Peter Kochenburger, ‘Liability Insurance and Gun Violence’

Gun violence and mass shootings have dominated headlines during the last several years. These tragedies, including the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, received national and international attention and prompted new demands to address gun violence in the United States. Among the many proposals advanced by the media, advocacy groups, legislators, and academics is mandating liability insurance for all gun owners. Proponents point to insurance’s risk assessment and mitigation functions as providing financial incentives and penalties to encourage policyholders to purchase, store, and use firearms in the safest manner possible, with explicit analogies to mandatory auto insurance, and insurance generally, where prudent behavior results in lower premiums and the riskier pay more. Numerous legislative proposals were put forth in 2013; none passed.

This Article’s purpose is to provide a more in-depth scrutiny than has been previously presented on the merits of mandating liability insurance for gun owners. My perspective is through the lens of liability insurance and regulation, and this Article thereby reviews the major issues associated with such proposals—including the likelihood that many defendants in gun-related claims will not carry insurance even if required by law. I conclude that, despite the obvious enforcement problems, insurance’s ability to address and reduce gun violence is a potentially valuable tool. We do not have enough research and information to dismiss its use based on often ill-supported assumptions about what insurance “should” do and how consumers, insurers, and regulators would react to a liability insurance mandate.

Peter Kochenburger, Liability Insurance and Gun Violence, Connecticut Law Review Volume 46 – Issue 4 (May 2014).

First posted 2014-10-17 15:33:42

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