Proposed bills have been introduced in the House (HR-38) and the Senate (S-446) which would allow holders of permits to carry firearms in all states. They have gathered a substantial number of sponsors. The current language of the bills is very broad and would not only prevent state restrictions on out of state permit holders but allow residents of states without a permit requirement to carry firearms nationwide. There are provisions to allow persons arrested under state laws to recover damages and legal expenses.
If this law passes states will have great difficulty enforcing any restrictions on gun carrying because of the difficulty in establishing that a person is not a resident of another state and because of the difficulty of checking the validity of out-of-state permits. There will be great pressure on states to relax requirements for their own citizens to match those of other states with no restrictions.
In this situation, an insurance mandate could be very important in providing at least some responsibility requirement.
A Concealed Carry Reciprocity (CCR) law is likely to be used by persons illegally selling guns in places like Chicago or New York City. A resident with a driver’s license from a state like West Virginia which doesn’t require a permit could claim that his stock in trade was just his personal protection. If stopped in a suspicious situation by a local law enforcement officer, there is no quick way to find out if this person is prohibited from owning a firearm.
A requirement for insurance that only applies to guns carried in public places should still be well designed to protect all victims. It should be a no-fault kind of insurance; both because fault is often hard to establish and because the point should be victim compensation, not shooter protection. It should apply to injuries produced by a certain gun not by a certain owner or gun user.
When such a mandate is adopted, the insurance industry will at first claim they can’t or won’t write such insurance. But when the requirement takes effect, there will be insurers that see the market opportunity and the need to serve their customers and make the needed insurance available. This is what happened with cars starting in the 1929.
The NRA and advocates for loose gun carrying laws claim that persons with permits rarely commit crimes. Even if this were true in the past, it would have been in a time where applications for permits were carefully veted. New experience with much broader or even completely unchecked carrying is likely to be different. And, while statistics tend to show relatively few accidential shootings, intentional shootings based on mistaken belief of a threat are not counted as accidents and are likely to increase with more persons carrying guns. Out-of-state gun carriers from states that don’t require training will include some who find threats everywhere. Their victims deserve compensation; but in many states stand your ground laws leave the economic losses with victims even in case of shooter error. This is a strong reason for making required gun insurance be no-fault insurance.
Probably the most serious danger that widespread gun carrying is loss or theft of guns from public places. Stories of guns left in restrooms or unlocked cars are commonplace. Suitable insurance should continue to cover a gun after the owner looses control of it, either permanently or in the moment. For an insurer to drop responsibility, there should be a requirement to meet a number of conditions:
Any certificates should be surrendered or expired
There should be a signed statement that the owner has control of the gun and understands it is no longer elegible for carry in public.
Appropriate authorities should be notified that the gun is no longer insured
There also needs to be a way for injuried persons and for authorities to check the insurance status of a gun after an incident or when the gun is encountered by law enforcement. Since most guns aren’t covered by registration requirements and establishing gun registration is so politically difficult, we should only register the insurance. Insurers only have to report the gun’s serial number and the name of the insurer. This would enable checking for insurance and filing claims without registering the gun owners.
There are many advantages of adopting a system of required gun insurance. Gun ownership and use is the only important activity with major risks to the public where the risks are not reduced and allocated by insurance. It’s time for that to change.