the National Rifle Association offers liability insurance to members.

Cryan and Holding propose requiring insurance for ammunition sales as well.

But, other disagree and suggest that gun owners can no more be held liable for crimes committed with their stolen gun than an owner of a stolen automobile. In
But, Loyola law professor Blaine LeCesne suggests this is more "prevention rhetoric" than law.

Under the legal doctrine of proximate cause, LeCesne said the act of stealing the car and the recklessness or negligence involved in hitting or injuring another victim would supersede the car owner's negligence in leaving the car unsecured. ... The courts, he said, generally view the shooting another person as unforeseeable act for a lawful gun owner who simply forgot to secure their weapon. "It's unfair and unjust to hold that person responsible," LeCesne said.

The question is whether the gun owner could have reasonably foreseen that the weapon could accidently harm someone if left unsecured. It's similar to leaving a gun lying around in the open. "It's more likely or more foreseeable that that kind of action could happen," LeCesne said.

In short, if the gun is used negligently, a gun owner may end up in court. But if the gun is used intentionally and criminally, the owner isn't responsible. "The Sheriff's Office message is a very good one, and it should be taken to heart by any gun owner because there is the prospect of being held civilly liable," LeCesne said.

I'm not a lawyer, but I find this to be an interesting debate. Requiring insurance is not going to prevent gun violence but it is conceivable that serious attempt to push the liability issue could raise awareness and lead more gun owners to be more responsible by using trigger locks and keeping their guns locked in storage.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Make the gun owner responsible (8+ / 0-)

    for anything and everything that happens with his "tool" unless he reports it stolen.  If it's used in a crime he becomes an accessory.  Someone has an "accident" with it, he takes a share of the responsibility.

    Surely a responsible gun owner would have no problem with this.

    You may think that. I couldn't possibly comment.-- Francis Urqhart

    by Johnny Q on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 04:41:13 PM PST

  •  Cars Aren't Designed to Injure or Kill. (7+ / 0-)

    If they do injure or kill someone it usually damages the vehicle at least a little.

    I'm sure almost everyone who steals one intends to use it for transportation or financial gain somehow.

    Guns on the other hand are designed to injure and kill. I don't know the odds but I would suspect that most people who steal them intend to use them at minimum to threaten people or in commission of crimes. I doubt many guns are stolen by people for lawful hunting and target practice. Of course I guess many would be resold too, but I'd think stolen guns would preferentially end up in some kind of criminal use.

    I wonder if that would make a difference to the law in assessing the culpability of an owner who didn't secure their guns?

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 04:43:40 PM PST

  •  I see a big problem (4+ / 0-)

    with making guns 'prohibitively expensive' by means of insurance.

    Only rich people can have guns.

    •  That was one of the weakest parts of their (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      howabout, ssgbryan, guyeda

      argument.  The insurance should be based entirely on the free market cost assessed by insurance companies, proportional to damage and risk.

      But, raising the expectation and precedent that any improper fatal shooting is going to be assessed a minimum standard penalty, would at least start a benefit-risk calculation of leaving dangerous weapons around where others can easily assess them.

      For example, the mother in this Newtown case, may have locked up her weapons.  

      But, a greater connection of the real cost to society, and others and ownership of potentially dangerous and hazardous weapons seems appropriate.  Those who cannot afford this risk, if properly priced, should not take it.

      The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

      by HoundDog on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 04:56:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Owning a pool requires more responsibility on (7+ / 0-)

    the owner's part than owning a gun.

    Property owners are responsible for keeping their pool secure. If a homeowner has a pool and does not take adequate measures to prevent unwanted or unsupervised individuals from gaining access to the pool, they can end up assuming liability if an accident occurs.
  •  I like the idea of criminal responsibility (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ssgbryan

    Hey, aren't we always hearing that gun control unfairly penalizes "responsible" gun owners, dealers, and sellers? Now's their opportunity to step up and show how responsible they're willing to be. No excuses.

    Someone stole your gun and used it to commit a crime? Boo hoo. I guess you weren't that "responsible" after all, were you?

    I'd even take it farther and assign criminal responsibility to those who manufacture and sell firearms as well. Someone bought a gun from you and used it to shoot up a schoolyard? Well, I guess you're not a very "responsible" manufacturer / dealer / gun show operator.  

    "I can't come to bed yet! Someone is WRONG on the Internet!" - XKCD

    by SingularExistence on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 04:57:43 PM PST

  •  Gun Clubs (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sky Net, ssgbryan

    Require membership.  Require the club to post $1 million dollar bond for any member whose weapon is used improperly.  The effect is that the club will not want any psychologically unstable members.  Tie together ownership and responsibility to use weapon safely.  Make unsafe useage terribly expensive.  The idea would be for the gun clubs to take possession of our country's arsenal and remove these weapons from our homes.  It is my half baked idea but maybe it can work.

  •  I'd probably support (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HoundDog, cany, blueoasis

    this. I wouldn't mind having to get insurance on my handgun, maybe as a rider on my homeowners insurance?

