Making Gun Owners A More Attractive Target For Lawyers: Requiring Liability Insurance

NPR floats the idea on their Planet Money blog that gun owners should be required to buy liability insurance.

One economist (Justin Wolters) put it this way:

“The real problem with gun ownership is that they involve “externalities,” which is economist-speak for the fact that your gun may be used to hurt others. For instance, when Nancy Lanza purchased her Bushmaster AR-15, she probably weighed the benefits of owning the gun—the joy of ownership—with the price (about $800). But it’s unlikely she considered the loss, pain and grief that might follow if it were used by her son to kill 26 innocents. When people fail to consider the broader social costs of choices like buying a gun, they’re more likely to do them, and society suffers.”

But what about what Society gains from widespread gun ownership?

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I don’t personally own a gun right now. I’ve got other more pressing economic issues than the current price of becoming proficient and safe with a gun—partially the result, no doubt, of growing up in a family that was not “into” gun culture. But I would feel immeasurably safer in a neighborhood of widespread gun ownership than one in which most people were disarmed. I know the statistics and criminals learn not to break into houses in areas where there are a lot of people who own guns. Since those crimes are avoided, they never make splashy headlines.

So why shouldn’t gun owners be rewarded? (Economist Russ Roberts makes a similar point in the Planet Money blog)

But there is another problem. Liability Insurance is a notoriously unsatisfying experience for many people. If your own reputation and money is on the line, and you feel that your accusers are wrong, then you tend to fight tooth and nail for your rights in course. Insurers have no such feelings of urgency. So not only would initial price of the insurance discourage gun ownership, but it would encourage trial lawyers to sue because their chances of gaining a settlement would rise. It would also probably make juries more likely to side with plaintiffs, since the issue would no longer be between two people, but between a person who feels aggrieved and a faceless corporation that has lots of money. So liability insurance would rise steeply.

Requiring liability insurance would also increase the injustice between “civilians” and cops (who are also supposed to be civilians!) that we already see in the United States. It is notoriously difficult to hold a cop personally responsible for the damage he does with his handgun (or his taser!). He is protected by layers of bureaucracy and legal double standards.

Finally, the scenario mentioned by the advocates of liability insurance leave me puzzled. I understand that, because my children and I are one economic unit, that I can be sued for damages that they do. But what if a stranger steals my car and runs down school children on the sidewalk? Is my insurance supposed to pay out claim to all the victims or victim’s relatives as if I am responsible for what is done by a criminal? The criminal should be held responsible; not me.

This whole conversation, in light of Fast and Furious, is so horribly hypocritical and blind. We have a movement (gun control) being orchestrated by people who have committed real gun crimes that resulted in many deaths. They not only get away with it, but get an invitation from the Liberals and the Media to gain more authority over guns, to the detriment of private gun owners who have never hurt anyone.

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