Lawmakers introduced a new bill to the House of Representatives in May, which has the potential to radically alter firearm safety by mimicking the auto-insurance model. The legislation, which would hold gun owners accountable for their actions, is an effort to reduce violence and gun accidents. New York Representative Carolyn Maloney introduced the potential legislation, the Firearm Risk Protection Act. The auto-insurance industry’s success in saving lives is due to what Maloney calls the “halo effect” – preventative drivers taking precautions.
Maloney’s bill would not only require gun owners to get a liability insurance plan, but it would also impose a $10,000 fine on any gun owner without a policy.
The logic behind such legislation is simple: if gun owners are held more accountable for their actions, then they are more likely to take precautions, which would result in less violence and accidents. In a statement, Maloney explained, “we require insurance to own a car, but no such requirement exists for guns. The results are clear: car fatalities have declined by 25% in the last decade, but gun fatalities continue to rise.”
Comparing this potential liability insurance to auto insurance, while interesting, is not without flaws. Though cars can be incredibly dangerous if handled by reckless or unqualified individuals, vehicles are not designed to inflict harm like a firearm. Furthermore, the current insurance model does not protect individuals from intentional crime.
By placing an additional cost on owning a gun, the bill would theoretically limit the pool of those capable of affording firearms, which raises questions of socioeconomic discrimination. Despite the questions that the legislation brings to light, the Firearm Risk Protection Act is a potential step forward in the wake of a string of horrific and preventable acts of gun violence. The timing of this legislation is pertinent given the most recent violent gun tragedy in Charleston, South Carolina, in which a man shot and murdered numerous African Americans in their local church.
Tragedy has fueled passion for gun control in the past with the crimes in Columbine, Aurora and Newtown, but the NRA and others have remained staunchly in support of their Second Amendment rights. Perhaps this liability insurance model will help both sides take steps toward firearm protection reform. While it is unlikely this legislation can ultimately stop acts of mass violence, it would at the very least open the door to monetary compensation for victims and their families.