Should gun owners have to buy liability insurance?

sullysully Posts: 4,615 ✭✭✭✭✭
edited February 2013 in The Social Lounge
All kinds of proposals to reduce gun violence have been floated recently. One idea that has gotten the attention of economists is liability insurance. Most states require car owners to have liability insurance to cover damages their vehicles cause to others; some economists think we should require the same of gun owners.

We reached out to a few economists to get their thoughts.

Justin Wolfers, professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan, wrote:
The real problem with gun ownership is that they involve "externalities," which is economist-speak for the fact that your gun may be used to hurt others. For instance, when Nancy Lanza purchased her Bushmaster AR-15, she probably weighed the benefits of owning the gun — the joy of ownership — with the price (about $800). But it's unlikely she considered the loss, pain and grief that might follow if it were used by her son to kill 26 innocents. When people fail to consider the broader social costs of choices like buying a gun, they're more likely to do them, and society suffers.

The economic answer is simple: Make potential gun owners take account of these potential social costs. One way to do this would be to charge an annual license fee for each gun you keep. Research by economists Phil Cook and Jens Ludwig suggests that the typical social cost of one more gun-owning household is somewhere between $100 and $1,800 per year. While that's a wide range, if we set a gun ownership license fee this high, it would force gun owners to face the true social costs of their choices, which would lead many fewer to buy guns.

Another even more powerful approach is to recognize that the problem isn't guns per se, but gun violence. Thus, instead of taxing guns, we should tax gun violence. Basically, this is the same as saying that we should make gun owners liable for any damage their guns do. Not only would this discourage some people from buying guns, it would lead those who do keep guns to be more careful with how they're stored. Indeed, greater care would surely have kept Adam Lanza out of his mother's cache. The problem, though, is that Nancy Lanza is neither with us to pay the damages her gun caused, nor could she afford to pay for the enormous damage her gun wrought in Newtown. And so the only way this solution works is if guns required mandatory liability insurance, much as we force car owners to buy insurance for the damage their machines wreak.

It's the sort of careful solution that would enable people who enjoy hunting to continue with their passions, but also push them to take the sorts of precautions that we all wish the Lanza household had taken. If the gun lobby were smart, and if they really are interested in being socially responsible while keeping their weapons, they would be pushing hard for this sort of policy.


Next, Russ Roberts, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and host of EconTalk:
Is it a good idea to require gun owners to purchase liability insurance that would cover damages caused by the guns they own? In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, such policies seem like nothing more than common sense. The cost of the insurance would deter some from owning guns or at least from owning an arsenal, as the cost of insurance would presumably rise with the size of one's collection. And there is a certain logic to requiring insurance. When a person purchases a gun, she may not consider the possible harm that might come to others from the eventual use of the gun. Adding the cost of insurance might make the purchaser bear the full cost of the gun in the future, which could easily exceed the purchase itself. After all, registering a car requires insurance on the grounds that cars can cause involuntary harm to others. The insurance forces the driver to bear those costs that might come to pass that are borne by others in an accident.

But the logic is not quite as neat as it might appear. Many people already buy and own guns illegally without license or registration. Adding the cost of insurance would further discourage honest gun ownership. That would make matters worse, not better. And is it so obvious that all guns are harmful to others and that gun ownership should be made more expensive to every owner? When an honest, law-abiding citizen uses a gun in self-defense, it often protects those nearby who are unarmed. Perhaps gun ownership should be subsidized for honest people. I don't think this is a good idea, but raising the cost of gun ownership, particularly for good and honest people who are likely to use a gun only in self-defense, is not a free lunch.

What is really behind the call for liability insurance is the natural urge to make it harder for people to own guns. Such a law might do some good if it made dishonest and violent people less likely to own guns. But liability insurance makes gun ownership more expensive for honest, law-abiding people while encouraging dishonest and dangerous people to own guns in ways we cannot see.