    Severely Socialist

    by ichibon on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 05:02:19 PM PST

    •  If everyone were required to do it, it would (4+ / 0-)

      probably not be that much more expensive, but as the authors point out, insurance companies would charge premiums based on their estimation of risk.  So if people took gun safety course, signed their policy that they were using trigger locks, and storing them properly, they would get lower premiums.

      Perhaps people who are now lackadaisical, would be more careful to get lower premiums?

      The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

      by HoundDog on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 05:10:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Turn it into a way for a corporation to make money (4+ / 0-)

    and we can get it turned into a law.

  •  you can't impose a substantial burden on a right. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HoundDog, radmul, guyeda

    a "hefty premium" designed to prevent people from exercising constitutional rights is obviously unconstitutional.  something like a small fee to go into some sort of national fund, otoh, doesn't seem so objectionable.

    •  ah, I misread. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      HoundDog, VClib, guyeda

      the authors concede a high premium would be legally problematic.

      •  A punitive premium would be unconstitutional, but (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        blueoasis

        a free market premium set by insurance companies directly related to liabilities of gun crimes might be. I believe insurance actuaries already have tables to determine what the "economic value" of a human life is for purposes of accidents.

        If the premium is directly related to cost, we would improve the cost accounting perhaps moving in the direction of more "rational" decision making.  

        Those taking a lackadaisical approach to managing the risk would pay a higher premium and have incentives to take gun safety, trigger locks, and to take greater care to prevent them from falling into irresponsible hands.

        The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

        by HoundDog on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 05:47:07 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  No, it wouldn't. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        HoundDog, blueoasis

        If I own a Ferarri, the auto insurance will be more than if I own a Kia Optima.

        It is simple risk assessment.  

  •  Not just liable - criminally culpable. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HoundDog

    If someone is such an ass that they're willing to put others at significant risk just to give themselves a false sense of security, then let them assume full responsibility for everything that happens via their guns regardless of who's wielding them.

    In Roviet Union, money spends YOU.

    by Troubadour on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 06:26:12 PM PST

  •  My wife suggested this idea to me this morning! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueoasis, HoundDog

    I thought it was briiliant and was planning on writing a diary about but didn't have time.

    Even if the insurance wasn't prohibitively expensive for one or two guns, it sure would prevent arsenals being kept.  Actuaries would determine the risk based on statistics so the more commonly lethal weapons would cost more to own.  

    Importantly, the insurance co's have probably the next biggest lobby in D.C.  As much as I hate lobbyist's I think it would be helpful in this one case to have a power lobby like the insurance co's working at the other end of the spectrum on gun ownership.  They'd be actively lobbying for more regulations to improve gun safety and reduce ownership risk.

    The priest said, "Today's sermon is called 'Liars', but first I have a question. How many of you have read Chapter 66 in Matthew?" Nearly every hand went up. "You're just the group I need to speak to," the priest said. "There's no such chapter."

    by Back In Blue on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 06:56:52 PM PST

    •  Please tell your wife I think she is brilliant too (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Back In Blue

      It occurred to me late this afternoon so I wrote up a few paragraphs asking it as a question, then decided it wasn't enough for a post and googled and find these two article just published late this afternoon.

      So it must by like synchronicity, or flowers all blooming at the same time in spring, as the idea occurs to lots of people at the same time as we try to think of some new ways to deal with these terrible massacres.

      Responsible gun owners may prefer free market private insurance regulation to many of the other alternatives being proposed.

      And, if everyone were required to buy it for each gun,  the cost should directly related to the real social cost of the damage gun violence is actually doing -- a concept Republicans are supposed to theoretically like.

      The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

      by HoundDog on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 07:54:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I will, and so are you. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        HoundDog

        Let's hope it is synchronicity or karma or whatever.  I think it could work and it's something most people could understand.

        The priest said, "Today's sermon is called 'Liars', but first I have a question. How many of you have read Chapter 66 in Matthew?" Nearly every hand went up. "You're just the group I need to speak to," the priest said. "There's no such chapter."

        by Back In Blue on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 07:57:45 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  A great feeder (0+ / 0-)

    for the prison-industrial complex.  Lemme spell it out: the largest proportion of gun owners in this country are the rural poor, most of whom, in addition to all the posturing and preening and manhood-demonstrating with their toys, actually use them to hunt for food.  These people would not have the money for high-priced mandatory liability insurance.  They also have a profound disrespect for any government that tries to tell them what to do on a day-to-day basis, so they would ignore the law.  And then when an accident happened, they would go to jail.  And never get honest work again.  But their cousins and friends would still all have guns, and somebody would sell them one on the sly as soon as they got out of the slammer.  So then they'd be armed and unable to make a living.  So what do you think they'd start to do in addition to hunting for food?

    This is only a good idea if you want an excuse to formally outlaw 80% of the rural white male population.  And then you'll have an armed insurrection on your hands.

  •  So you wish to ban poor people from owning guns. (0+ / 0-)

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