February 25, 2013 10:32AM

Proposals To Make Gun Owners Carry Liability Insurance

As the New York Times reports

Lawmakers in at least half a dozen states, including California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania, have proposed legislation this year that would require gun owners to buy liability insurance — much as car owners are required to buy auto insurance. Doing so would give a financial incentive for safe behavior, they hope, as people with less dangerous weapons or safety locks could qualify for lower rates.

“Liability insurance” may be a misnomer in this discussion, however, since some of the proposals would require the purchase of bonds against intentional acts (which are commonly excluded from conventional liability coverage), and also against misadventures for which gun owners would not at present be held legally responsible (such as third party criminal use of a gun following a theft not occasioned by owner negligence.) More: ReutersNelson Lund/​GMUJessica Chasmar/​Washington TimesTaranto/​WSJJosh Blackman.

Would a mandatory bonding or insurance scheme survive judicial scrutiny if it were motivated by a desire to burden the exercise of a constitutional right? David Rifkin and Andrew Grossman, writing in the WSJ, suspect not:

Insurance policies cover accidents, not intentional crimes, and criminals with illegal guns will just evade the requirement. The real purpose is to make guns less affordable for law‐​abiding citizens and thereby reduce private gun ownership. Identical constitutionally suspect logic explains proposals to tax the sale of bullets at excessive rates.

The courts, however, are no more likely to allow government to undermine the Second Amendment than to undermine the First. A state cannot circumvent the right to a free press by requiring that an unfriendly newspaper carry millions in libel insurance or pay a thousand‐​dollar tax on barrels of ink—the real motive, in either case, would be transparent and the regulation struck down. How could the result be any different for the right to keep and bear arms?

[cross‐​posted and slightly adapted from Overlawyered]