And, Robert Frank, professor of economics at Cornell University:
Gun ownership, even in the hands of responsible people, increases the risk of death and serious injury to others. In cases involving multiple deaths, few gun owners could afford to compensate victims' families for their losses, just as most automobile owners couldn't afford to compensate the families of accident victims. With automobiles, we require all vehicle owners to carry liability insurance. A similar approach would help with firearms.

Nothing in the constitution grants people the right to expose others to serious risk without compensation. Insurance sellers are skillful at estimating the risks posed by drivers with specific characteristics, and we could expect them to be similarly skillful at assessing the risks posed by gun owners. Requiring liability insurance isn't a total solution to the problem of excessive risk, either for autos or for guns. But in both cases, it's a positive step.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2013/01/31/170700177/should-gun-owners-have-to-buy-liability-insurance?utm_source=npr&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=20130131

Replies

  • jonojono Right fist = power, left fist = unity Posts: 18,958 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Let's add this to the mix:

    About 1.4 million firearms were stolen during
    household burglaries and other property crimes
    between 2005 and 2010, the U.S. Bureau of
    Justice Statistics said today. That is about
    232,400 firearms stolen each year— 172,000
    during burglaries and 60,300 during other
    crimes. Of the guns stolen, at least 80 percent
    had not been recovered up to six months after
    being stolen.

    Longer trends from 1994 to 2010 show a 49
    percent decline in the total number of
    victimizations involving the theft of at least one
    firearm, from
    about 283,600 victimizations in 1994 to about
    145,300 in 2010. Handguns were the most
    commonly stolen firearm from 2005 through
    2010. More than one gun was stolen in 39
    percent of burglaries and 15 percent of other
    property crimes involving gun theft. About three
    out of four household property crimes involving
    stolen firearms were in households headed by
    white non-Hispanic persons. The majority of
    household burglaries (56 percent)
    or other property crimes (59 percent) involving
    stolen firearms occurred in the South.



    www.thecrimereport.org/news/crime-and-justice-news/2012-11-gunburglary-study-for-thursday-bjs


    That's a lot of fucking guns man. I will say that the idea of insurance unfairly burdens poor folks, that's just a fact. I been thinking about this...I'm leaning towards yes because for me it makes some sense. You have life, car, house, hell even cellphone and computer insurance why not gun insurance.


    I'll be watching the debate on this subject.
  • unspoken_respectunspoken_respect I smell tittys Posts: 8,986 ✭✭✭✭✭
    No, but they should be responsible for the damage done to others by their gun.
  • janklowjanklow god's lonely man. Posts: 6,448 Regulator
    see where the first guy outright says the purpose of the insurance would be to make fewer people purchase guns? i don't know if i need to add anything more to make my objection clear.
    Soloman_The_Wise
  • SocialAssassinRatiSocialAssassinRati Posts: 1,638 ✭✭✭✭✭
    No nigga wtf...shit is just dumb
    Soloman_The_Wise
  • Im pretty sure making gun owners purchase liability insurance wouldn't help at all if anything it would just piss people off.
    Soloman_The_Wise
  • ragerage Posts: 5,858 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I dont think liability insurance would work. I would favour some sort of plan where anything aside from Hand-guns or hunting rifles are stored at local gun ranges in "lockers". Owners could have access to their ARs, AKs, etc and shoot them in the environment that is designed for these type of weapons while still providing the general public with a reasonable amount of safety from the mass murder that these things are designed for.
    Big JamesSoloman_The_Wiseachewon87
  • Rubato GarciaRubato Garcia Posts: 4,053 ✭✭✭✭✭
    No, but they should be responsible for the damage done to others by their gun.

    Isn't that what this tries to accomplish? What would you suggest?

