It’s an old idea that hasn’t gotten a lot of play, but the recent events in Newtown and the seemingly endless impasse in our society over what if any restrictions should be applied to firearms has gotten a few people to start thinking outside the box. Hence Robert Cyran and Reynolds Holding have proposed that Congress should push for mandatory gun insurance.
Given the amount of licensing, regulation and insurance required to drive a car, why should guns be any different? One argument is that the right to bear arms is enshrined in our Constitution whereas the right to drive an automobile is not, but this idea fails when one considers the Ninth Amendment, which says that just because a right is not enumerated in the Constitution, doesn’t mean it is not a right. In other words, you DO have a constitutional right to drive a car. But the government has a compelling interest to regulate that right to prevent people from driving recklessly.
Mandating insurance on guns should be little different from automobiles. Pass a test to prove competency, renew your license every few years, and carry insurance on each weapon owned. Free markets, which everybody loves, “should be efficient at weighing the risks” say the authors, and they provide the following example:
So a shotgun owner who has hunted for years without incident could be charged far less than a first-time owner purchasing a semi-automatic. In other words, people would be financially discouraged from purchasing the most risky firearms and encouraged to attend gun safety classes and use trigger locks. And the insurance could provide some restitution for those hurt by guns.
Taking this a step further, why does this have to a federal law? Don’t states license drivers and register automobiles? Don’t states compel drivers to be insured? What is to prevent the Rhode Island General Assembly from passing some variation of mandatory gun insurance? Licensing and registering a gun should be as easy (or difficult) as a visit to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
The General Assembly might also consider other outside the box ideas. Tort reform might make it easier to sue the owners of guns that fall into the wrong hands, incentivizing gun owners to keep their weapons secure. Heavier taxes on weapons and ammunition could be a way to enrich government coffers.
The first step is banning assault weapons in our state. Let’s face it: throwing stars are technically illegal, but assault weapons aren’t? That’s just dumb. But after that, there is a lot of work to be done, and a compassionate, pioneering General Assembly could point the way towards a safer environment for everyone.