Tuesday, February 5, 2013

If you can't ban it, regulate it to death, Part 2: "Gun Insurance"

This just in. California Democrats propose that gun owners should purchase "violence insurance" to cover damage that it might cause. The idea is silly enough that it probably can't even pass in California, but just to beat a dead horse even further...

1. Most gun crimes aren't committed by licensed gun-owners. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 80% of criminals acquire guns illegally. In Texas (2009) there were 65,651 gun-related violent crime convictions, only 101 of which were committed by people with licensed concealed carry permits. In other words 0.15% of crimes were committed by legally carried guns - approximately one in a thousand. Obviously a gun-toting criminal won't care about insurance requirements any more than (s)he cares about concealed carry laws.

Premiums for gun insurance will either be negligible and thus irrelevant, or they will inaccurately count illegally committed crimes against legal gun owners, causing insurance-buyers to effectively cross-subsidize damage caused by criminals.

2. Personal liability should be enough to deter carelessness with guns; being bankrupted due to misuse of a firearm is a pretty serious consequence. And, if that doesn't stop someone, why would purchasing insurance be any more of a deterrent? If anything, the economic prediction would be that insurance encourages less care by gun-owners, because the costs of their mistake will be borne by the insurance company (as well as the unlucky victim). Of course, maybe insurance companies refuse to insure people who seem like a "bad risk" but this is effectively circumventing the second amendment right to bear arms.

3. Such insurance basically functions as a tax on guns, which will only help keep them out of the hands of low-income individuals who might live in dangerous neighborhoods and want personal protection.

Beyond the immediate consequence of more crime, the implications of taxing a right protected by the Constitution are staggering. Should every YouTube contributor have "free speech insurance" in case they post an inflammatory video that causes riots overseas? Should every voter carry insurance in case their ignorance brings war-mongering, deficit-raising politicians to office? Oh wait, that is called a "poll tax" and we had a Constitutional amendment to get rid of them.

I hope I'll look back at this blog entry and laugh at myself in a few weeks for even thinking there's a chance that this law might pass, but stranger things have happened in politics.

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