Persons wanting a level of responsibility for public carrying of firearms should take the proposed federal Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act (S-446) seriously. It is the NRA’s biggest want out of this Congress, was introduced by John Cornyn–a very powerful Senator and has support by at least 37 Senate co-sponsors. There is similar support in the House. It could become law very quickly. Its provisions would have the practical effect of making uncontrolled carry of weapons nationwide policy. They would also be an impediment to stopping illegal street sales and possession by prohibited persons. Adoption of an insurance requirement to protect victims is one of the most effective way to reduce the dangers that this would bring.
Mandatory gun insurance to gain adoption and to withstand the inevitable court challenges should be designed to provide real protection for victims and promote safe practices. It should be structured differently than either insurance as a backdoor gun prohibition or “shooter protection insurance” as currently sold by the NRA and others. The overall purpose of this blog is to examine how this is best done.
The sections below show the terms that should be included in an effective insurance mandate for this purpose. They can serve as an outline in drafting legislation when applied in light of other firearms laws in the relevant state.
The initial insurance could be limited to the more dangerous kinds of firearms so as the eliminate the need for insurance for most hunters and target shooters. The list of weapons covered is very similar to the list of weapons prohibited to most users in Australia. The most controversial item will be semi-automatic rifles which include assault rifles and the versions, built-to-rule, that avoid restrictions on assault rifles.
Include: handguns, semi-automatic and automatic rifles. Semi-automatic shotguns. All NFA weapons.
Maybe: Shotguns with a capacity for more than two rounds. Shotguns with rapid reload features.
Exclude: Manual action rifles (pump, bolt action, etc.), single and double barrel break action shotguns. Antique and historical weapons. Single shot target handguns.
Insurance coverage is only required for firearms to be carried in public, but carrying should be defined to include carrying loaded or uncased weapons in vehicles. Concealed or unconcealed carry would not need to be a factor. The common exception in many state laws for cased and unloaded transportation should be included.
Include: Concealed Carry in public places, open carry in public places, transportation in vehicles on public roads.
Exceptions: Inside private property with permission of owner or lessee of that property, during transportation directly to exempted private property if weapon is unloaded and stored in a locked case.
Insurance should cover medical costs and economic damages for persons injured by the covered firearm. This should be no-fault insurance which pay benefits on the basis of the involvement of the insured firearm and the losses incurred by the victim. Benefits should not be limited to lost wages because many victims are not of employment age or otherwise unemployed. Because many cases involve death, a flat death benefit should be considered. Any exclusion of benefits for victims based on criminal behavior should be very carefully and narrowly defined.
Include: Direct medical costs. Nursing home and extended care for persons with persisting injuries. Lost wages for living victims. Replacement of support for survivors.
Exclude: Economic damages for persons convicted of engaging in a felony when injured.
The insurance coverage should continue until the insurer receives a certificate from the firearm owner that (a) the owner understands that the weapon cannot be legally carried, worn or transported in public places without new insurance and (b) that the owner has current physical control of the firearm. False certificates should continue insurer responsibility and establish absolute liability for the firearm owner.
Exception: The insurer can stop responsibility after a substantial period (such as five years) in the case of lost or stolen firearms.
Confirmation of Coverage
The insurer should issue a certificate which can be required to be carried with the firearm, but for victims to be able to file claims there should be another step. Insurers should submit information to an authority who maintains a database which allows a law officer or a potential claimant to find the name of the insurer from the serial number of the firearm. It is only necessary to report insurance coverage, not the name of the insured or the gun owner. This is not a gun registration requirement. There is no reason to restrict public access to this limited information.
Insurance based on the terms above should be viewed as a need in each State and adopted as soon as possible to protect citizens in the event of adoption of a federal CCR law. Each item is discussed in greater detail in this blog and will be examined in greater detail as specific proposed legislation is worked out.