Gun Insurance, Permits, and Licenses

New Orleans  Somehow I had missed this proposal, but stumbled across it on the interweb by chance. Several people were arguing back and forth about mandatory insurance for gun owners. Interesting.

The notion seemed to be that in addition to a requirement that gun owners be required to obtain a permit to openly carry a gun in public and, increasingly, private spaces, that they should also be required to buy and carry proof of insurance for carrying the guns in order to potentially compensate for the damages and destruction triggered by this exercise of their supposed Second Amendment rights in bearing the arms. There’s a certain logic in all of this. Perhaps such mandatory insurance might offset the cost in physical and mental damage to victims of such tragedies as we have seen in Connecticut, Nevada, Texas and elsewhere on an almost daily basis.

Would it act to prevent any of these disasters? Not likely. Car insurance is mandatory, but the only penalty is a fine when caught and possibly loss of a driver’s license to operate motor vehicles in the future. Health insurance is mandatory at least for a little longer, and, though not exactly enforced, does come with a penalty for lack of coverage, because of the public costs triggered by the lack of insurance. Congress, responsible for the public good and common interest, seems more concerned by their personal interest in votes and contributions due to the employer protest and some individual complaints about having to pay one or the other. So, whether good public policy or not, insurance is likely a nonstarter.

But, how about a license for firearms? Right now, everyone but pure scofflaws and poachers know that you need a fishing license or hunting license to take fish or game from the public domain for private use. The money goes for enforcement, conservation, and replenishing the stock, and has public support. An open carry permit doesn’t begin to pay for the increased enforcement needed. An annual and recurring license for every firearm though would begin to meet the public demands of public safety if priced at market rates.

Certainly nothing stops lawbreakers or principled libertarians, but public policy would seem to demand an accommodation between those demanding their rights to own guns and the demands of other members of the polity for more public safety – and protection – from those who have the guns. The pricing, if realistic, would not end the desire to own guns for those that want or need them, but would limit the arsenals, even for the law abiding, to what they could afford to keep and maintain financially.

At least that would be a modest step in the right direction. Recently in Indianapolis a comrade and I were eating grand slams for dinner at a Denny’s. A late 80’s gentleman in the booth ahead of us got up with a wobble and tried to steady his gait as he left. Surprisingly, I saw a holstered pistol snug against his hip as he rose. Were he ever to un-holster that gun, the odds of damage in the community would be huge, because there is almost no way that his aim might be true. He would be tested behind the wheel, but with his hand on the trigger, he could fire at will.

Even if public policy is failing at prevention at least public policy can address the inevitable outcomes better.

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