Supporters of strict gun restrictions have long promoted a parallel between car and gun ownership in order to justify licensing and registration schemes. Now they’re going a step further with proposals to mandate liability insurance for gun owners. It’s not a new idea, but it’s gaining new traction in some states as lawmakers maneuver around seeking to “do something.”
The comparison between cars and guns, of course, is without merit. Yes, the states require licensing of drivers and registration of vehicles, because driving on public roads is a privilege, not a right. But you don’t need a license or registration just to buy a car, or to keep one on your own property. Furthermore, car ownership is not a protected constitutional right to begin with.
But none of these facts have stopped politicians from California to Massachusetts from proposing some form of mandated liability insurance for mere gun ownership, according to this article in Bloomberg news. The American Insurance Association said in a statement that “property and casualty insurance does not and cannot cover gun crimes . . . insurers will not insure illegal acts.” The group goes for the melodrama, saying “It could have the opposite of its intended effect.”
The article explains their thinking by saying that such laws may lead to reckless actions by gun owners who “will not have their own assets, property or income at stake,” the group said. “It would be a sad irony if the outcome of such a mandate was more gun violence.” As a former prosecutor, I’m convinced that’s exactly what every criminal wonders before committing assault, robbery or murder – “am I insured for this?”
This ham-handed attempt to throw a wet blanket over the idea hasn’t deterred everyone in the insurance industry from salivating over the prospect. According to the article, Tad Montross, chief executive officer of reinsurer General Re, said in a January report that insurers can promote the use of trigger locks and safety training. “The insurance industry can’t change the number of guns in existence,” Montross wrote. “We can influence how they are stored and encourage training so they are used safely.”
If the prospect of an insurance agent peering over your shoulder with the ability to veto your exercise of a constitutional right is chilling, then let’s go back to the car analogy to see where the insurance industry would go on guns. The insurance industry is largely responsible for the emergence of “Event Data Recorder” technology, the so-called “black box” installed in virtually every new car for the past decade. This device continually records your speed, throttle input and a host of other data points so they can be collected and analyzed after an accident. The data are increasingly being used in criminal prosecution and civil litigation.
Gun registration? That only tells them where the guns are. If the insurance industry calls the shots, the guns will also have to tattle about how they’re being used and stored.
But don’t worry – you’re in good hands.