Can mandatory liability insurance for gun owners reduce violence?

The idea has been around for years, and it might seem obvious enough: If gun owners were required to purchase liability insurance, proponents argue, they would have to follow safe practices to reduce their financial and legal risks, and thus reduce incidents of gun violence.

But as New Jersey and San Jose, California have found, putting an idea into practice can be very difficult.

New Jersey’s recently enacted gun control law that among other things requires gun carriers to purchase mandatory liability insurance was scheduled to go into effect July 1, until It was banned by US District Judge Renée Marie Pompe.

Pomp cited a Supreme Court ruling in 2022 on gun permits, ruling that parts of the law went too far and violated the right to bear arms. “The insurance mandate regulates who may carry firearms in public,” she wrote, explaining how the state was overstepping its constitutional authority, dealing a blow to the measure.

If implemented, the insurance requirement in New Jersey would be the first of its kind statewide.

For years, policymakers and lawmakers have been trying to come up with a solution to America’s complex and increasingly entrenched problem of gun violence. According to data compiled by CBS News, in 2023 so far, there have been 276 mass shootings — more than double the number of five years ago. There have been more than 18,600 firearm deaths this year, According to the Gun Violence Archive. According to the archives, more than 10,500 people were killed by suicide, and 118 children under the age of 12 were killed by guns.

Can insurance change behaviour?

Compulsory liability insurance has been proposed as a market-driven law for years, but the idea started to gain traction after the 2012 Sandy Hook shootings that left 20 children dead.

Supporters say the insurance market will ensure gun owners follow safe practices and avoid risky decisions in order to avoid paying high premiums or losing coverage, similar to the model for auto or health insurance.

“Insurance companies can’t tell us to do anything, but what they can do is make decisions about whether to insure us,” Peter Kuchenberger, visiting professor of law at Southern University Law Center told CBS News. Kochenburger filed a report with the court in the New Jersey case.

But gun rights advocates have vehemently opposed the idea and have successfully used the court system to block these proceedings.

Opponents say mandatory insurance coverage unconstitutionally regulates who can carry firearms and interferes with Second Amendment rights — the legal basis for Bumb’s New Jersey ruling.

that Ordained in San Jose, California, Requiring gun owners to purchase liability insurance has also been mired in litigation since its passage in 2022. The municipality has yet to implement the mandate since it was sued in federal court by gun rights groups.

the law Gun owners are required to purchase insurance and pay a fee of $25. The city will distribute these fees to a nonprofit which will then disburse the money for programs designed to reduce gun violence. A gun rights organization filed a lawsuit in federal court in San Jose the same day the ordinance was passed.

Shera Lauren Feldman, legal advisor to Brady United, who made friendly notes to both New Jersey and San Jose. “The gun lobby’s use of the courts to delay the implementation of gun violence prevention measures in a wide range of cases is deeply disappointing.”

But, she added, the legal battle is worth fighting. “We are optimistic that many of these laws will eventually become constitutional, and we look forward to their entry into force.”

A uniquely American idea

Proponents say that imposing liability insurance on gun owners exploits long-established and trusted American ideas about market power to address a uniquely American problem.

In their friend’s brief, Brady referred to the first property insurance company founded by Benjamin Franklin In Philadelphia in 1752 To encourage homeowners to implement safety measures after a series of fires in the city. He started it so that homeowners could get together to “share the risk,” the company he said on his website It highlights the long history played by insurance in American culture.

Insurance in other industries works in similar ways.

Liability insurance can reduce gun violence by “leveraging the ability of insurers to collect and analyze data in risk ratings,” says Kochenburger, a law professor, and using risk-based pricing to encourage “safer gun purchase, storage, and use.”

Insurance companies can set a premium based on gun owners’ history, similar to how they issue auto premiums based on past accidents, tickets, and driving records. Car owners with good driving records get better rates as safety and caution are rewarded.

“Insurers and insurance companies have a long track record of reducing aggregate risk in some markets, such as workers’ compensation and employee safety, building construction, and areas of professional malpractice,” Kochenburger writes. in a legal article.

Kochenburger says this approach is “worth a try.” But he warns that insurers may not have enough underwriting risk to meet the challenge.

outside the scope of insurance coverage

Some insurance companies currently offer different types of firearm liability coverage under homeowner, awning, and renter policies since there is no specific exclusion. However, most insurance companies do not offer separate gun liability coverage and no insurance company provides coverage for illegal or “criminal” acts, such as mass shootings.

Kochenburger cautioned that insurers may not underwrite specialty firearms policies outside of existing policies for several reasons, including legal or, more likely, reputational risks. Kuchenberger said insurers may not want to be involved “especially when they are seen as controlling funds and settlement discussions” regarding gun violence or mass shootings.

John Schnautz, assistant vice president for state affairs at the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, a trade association that represents insurers, told CBS News that he “doesn’t see a role our industry can play” in gun insurance policies. In a 2013 brief, a NAMIC consultant wrote: “From the outset, the issue has been more of a public relations phenomenon than a serious debate about politics.”

Aside from some negligence or accidental acts, the vast majority of firearm-related injuries are intentional, Schnautz said, and that’s outside the scope of insurance coverage. Similar to not covering a home that burned down due to arson, insurance will not be able to cover gun homicides or suicides.

The NRA sued its affiliate, New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs, against New Jersey legislation that “requires gun owners to have insurance that doesn’t appear to exist in the state.”

When the NRA San Jose Ordinance passed Post a news release Saying “taxing lawful property and claiming insurance won’t help reduce gun violence, which is often committed by repeat offenders who won’t pay fees or get insurance.”

An NRA spokeswoman told CBS News that “our position should be very clear.”

But Kuchenberger says it is time to change the direction of the debate. Insurers and insurers must be seen as allies in the fight against this ongoing American tragedy.”

Scott Knowlton contributed reports.

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