When I first suggested this a couple of years ago, a lot of people thought I was cuckoo. But it seems like gun liability insurance is an idea whose time has finally come. And what’s not to like for politicians? After all, free market! Insurance donors! One of the points raised in this article is that insurance would not cover willful acts, but that’s not true in the case of a minor child. Lots of ways for the underwriters to fine tune it, too. (For instance, a willful act by a family member with known mental illness.) I hope this becomes reality, because so far, gun owners have rarely suffered any financial consequences for their carelessness or negligence:
Both sides in a nation sharply divided over guns seem to agree on at least one thing: a bigger role for the insurance industry in a heavily armed society. But just what that role should be, and whether insurers will choose to accept it, are much in dispute.
Lawmakers in at least half a dozen states, including California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania, have proposed legislation this year that would require gun owners to buy liability insurance — much as car owners are required to buy auto insurance. Doing so would give a financial incentive for safe behavior, they hope, as people with less dangerous weapons or safety locks could qualify for lower rates.
“I believe that if we get the private sector and insurance companies involved in gun safety, we can help prevent a number of gun tragedies every year,” said David P. Linsky, a Democratic state representative in Massachusetts who wants to require gun owners to buy insurance. He believes it will encourage more responsible behavior and therefore reduce accidental shootings. “Insurance companies are very good at evaluating risk factors and setting their premiums appropriately,” he added.
Groups representing gun owners oppose efforts to make insurance mandatory, arguing that law-abiding people should not be forced to buy insurance to exercise their constitutional right to bear arms. But some groups, including the National Rifle Association, endorse voluntary liability policies for their members. And as several states pass laws making it easier for people to carry concealed weapons and use them for self-defense, some gun groups are now selling policies to cover some of the legal costs stemming from self-defense shootings.
[…] The insurance industry is wary of some of the proposals to require gun owners to buy liability coverage — and particularly of bills, like one that was filed in New York that would require coverage for damages resulting not only from negligence but also from “willful acts.”
Robert P. Hartwig, the president of the Insurance Information Institute, said that insurance generally covered accidents and unintentional acts — not intentional or illegal ones. “Insurance will cover you if your home burns down in an electrical fire, but it will not cover you if you burn down your own house, and you cannot insure yourself for arson,” he said.
Some claims stemming from shootings have been covered by homeowners’ insurance — even by policies that said they did not cover illegal acts.
The families of the two students responsible for the 1999 killings at Columbine High School in Colorado were able to use money from their homeowners’ policies to settle a lawsuit brought by families of most of the victims. In 2001, a California court ordered an insurance company to defend a policyholder whose 16-year-old son shot and killed a friend with a Beretta handgun that he had found in his mother’s coat. But the year before, a North Carolina court ruled that an insurance company did not have to cover the expenses of a policyholder who had shot and wounded a prowler on his property.
Christopher J. Monge, an insurance agent and gun owner in Verona, Wis., recently wrote a book, “The Gun Owner’s Guide to Insurance for Concealed Carry and Self-Defense,” which he sells at gun shows. Mr. Monge said that the problem with most liability insurance is that it promises coverage only in cases of a gun owner’s negligence, or an accidental shooting — and not if the gun owner shoots someone intentionally in self-defense. “A negligent act is covered by your liability policy, but if you intentionally shoot somebody, it could be excluded,” he said.
H/t Thomas Soldan.