Is firearms liability insurance legislation Constitutional?

Senate Bill 851 Would Make Gun Owners Purchase Firearm Insurance If They Want To Keep Them Legal

Senator Coleman Young II introduced Senate Bill 851, which is a bill to amend the insurance code of 1956, to the Michigan State Senate this month. The bill would add a new chapter to Michigan’s 1956 PA 128 that would require Michigan firearm owners to purchase firearm liability insurance if they want to legally own guns.

Coleman Young II is the son of former Detroit Mayor Coleman Young, who was booted from the UAW, according to Powerline, for being too radical. Sen. Coleman Young II is a Michigan State Senator for the 1st District in Michigan. Opposition to SB 851 in Michigan note that one of the state senator’s biggest campaign donors is the insurance industry, which donated over $11,000 to Young over the years. Young also recently made the news when he introduces a bill that would eliminate exemptions that allow lawmakers and the state’s governor from being subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

SB 851 would also establish a Firearms Claims Association as an unincorporated, nonprofit association. According to the terms of the proposed amendment, an insurer that would provide the firearm liability insurance required by Michigan firearms owners would be required to be a member of the Firearm Claims Association. The Firearms Claims Association would establish procedures by which insurers would report claims that would involve the Association paying out insurance.

Additionally, in Michigan, a Firearms Authority would provide financial support to the Department of State Police and to local law enforcement agencies for the creation of illegal firearm enforcement teams that would work to reduce the number of illegal firearms. It would also provide financial support to local prosecutors for programs that are designed to reduce the number of illegal firearms in communities. It would also provide financial support for educational programs about firearm safety and firearm insurance.

Under the proposed law, a firearm that would be required to be insured includes any and all firearms that do not fit the definition of antique as defined in the Michigan Penal Code (1931 PA 328, MCL 750.231A).

Under the law proposed by Sen. Young, any person who does not purchase liability insurance for their firearms would be ordered to pay a $25 fine for the first violation, and for every subsequent violation, the fine would be $50. The fines would be due in 60 days and would accrue a 10 percent late fee each month until paid. The fines would be turned over to the Illegal Firearm Authority.

According to notes from the legislature website, the firearm liability insurance bill was read a first time in the Michigan Senate on March 9, 2016, and then read a second time before being referred to the Committee on Government Operations. Michigan sportsmen have been vocal within group postings about the bill.

“Good ‘ol Coleman Young II, thinks every firearm owner needs liability insurance. One or two paragraphs on prescribing the mandate, 15 or more creating an industry for providing the insurance. Escalating liability scale for providing the insurance but NO limits on how high the premiums can go… Think $100, $500 per gun, $1000? Somewhere in there I’ve got to believe there’s an opening for he and his cronies’ fingers in the pie,” one sportsman wrote about the bill proposing mandatory liability insurance for all firearms. “Another pot for the attorneys to get their 1/3rd and ambiguous grants to so called local anti illegal gun efforts.”

A member of Michigan Gun Owner complained that Sen. Young would propose a bill that would require insurance in order to be able to practice a Constitutional-provided right and said, “So now they’re gonna MAKE us buy firearm insurance? The insurance lobby in Michigan must be awful powerful. We already have some of the highest insurance rates in the country. Legalized extortion….I’m hoping this dies in committee.”

The idea of mandating insurance on firearms is not new.

In 2013, Justin Wolfers, as a professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan, wrote about mandatory gun insurance as a means to offset the economic costs of gun violence.

“The economic answer is simple: Make potential gun owners take account of these potential social costs. One way to do this would be to charge an annual license fee for each gun you keep. Research by economists Phil Cook and Jens Ludwig suggests that the typical social cost of one more gun-owning household is somewhere between $100 and $1,800 per year. While that’s a wide range, if we set a gun ownership license fee this high, it would force gun owners to face the true social costs of their choices, which would lead many fewer to buy guns.”

Three years ago NPR reported that Robert Frank, as professor of economics at Cornell University, said that, “Nothing in the constitution grants people the right to expose others to serious risk without compensation.”

Meanwhile, Michigan sportsman and Second Amendment supporters argue that one should never have to pay the state for the ability to practice a Constitutionally protected right. Josh Blackman, an Associate Professor of Law at the South Texas College of Law who specializes in constitutional law, brings up factors that would indicate such a law would reserve the Second Amendment for only the wealthy.

“Could the insurance companies consider factors such as credit history and indebtedness (factors I’m sure that an actuarial would be interested in). If so, poor people would be priced out of owning a gun.”

“Could the insurance companies consider the crime-rate of the neighborhood where a person lives–charging higher rates for living in high crime areas? If so, people (again likely those poor) who live in the most dangerous areas, and have the most need for a legally acquired firearm, would be priced out of owning one.”

What do you think about the State of Michigan potentially mandating that all firearm owners purchase liability insurance? Leave your opinion in the comments area below.

[Image via Pixabay]

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