Thursday, January 31, 2013

Gun Control via Liability Insurance

This post is cross-listed on From Corn Fields to the Capitol.

NPR has a really great post tied to a story they ran on Morning Edition this morning. In it some experts suggest one practical way to achieve a measure of gun control and price in the potential for negative externalities is by requiring gun owners to purchase liability insurance.  If you own a gun you must also purchase a liability policy to cover the cost of any damage your gun incurs, very similar to the requirement many states have requiring car owners have, at minimum, liability insurance. But there's another wrinkle that could be throw in there.  Here's Prof. Justin Wolfers from the University of Michigan:
Another even more powerful approach is to recognize that the problem isn't guns per se, but gun violence. Thus, instead of taxing guns, we should tax gun violence. Basically, this is the same as saying that we should make gun owners liable for any damage their guns do. Not only would this discourage some people from buying guns, it would lead those who do keep guns to be more careful with how they're stored. Indeed, greater care would surely have kept Adam Lanza out of his mother's cache. The problem though, is that Nancy Lanza is neither with us to pay the damages her gun caused, nor could she afford to pay for the enormous damage her gun wrought in Newtown. And so the only way this solution works is if guns required mandatory liability insurance, much as we force car owners to buy insurance for the damage their machines wreak.
This is an intriguing solution to me, and one I think may sportsmen and women would find very compelling. I know my dad would. He's a card carrying member of the NRA, hunter, gun enthusiast, and all the rest. In the wake of the tragedy at Newton our annual Christmas Eve dinner started out talking about gun control. You won't find a bigger proponent of the second amendment, but you won't find a bigger proponent of individual responsibility either. He thought it made perfect sense that if your gun is used in a crime, you are charged as if you had committed the crime. What if the gun is stolen? Did you report it? Was it locked in a gun safe or did you have a trigger lock on it?

Of course, the trouble with requiring the purchase of "gun insurance" or "gun violence insurance" is that some people just won't buy it. Here's Russ Roberts a research fellow at the Hoover Institution:
[T]he logic is not quite as neat as it might appear. Many people already buy and own guns illegally without license or registration. Adding the cost of insurance would further discourage honest gun ownership. That would make matters worse not better. And is it so obvious that all guns are harmful to others and that gun ownership should be made more expensive to every owner?
Point taken, but we know there are folks on the road who don't have liability insurance. It's part of the landscape, but it doesn't mean doing this is a bad idea. It was a bit like Mr. Wayne LaPierre at the Senate Hearing yesterday saying background checks wouldn't do anything, so we shouldn't do them. Wonder what he would think about requiring liability insurance to be purchased.

Also, if you didn't see this Daily Show segment about how hard it is for the ATF to do it's job, a job Mr. LaPierre said it should be doing, you're missing out.


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1 comment:

jelly andrews said...

Great posting! This is really interesting. I guess it is a good idea to have liability insurance for guns. It would help in decreasing the incidents of gun violence.