States Consider Mandatory Insurance for Gun Owners

Friday, 22 Feb 2013 09:13 AM

By Lisa Barron

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Lawmakers in at least six states are weighing legislation that would make liability insurance mandatory for gun owners.

The state legislators — including those in California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania —want to provide a financial incentive for safe behavior, as those with less dangerous weapons or safety locks could qualify for lower rates, reports The New York Times.

“I believe that if we get the private sector and insurance companies involved in gun safety, we can help prevent a number of gun tragedies every year,” David Linsky, a Democratic state representative in Massachusetts, told the newspaper.

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Linsky wants to require gun owners to buy insurance, believing it will encourage more responsible behavior and reduce accidents. “Insurance companies are very good at evaluating risk factors and setting their premiums appropriately,” he said.

But many advocates for gun owners oppose the idea on the grounds that law-abiding citizens should not have to buy insurance in order to exercise their right under the Second Amendment to bear arms.

The National Rifle Association and other gun groups, however, are in favor of voluntary liability policies, and some, including the United States Concealed Carry Association, are in fact selling their own policies to cover part of the legal costs stemming from self-defense shootings.

States have in the past considered legislation requiring gun owners to buy liability insurance, but none have yet passed a bill doing so.

Nelson Lund, the Patrick Henry professor of Constitutional Law and the Second Amendment at George Mason University School of Law, proposed the idea in a 1987 article in the Alabama Law Review.

“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,” he wrote.

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