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  xMonday, May 05, 2003

(continued from the previous post)

That's why I suggest that guns not so much be banned or regulated as insured. After all, we require liability insurance on automobiles out of the realization that a driver can inflict massive harm, even by accident. Insurance on cars can help compensate the injured for their medical claims, even if the at-fault driver can't pay the medical bills.

If someone can't afford the insurance, there's little reason to beleive he or she can accept financial responsibility for the damage they may cause, and so few would argue that such a person should be permitted to drive. And insurance companies get into the act of assessing risk; if a person is convicted of repeat drunken driving, for example, he or she may find it hard to obtain insurance, or be foreced to pay dearly for the privilege, while cautious, reasonable, law-abiding drivers get a deserved price break.

The same rules should apply to guns, and would go a long way to satisfying legitimate public safety goals without criminalizing guns or imposing an undue burden on law-abiding, reasonable gun owners. Many fear the "slippery slope" coming into play. But insurance need not carry the threat of legal intrusion -- it should operate the way car insurance does, with an officer being entitled to demand proof if the owner is stopped for some other reason. For example, cheap "Saturday Night Specials" are dangerous even to the person that wields them, and of little use for anything other than crime. Yet legislation to outlaw them runs afoul of the Second Amendment; there's no easy legal distinction between such guns and legitimate weapons.

But if they were required to carry insurance, such cheap, dangerous weapons would no doubt carry a high price tag. While insurance laws would not necessarily deter genuine criminals, neither would they keep guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens for self defence. (Posession of an uninsured gun could also carry a criminal penalty; if not a deterrent, such a law could at least help keep violent criminals locked up.) And let's face it: Not a few assaults and murders are carried out by so-called "law abiding citizens" in a moment of rage or poor judgement; others fall victims to carelessness. Mandatory insurance can help alleviate the damage done, and serve as a reminder to gun owners of their responsibility.

(continued in the next post)





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