American's gun debate has produced more political impasses than breakthroughs. Despite majority public support for common-sense measures such as background checks and a renewed assault weapons ban, the gun lobby continues to exert a stranglehold on politicians.
Lately, there is talk on both sides of the ideological divide about requiring liability insurance for gun owners, just as motorists must buy auto insurance. Under bills introduced in six states — not including Ohio or Michigan — the policies would help cover the cost of gun tragedies, and encourage training and other safety measures for owners. Those who take part would get lower insurance premiums. No state has passed such a bill.
Some gun owners and industry lobbyists oppose making insurance mandatory, but concede there’s nothing threatening to the Second Amendment about offering it. The National Rifle Association endorses voluntary coverage, while other pro-gun groups have begun offering policies to their members.
Liability insurance wouldn’t be a panacea, although it could encourage the purchase of less-lethal weapons and trigger locks, so that gun owners could obtain lower premiums. Such policies would be narrowly written, covering accidents and unintended acts, not willful massacres, murder, or illegal behavior.
Still, as the country gropes its way toward sane gun-safety measures in the wake of the Newtown tragedy, liability insurance is worth exploring.