Massachusetts and Connecticut lawmakers have introduced legislation that would require state gun owners to purchase firearms liability insurance.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the bills are the first to propose imposing a mandatory liability insurance requirement on gun owners since a similar measure failed in Illinois in 2009.
The Massachusetts bill was introduced by Democrat Rep. David Linsky on Jan. 18. An analysis by Best’s Insurance News says it would provide those injured, or the survivors of those killed through negligence, legal recourse and “perhaps, allow insurers selling policies to charge rates using a risk-based system as a means of improving firearm safety.”
Linsky told Best’s his bill “might result in insurers pricing gun liability insurance according to risk, including factors such as how many guns are owned in the home, how those weapons are stored, and whether they are kept in a locked area.”
The Connecticut bill, proposed by Democrat Rep. Bob Godfrey on Jan. 22, is “a preliminary version that simply requires both current and future firearms owners to maintain liability insurance,” according to Best’s analysis.
Hartford Courant reporter Rick Green writes that the idea of requiring insurance for guns surfaced 25 years ago in an Alabama Law Review article by Nelson Lund, a George Mason University law professor.
“One of the problems with gun control measures is that they are really designed in a way that substantially interferes with the rights of law-abiding citizens while doing very little about the behavior of criminals or irresponsible people,” Lund wrote in that seminal article. “My idea … was to suggest a statute that would inhibit the possession of firearms by irresponsible people and do what liability insurance at least partly does and that is compensate the victims of irresponsible behavior.”
“It’s an idea worth considering,” writes Jessica Pieklo in a Jan. 25 blog posted on www.care2.com. “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.”
The proposals are discriminatory and simply won’t work, say gun owners and Second Amendment advocacy groups.
“Now we’re going to have insurance companies telling us how we are supposed to be trained and where we are going to store our guns?” Jim Wallace, executive director of the Gun Owners Action League in Massachusetts, told the Associated Press on Jan. 19.
Craig Baenziger, a gun owner in North Attleboro, Mass., told the AP that requiring liability insurance for guns makes little sense because it targets people who buy the weapons legally instead of going after criminals who illegally possess them.
“Insurance on your gun isn’t really going to decrease crime or accidents,” he said. “It’s not going to do anything. It’s just a way to increase revenue for the state.”
Linsky says his Massachusetts’ bill would simply require gun owner be insured “and then let the market work out the details.” He compared his proposal to requirements in some states that a car-owner buy insurance before being allowed to register a vehicle.
“You don’t have to own a gun,” Linsky said. “You don’t have to drive a car.”
Of course, there’s one massive flaw in Linsky’s logic: While it is a privilege to operate a motor vehicle on a public road, it is a fundamental individual right guaranteed by the Constitution to own a firearm in the privacy a home.
As Stephen Halbrook, a research fellow at the Independent Institute, told the Washington Times on Jan. 2, if gun owners are required to purchase liability insurance before exercising a fundamental individual right granted by the Second Amendment, then journalists (and virtually anyone else who expresses an opinion in public) can be required to purchase libel and defamation insurance before exercising a fundamental individual right granted by the First Amendment.
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— Massachusetts bill would require gun liability insurance