    Soloman_The_Wise
  • janklowjanklow god's lonely man. Posts: 6,448 Regulator
    rage wrote: »
    I dont think liability insurance would work. I would favour some sort of plan where anything aside from Hand-guns or hunting rifles are stored at local gun ranges in "lockers". Owners could have access to their ARs, AKs, etc and shoot them in the environment that is designed for these type of weapons while still providing the general public with a reasonable amount of safety from the mass murder that these things are designed for.
    none of these guns were designed for mass murder. you can keep saying this nonsense, but it'll never start being true.
    Soloman_The_Wise
  • achewon87achewon87 Midnight Marauder SDF-1Posts: 2,961 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I say "Yes"

    I mean if I have to buy it for my swimming pool and that is made strictly for leisure purposes then if you own a weapon legally then you should need to have insurance for that.
    Big JamesSoloman_The_Wise
  • ragerage Posts: 5,858 ✭✭✭✭✭
    janklow wrote: »
    rage wrote: »
    I dont think liability insurance would work. I would favour some sort of plan where anything aside from Hand-guns or hunting rifles are stored at local gun ranges in "lockers". Owners could have access to their ARs, AKs, etc and shoot them in the environment that is designed for these type of weapons while still providing the general public with a reasonable amount of safety from the mass murder that these things are designed for.
    none of these guns were designed for mass murder. you can keep saying this nonsense, but it'll never start being true.
    You can keep denying that FACT and you will still be wrong. Assault rifles have only one purpose and that is to kill as many people as possible in the shortest amount time. People with far more knowledge on this topic than you or I have made this clear. To believe anything else is either moronic or intentionally dense.
    Soloman_The_Wiseachewon87
  • Jabu_RuleJabu_Rule Don't believe the hype Posts: 4,717 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited February 2013
    janklow wrote: »
    rage wrote: »
    I dont think liability insurance would work. I would favour some sort of plan where anything aside from Hand-guns or hunting rifles are stored at local gun ranges in "lockers". Owners could have access to their ARs, AKs, etc and shoot them in the environment that is designed for these type of weapons while still providing the general public with a reasonable amount of safety from the mass murder that these things are designed for.
    none of these guns were designed for mass murder. you can keep saying this nonsense, but it'll never start being true.

    I thought they were designed for battle which was purposeful for murdering lots of people with smaller amounts of soldiers required? Are we fighting 100s of jungle cats? Did they make the Gatling Gun for clearing corn fields? I guess nuclear weapons weren't made for wiping out sections of cities.
    Melanin_Enriched Soloman_The_Wiseachewon87
  • 2stepz_ahead2stepz_ahead Who I am is Complex, What i am, simply put. I'm a Threat walking out the lions denPosts: 15,844 ✭✭✭✭✭
    No, but they should be responsible for the damage done to others by their gun.

    this holds some weight.

    think about it....you'd be mad as hell if someone stole you gun and you have to go to court to prove they stole it and may face jail time.

    i bet you'd be a bit more careful where you put it, if you even buy a gun.
    unspoken_respect
  • janklowjanklow god's lonely man. Posts: 6,448 Regulator
    rage wrote: »
    You can keep denying that FACT and you will still be wrong. Assault rifles have only one purpose and that is to kill as many people as possible in the shortest amount time.
    i'll point this out again: there are millions of these rifles that have been purchased and are not being used to kill "as many people as possible." clearly these rifles have other purposes. people use ARs for hunting, self-defense and competitive shooting every day.

    and, again, the "assault weapon" concept is based on "how mean does this rifle look," and nothing more. please start calling them "weapons of war" again so i can point out how politicians like Feinstein specifically exempt weapons designed for the military while attacking firearms designed for civilian use.

    the fact that you're relying so heavily on this hyperbole of "they're for MURDER" speaks volumes. stop pretending there's some kind of equivalency between your and my levels of firearm knowledge.
    FuriousOne wrote: »
    I thought they were designed for battle which was purposeful for murdering lots of people with smaller amounts of soldiers required?
    you can actually pause there, because these guns in many case were not "designed for battle" (we can start with the fact that no select-fire rifles are being discussed). and even rifles designed for the military would not meet the rest of that description.
    Soloman_The_WisePlutarch
  • dr funky resurrecteddr funky resurrected Posts: 963 ✭✭✭✭
    janklow wrote: »
    see where the first guy outright says the purpose of the insurance would be to make fewer people purchase guns? i don't know if i need to add anything more to make my objection clear.

    exactly, why should the law abiding legal gun owner be punished because someone else broke into his or her home
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