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Firearms Insurance

by Tim Isbell, 4/26/2013


4/28/2013 update: Two days after posting this page we discovered that other people had this idea earlier. Here are some links to news sources describing these:

I also posted this webpage in various other online channels. One of these was the Google+ Community Smart Gun Policy, where it received some lively communications. I think the only way to read that post and its comment stream is to have a Google+ account and join the Smart Gun Policy community. Then you can search for my post within it. Once there, and find some interesting back and forth.

1/22/2015 update: This whole 2nd Amendment issue remains contentious and nothing much has happened in the nearly 2 years since the first post. The most enlightening (to me, at least) reaction to the original post was how resistant the gun proponents are to any kind of unified record keeping of who has guns. They even have put laws in place making the construction of a registry virtually impossible. Not having a unified registry is a real problem in moving toward responsible gun ownership. For more on this, click here. My opinion is that this issue is ridiculous for the population to tolerate. 

Here is the original post:

Yesterday I was sitting at a table with my wife, her brother and her mother having a somewhat typical family conversation. It started out with our current storm of medical crises, drifted to a hilarious David Cross YouTube clip, then to talking about The Daily Show. Soon my brother-in-law, who occasionally makes random associations, said something to the effect, "I don't see why someone doesn't bring up the idea of applying capitalism to the gun control issue."

"What do you mean," I asked.

Joel quickly reeled off 3-4 sentences about letting the free market sort out the issues through an insurance system for guns that is similar to the insurance system we all accept for automobiles. He reasoned that the price for various people owning various kinds of firearms would vary according to the risk, and be a function of empirical data and actuarial tables. I suppose the conversation went on for a few more moments, but I was lost in thought about Joel's idea. It sounded astonishingly reasonable. Pretty soon I interrupted whatever they had drifted into talking about and said, "Hey, Joel, I really like your idea to use insurance to sort out the gun control issue! If you'll write it up I'll see if I can get it in front of some people who might be able to do something with it."

He said yes. I asked him when I could have it. He said, "Tomorrow."

Within 8 hours the first draft was in my inbox. Soonhours, it was ready to post. Now I'm trying to get it out, and I hope you will help me. I'll get to how you can help, but first, here's the..

Executive summary

In all 50 states, victims of death, injury, or property damage caused by automobile accidents are entitled to financial compensation from the vehicle owner at fault. This is overwhelmingly supported by a requirement for possession of current liability insurance, or in a few cases, proof of financial means to pay damages (New Hampshire, Mississippi, Virginia).

Firearms ownership should be no different. When a weapon is transported into any public space, by anyone, the owner of that firearm should incur an implicit financial liability for the accidental discharge or intentional misuse of that weapon.

The 2nd Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms. With that right comes the same degree of responsibility that we insist that drivers bear.

And, here's the plan to get this idea out

  • It is (obviously) already posted here.
  • I'll send out this webpage's link to my email and RSS subscribers.
  • I'll post the link at No Labels, Google+, and FaceBook. 
  • I'll send the link to my 3 members of Congress (2 Senators, 1 Representative).
  • I'll do a little research to find out who in Washington is key to this issue and send them the link, too.
  • And I'll give you this link so you can find out how to contact your congresspersons: Common Cause Take Action.

Finally, here is Joel's full paper

It really was written in only a few hours, but I presume he'd been at least thinking about it much longer in the background. At the very least, it adds a new dimension to the gun control conversation. 

You can read it by simply scrolling it on your computer screen. To download it, just click on this link and you will get the Google Docs version - which you can download to Word or other formats. 

Firearms Liability Insurance

If you have questions or comments about the idea itself, send them straight to Joel Askey at Joel's Google+ link.

For a later post on this subject, click on Firearm Keys & Liability.

Tim Isbell

Other links of interest:

Firearms Research: the Gunfighter. A Scientific American article about Garen Wintemute, a controversial researcher of gun violence in the United States.