COMMENTARY | Gun owner insurance is at the center of Democratic proposals that would require gun owners to purchase liability insurance to cover damages or injuries caused by their weapons. In short, politicians are asking that citizens purchase a product in order to exercise their second amendment rights.
In the wake of school violence like the Newtown shooting, many gun control laws have been proposed, and gun owner insurance is one that is being introduced in California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New York. The idea behind requiring compulsory gun owner insurance is that it would supposedly encourage gun owners to take firearms safety classes and keep their guns locked up to get lower insurance rates.
According to Fox News, critics of these Democratic bills say the proposals are part of an ongoing attempt to “price gun owners out of existence,” particularly the law-abiding poor who live in crime-ridden areas and need protection the most. Proponents of forcing gun owner insurance point out that the National Rifle Association offers liability insurance even the NRA also opposes mandatory purchase of such gun owner insurance.
Assemblyman Philip Ting of San Francisco, who introduced bill AB231 along with Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez of Los Angeles, equates the idea of gun owner insurance to compulsory auto insurance:
“I was moved, like many others, being the father of two young children, by the Sandy Hook incident and looking for constructive ways to manage gun violence here in California as well as the rest of the country. There’s basically a cost that is born by the taxpayers when accidents occur…. I don’t think that taxpayers should be footing those bills.”
In the context of the debate over Obamacare’s individual mandate, The American Thinker points out that the idea that state governments directly require their citizens to purchase auto insurance is false:
“The auto insurance requirement serves to protect the public from catastrophic losses the insured may cause…. States require drivers to carry liability insurance as a condition of using the public roads. However, there is no actual demand on anyone to buy auto insurance. If a person chooses not to drive a motorized vehicle on the public roadways the auto insurance requirement is inapplicable.”
States differ here and there on how they implement these laws, but, in essence, while states do not directly require the compulsory purchase of auto insurance, they indirectly have provided a set of laws that set a de facto individual mandate.
If the results of the Obamacare debate is anything to go by, it seems that Democrats will not have much luck creating laws that directly create an individual mandate for gun owner insurance. Obamacare was passed by the Supreme Court as a tax, because otherwise they would have been expanding the commerce clause to say that Congress had unlimited power to force people to purchase products. This would have been a serious breach of liberty in the United States.
Even then, the Democrat controlled Senate had to apply some fancy footwork to bypass the requirement of the Constitution that says “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House.” You see, the Affordable Care Act actually started its life as a House tax bill focused on housing, so technically the Obamacare-as-a-tax bill did originate in the House even though the intention and spirit of the Constitution was violated.
So in order for any gun owner insurance bill to survive the scrutiny of the Supreme Court it will likely have to enforce an individual mandate indirectly. If Democrats apply the same methods they have used in the past, they will likely come up with a method that violates the existing law in spirit but not technically.
For example, if they were to mimic the auto insurance laws, they might try and say that gun owner insurance is required if a gun carrier steps foot on any public grounds. In that case, Democrats are not directly forcing the purchase of gun owner insurance, but owning a gun would then become so burdensome that most would choose to purchase gun owner insurance of their own free will.
What do you think about Democrats attempting to enforce gun control indirectly through an individual mandate for compulsory gun owner insurance?