We can fix the gun problem and make America safer without an expensive, dangerous, and futile “War on Guns.”
To solve the problem of keeping guns out of the wrong hands we must use an idea that limits losses from many other hazards: insurance.
Mandatory insurance makes people be responsible for choices that impose risks on others. We must require gun owners at any instant (maker, seller or buyer) have liability insurance to cover any harms that weapon causes.
Insurance payouts would go to the crime victims' compensation fund, whenever a crime involving guns is committed or a gun mishap occurs. The more victims, the bigger the payout. The greater the damage (from intimidation to multiple murders and permanent crippling), the greater the payout.
Insurers will also pay for other claims, such as when a minor commits suicide or kills a playmate with an unsecured weapon.
Insurance is very effective in getting people to adopt safe practices in return for lower premiums. And when gun crimes occur, the firm insuring it pays the claim. If no gun is found or the gun is uninsured, every fund will pay a pro-rated share of the claims based on how many guns they insure.
This will motivate insurers and responsible gun owners to treat uninsured guns as poison rather than an unavoidable result of the Second Amendment. Mandatory insurance will re-unite everyone’s interest in fighting the real problem with guns: guns in the hands of criminals, the reckless, the untrained, and juveniles.
The insurance will be from a private firm, not the government. Each insurer will seek to earn more premiums with fewer claims.
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So gun owners will ultimately choose the controls we will tolerate and the corresponding premiums. Rates will vary according to the gun we want to insure, our expertise, and claims history.
Newer, younger shooters and those who choose weapons that cause more claims will pay higher premiums so other owners, and with more training and claims-free history, will pay less.
Soon, the firms will emphasize cutting claims by promoting gun safety and fighting black market gun dealers, which is where many criminals get guns. And every legitimate gun owner will have a persuasive reason -- lower premiums -- to help in the fight.
Gun-control advocates will hate this because it forsakes the failed prohibitionist approach. But the evidence is clear: There is a way to prohibit guns without destroying our civil liberties. The organized gun lobby will hate it too because its power comes from sowing fear of gun prohibition.
This won't work instantly, but it will work because it breaks the deadlock about guns and how to keep them away from the wrong people, without denying anyone’s rights. It will end the lethal political deadlock over guns.
It's time for everyone, people who own and people who don’t, to work together to fight firearms in the wrong hands by fighting fire with FIRE: Firearm Insurance, Required Everywhere.
John Gear is an attorney in private practice in Salem. He first wrote about his proposal for mandatory insurance for guns in 1999. You may reach him at email@example.com
This article originally appeared on Salem Statesman Journal: Gun safety through mandatory arms insurance