7:09 PM EST, January 24, 2013
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's Sandy Hook Advisory Commission might be the proper venue to consider an idea beginning to make the rounds after the Newtown massacre on Dec. 14: requiring gun owners to buy liability insurance.
Courant columnist Rick Green broached the subject this week, noting that no state has ever tried it and that requiring liability insurance "wouldn't stop a shooting and other crimes, of course, but it could add another layer of safety, perhaps making it more difficult for mentally unstable people to access firearms. It might also protect gun owners, keeping them away from high-risk situations."
A bill has been filed in the Massachusetts legislature requiring liability insurance for gun owners in that state. Such a policy would provide liability coverage in case a gun owner's firearm was ever used to injure someone.
Liability insurance — like that required of automobile drivers — is not a radical idea. There are no Second Amendment implications. It confiscates nothing.
But, as Dickinson College political scientist H.L. Pohlman writes, "Rapid-fire weapons capable of mass casualties would require higher premiums than less-lethal firearms. Some gun owners would avoid the high rates by purchasing less lethal weapons, decreasing over time the number of rapid-fire weapons and their accessories in American society."
According to a 1999 study, the annual medical costs for gunshot injuries are estimated at $2.3 billion, about half of which is paid by U.S. taxpayers.
There is enough risk and enough damage that an insurance requirement should be considered.
Mr. Malloy's panel, which will not report until March, may be best equipped to consider unusual suggestions. The liability insurance requirement for gun owners doesn't bear directly on the Newtown tragedy, but if it promoted safer gun use and resulted in less violence, it's close enough.
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