Why Mandatory Gun Insurance Could Make a Huge Difference

It’s been just over a month since the Newtown massacre and we’ve witnessed still more school shootings. President Obama has offered a vision of tackling gun violence, and Congress appears ready to at least go through the motions of trying to pass legislation in response to the flood of guns drowning this country and neighboring Mexico. In Massachusetts, however, lawmakers aren’t waiting around for Washington and have proposed their own agenda for tackling gun violence.

Could it be that health care reform provides us with the model for gun control reform and is Massachusetts going to once again lead the way? Early signs point to yes.

New York stepped forward almost immediately with a bold vision of state regulation of gun sales, mental health support and bans on certain weapons and accessories. But Massachusetts is offering something more: mandatory liability insurance for all gun owners, and it’s an idea worth considering. The policies would give those injured by a firearm some legal recourse — nothing to sneeze at when considering injuries from gun violence cost us millions in avoidable health care costs a year. Individual gun owners facing liability if their weapon causes an injury would have a financial incentive to make sure those weapons are protected.

Furthermore, the insurance industry is uniquely positioned to help bear some of the costs, both in terms of resources and human capital in implementing any reforms. Need a comprehensive screen for individuals who should not have the ability to purchase a firearm because of severe mental illness? The insurance industry already does those. In fact, just try getting a life insurance policy without one. Want to find a way to make purchasing a gun more difficult for some without taking away an individual’s right to own a weapon outright? Mandatory liability insurance would impact pricing on gun ownership in a similar fashion to health or auto insurance — a clean bill of health results in lower premiums and greater access to services and coverage.

Gun liability insurance has been floated before and is usually dismissed as ill-suited to address the horrors of Newtown, Aurora and Tuscon, let alone the daily violence in places like Chicago. And if taken in a copy-and-paste approach from automobile insurance it is. But that’s not exactly what is being suggested in Massachusetts, nor should past limitations in creativity prevent fresh eyes from coming at this issue again. Considering purchasing your first firearm? Take a firearms safety class and receive premium rated insurance coverage. Keep up on those classes and your premiums will continue to stay low. Want to own an assault rifle? Fine, but the liability insurance will cost you.

There are plenty of ways the analogy doesn’t fit. What about suicides which are a leading category of gun deaths? We don’t let life insurance proceeds go to the surviving estate of someone who commits suicide, presumably the same rules would apply. But if the suicide happened as part of other violence — whether a murder suicide or death-by-cop, those other acts of violence by necessity always happen first. There’s no reason those first-in-time claims shouldn’t be covered just because the perpetrator takes his or her own life as well.

And what about all those criminals who don’t register their guns and who would never buy insurance? Well, in that case we face a similar challenge as the auto industry where approximately one in seven drivers are uninsured. But unlike cars, guns serve only one purpose, and that is to kill. Why not set aside annually a percentage of premium collections for a fund that covers at least a portion of the costs related to uninsured gun violence? Some states already have similar regimes in place for uninsured motorists and while not a perfect solution, it’s a helluva lot better than what’s currently in place.

Which is the point. Massachusetts lawmakers deserve credit for considering this proposal, warts and all because doing something ANYTHING is better than what we’re currently doing to address the public health scourge that is gun violence.


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Photo from Mike Seachang via flickr.


Edytheortega E.
Past Member 2 years ago

You guys present there are performing an excellent job.
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Nick Andrews
Nico Smart3 years ago

Sure, we'll start taxing gun owners, AFTER all people start paying taxes on everything they say or write, go to church or read a religious book, vote, or go a day without an unprovoked arrest or search of their property.

William Troy
William Troy3 years ago

I'm fine with proportional taxation based on the gun-owner's income, lifestyle and history.

Nancy Cornett
Nancy Jo Cornett3 years ago

Roger H, I like your comments. It's good to have rational, thinking people who are also well-informed. Thanks.

Nick Andrews
Nico Smart3 years ago

Any type of fee, insurance, cost, etc. to purchase, own or use a firearm is exactly like a poll tax designed to keep blacks from voting was...unconstitutional. This even includes the fees a purchaser must pay for the FFL to perform the transfer and background check. These fees should be paid for by the agency requiring them, per our Constitution.

As for the attempts to compare them to automobiles, forget it. Owning and using guns or any type of weapon is a natural-born, constitutionally-protected right, whereas driving is not.

Roger H.
Roger H.3 years ago

Steven S.,

That is all well and good. if you could force criminals to insure them, but forcing law abiding citizens that probably will never shoot anyone to buy insurance strictly to make it more unaffordable for poor people to protect themselves form intruders, when they are the most vulnerable and are subjected to criminals with guns the most, is callous and showing total disregard for their safety and it will not decrease the amount of gun violence at all.
Comparing this to automobiles is like comparing apples and oranges, because autos are purchased to drive daily, while guns are purchased with the objective of only being used for self defense if needed (which is hopefully never). It is too late to purchase them after the fact, so guns are purchased as a preventative measure only.

Steven Silas
Steven Silas3 years ago

A gun is a weapon, plain and simple. (So if your car. And if you have to insure your car, you should be required to insure your gun)

Nancy Cornett
Nancy Jo Cornett3 years ago

Robby (and to others who have posted thoughtful comments): sincerity bolstered by mental clarity and respect for others often wins out in the long run. Many speak, but far fewer communicate. Your sincerity and intelligence shine through. Supporters of the 2nd amendment are often portrayed as ignorant and closed-minded. As I have many friends on both sides of the issues here, I can tell you that's no more true of one side than the other. Thanks for speaking out.

Robby C.
Past Member 3 years ago

David F- you're right- the whole damn idea is Fantasyland. OR...Fantasy Island. "Boss! Boss! De Plane, De Plane!" Only these days, the next line would be: "Wait Tattoo...! TSA MUST cavity-check first! For our safety & theirs..." And the scary thing is, people believe that crap!!!

Robby C.
Past Member 3 years ago

Wanda, Roger H, Marc- Nancy, etc- excellent posts.

Nancy- thank you. I'd like to send a green star for each of your posts if I could.

The prob is, all the anti-gun-nut sentiment stems from emotional BS. Another issue people forget, as Marc points out- IF you have to pay for insurance, rates will obviously go through ceiling. When insurance is mandated to pay claims when people are shot, rates will skyrocket like BO's national debt. This country's so F'ed up, we allow families to sue innocent victims for shooting attackers in their own homes. Beyond deplorable! A rapist/killer/rorturer, etc, can sue b/c he got shot while raping.... UNREAL!!! But insuuance? Don't worry, that changes everything, SO, if it goes up, do premiums for everyone always stay same? will Hollywood elite &/or rich people pay more since they're more likely to be attacked? OR did they pay more for their armed gaurds insurance? Sounds like ONLY the rich can afford to pay insurance- that's the idea right? Only the rich can afford to have a gun. All the answers are to make guns so expensive, people cant afford them. Same w/bullets, etc. So basically, only rich people have the right to the 2nd ammendment? So does that include the 1st ammendment? OR the 4th? Wake up people! This is just another angle to ban guns & take your rights. They'll kill innocent citizens & cops & sweep it under the carpet, like Project F&F!