Insurance liability

Law on liability insurance eyed for gun owners

by David Sherfinski, The Washington Times  |  published on January 3, 2013

Hoping to get beyond the debate over new gun-control laws, a group of economists and legal scholars is floating another plan they say could cut down on spree shootings: require all gun owners to carry liability insurance, similar to what automobile owners must have.

The plan, which was floated in Illinois’ legislature in 2009, draws the ire of gun-rights groups who say it infringes on Americans’ Second Amendment rights and unfairly targets law-abiding gun owners. But backers say it offers a way to ferret out potentially dangerous or unstable criminals from the ranks of gun owners without having the federal government enact outright bans.

The horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. last month ignited a new national debate over gun law, but the liability insurance proposal may not have prevented that tragedy. Shooter Adam Lanza used firearms owned by his mother to kill her and then 26 children and administrators at the school before taking his own life.

“If you own a gun, you should expect some due diligence of all people who own guns,” said Tricia Dunlap, a Richmond-based lawyer. “We can stop debating about whether you can own a gun, because of course you can. Do we ban assault weapons? No, it doesn’t work. God, we’ve been having that debate for 20 years. Can we come at it from a fresh angle?”

Nelson Lund, a constitutional-law professor at the George Mason University School of Law, suggested the idea 25 years ago in an article published in the Alabama Law Review and made a similar free-market argument.

“If this were done, the private insurance market would quickly and efficiently make it prohibitively expensive for people with a record of irresponsible ownership of guns to possess them legally, but would not impose unreasonable burdens on those who have the self-discipline to exercise their liberty in a responsible fashion,” Mr. Lund wrote.

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