Why require gun owners to pay premiums for liability insurance?

March 4, 2013

Insurance LawMandatory liability insurance for gun owners is currently a “hot topic”.  It has been said that mandatory liability insurance would not be a deterrent to gun violence.  “Liability insurance might compensate for such costs, but it’s also hard not to wonder if the most violent criminals that own guns would even register their weapons anyway, much less buy liability insurance because the law says so.”  Nin-Hai Tseng, “Can U.S. Insurers Stop Gun Violence?” (CNNMoney).

The idea conveyed in that sentence we just quoted is ridiculous on its face.

During our mutual experiences in the actual world of Insurance Coverage for a combined seven decades or more, we have learned that making the purchase of liability insurance mandatory makes many people take the covered activity more seriously.  For example, we have found that mandating the purchase of automobile  liability insurance makes many people including some teenagers approach their driving experiences a little more cautiously, at the least, than they otherwise might.  Being legally required to pay liability insurance premiums many not inhibit the “most violent” road ragers from running over people and colliding with property, but it does have a deterrent effect that should not be ignored.

Further, there are the victims of dangerous instrumentalities.  It has rightly been pointed out that they benefit from mandatory liability insurance generally, and that they will almost certainly benefit from mandatory gun liability insurance in particular.  See Nin-Hai Tseng, supra.

The current discussions of this hot topic highlight the need to focus on the purposes of making the purchase of gun liability insurance mandatory.  So far, the inquiry appears to derive from a 1987 Alabama Law Review article.  Twenty-six years later, the author of that article points out that the wording of statutory provisions or administrative regulations making gun liability insurance mandatory, will be all-important.  See Michael Cooper and Mary Williams Walsh, “Buying a Gun?  States Consider Insurance Rule” p. A1, col. 6 (New York Times Nat’l ed., Friday, February 22, 2013).

It seems an opportune time to examine the purposes and the desired effects of making gun liability insurance mandatory.  In future articles posted here and on Insurance Claims and Issues Weblog, we will examine them together.

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