Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Why gun insurance won't work

The New York Times published an interesting letter to the editor last week.

To the Editor:

In “How Many Deaths Are Enough?” (column, Jan. 18), Bob Herbert recommends stricter licensing and registration of guns, more vigorous background checks and a ban on assault weapons. I agree.

And I have another suggestion: gun insurance. Mandatory liability insurance for gun owners sounds to me like an idea whose time has come. With this approach, we can respect what many interpret as a constitutional right to bear arms, while at the same time making those who possess and use weapons pay for the risk that they pose to the rest of us.

Caroline Herzenberg
Chicago, Jan. 18, 2011

While it's an interesting idea, I can see a number of problems with mandatory insurance for gun-owners. First, you can't get insurance for intentional acts. That's because insurance insures against risk -- meaning accidents -- while intentional acts are not risks, they are certainties. The standard Massachusetts auto policy, for example, insures only against "accidents," which it defines as as "an unexpected, unintended event." Thus, the insurance will provide coverage if the insured driver skids on ice and injures a pedestrian, but it will not provide coverage if the driver purposefully aims for the pedestrian and runs him down.

Gun insurance might provide coverage for a hunting accident, but it wouldn't provide coverage for intentionally shooting someone.

Even if there could be gun insurance for intentional assaults, the administration of it would be quite difficult. Would the insurance be purchased annually, like car insurance, as long as the person owned the gun? What about the large percentage of gun crimes that are committed with stolen guns? Would the original owner -- or the gun store -- be responsible for insurance ad infinitum after the gun was stolen?

Thanks to my friend Nomi Herbstrom for bringing the letter to my attention.

1 comment:

Henry Stern, LUTCF, CBC said...

Your post has been included in this week's Cavalcade of Risk:

Please let your readers know.

Thank you!