Nearly 140 children were accidentally shot by themselves or by other children in the first seven months of 2016, a disturbing figure that is again raising questions over whether mandatory liability insurance could curb some of these incidents.
The problem is particularly concentrated in the South, where an average 27 children in the Houston area alone die from gunshot wounds. In fact, gunshot wounds kill more children than any type of accident except vehicle crashes, according to Harris County statistics.
These incidents and others are top of mind for legislators around the country considering mandatory gun liability insurance for firearms owners. Though no such proposal has been introduced in Texas or elsewhere in the Southern US, the concept is gaining ground among gun control advocates who say financial penalties may persuade gun owners to more seriously consider safety.
Bills in four states and US cities introduced this year require individuals to secure proof of liability insurance before they can purchase a firearm. Violators would face fines of up to $10,000.
A similar proposal for gun owner insurance was considered on a federal level earlier in 2015, but no states or local jurisdictions have successfully passed laws with this requirement.
The policies have been described by advocates as “similar to car insurance,” in which payments would offset the costs to victims and public agencies if the policyholder’s gun is used to injure or kill someone.
Gun insurance requirements have, in the past, been criticized for breaching the Second Amendment and failing to have a significant effect on gun crime. Scholars say insurers would have difficulty adapting the existing auto liability model to firearms, as they have “no historical experience” in coverage for gun owners, who typically have between 0.5% and 3% as many exposures as drivers.
However, some believe the proposal could reduce accidents by getting people to store their guns more securely or to purchase so-called “smart guns” that can only be fired by authorized users.”
Should gun liability insurance be required?
L.A. county considers mandatory insurance for gun owners