Automobiles and Guns (and Insurance and Lawyers)

By Gerard Gilliland

Automobiles and guns affect approximately the same number of people: 254 million cars with 32,885 crash related deaths per year and 310 million guns with 30,470 firearm related deaths per year. The automobile deaths have been decreasing because of safer cars and roadways, buckle-up laws, and decreased driving under the influence. Gun deaths could decrease with the use of gun locks and not carrying under the influence. A lot of people don't have cars and some people have more than one car. A lot of people don't have guns and some people have more than one gun.

Continuing our comparison, all the gun laws are already written and have passed the courts. (The problem is they are called automobile laws not gun laws.) All we need to do is take all the automobile laws and search for "automobile" with replace it with "gun". We now have all the gun laws necessary. DUIs (Driving Under the Influence) will become CUIs (Carry Under the Influence) and include the same list of drugs.

Attempts to address gun violence include restricting firearms purchases by youths and other "at-risk" populations, setting waiting periods, requiring background checks, establishing gun "buy-back" programs, tougher law enforcement, and education.

But all of these attempts are missing two important players: Insurance and Lawyers. All you need to do is pass one law: "Gun insurance is required for all gun owners." It needs two provisions: It is illegal to purchase guns or ammunition for another party and you must show proof of insurance on purchase. The insurance industry will ask the tough questions and require your list of guns complete with type and serial number. Then the insurance industry will lobby for the laws that look like the current automobile laws. Who is stronger: The lawyers and insurance lobby or the automobile industry? The automobile industry certainly doesn't want all the automobile laws passed! They just want to sell cars. Could you imagine the automobile industry with no registration, licensing, insurance, or laws (no stop signs, no speed limits)? It would be the wild west. Who is stronger: The lawyers and insurance lobby or the National Rifle Association (NRA)? The NRA doesn't want any gun laws passed! Unlike automobiles, with guns you donít have to imagine the chaos. You can see it now with no registration, licensing, insurance, or enforceable laws. It is the wild west. But insurance does not affect the second amendment. You still have the right to bear arms. (It's just going to be more expensive.)

Give the insurance lobby a couple of years and they will have licensing and registration laws passed. So now guns require a license, insurance, registration. You can't drive / carry without insurance. You can't drive / carry without a license. You can't drive / carry an unregistered car / gun.

But one in seven motorists don't have car insurance. The cost is born by those that do and they typically have uninsured motorist coverage. That will be true of uninsured gun carriers as well. But when you have to show proof of insurance and a carrier's license to purchase ammunition you are going to have a lot of gun carriers signing up. You can call it gun insurance but it is really "Gun Victim Compensation Financing" just as you could call car insurance "Automobile Victim Compensation Financing." Currently gun victims are not compensated. Two thirds of gun victims are suicides but gun insurance won't pay out on suicides or accidental self-inflicted deaths. You never want a mentally unstable person thinking "I am worth more dead than alive." Here the family has to look at the true cost of gun ownership and availability.

If you drive an "18-wheeler" you need a special "Chauffeurís" license. If you carry an "AR-15" you need a special "Assaulterís" license. If you have a "Car" you need a "Driverís" license. If you have a "Shotgun" or "Rifle" you need a "Hunterís" license. If you have a "Hand Gun" you need a "Gunnerís" license. If you buy a new car at the dealer, you get a temporary sticker that expires in 60 days. The seller has to fill out the paper and send it to the state. At the gun show, you get a temporary sticker that expires in 60 days. If you buy a car from a private individual they sign the back of the title over to you and mail it in to register it. If you buy a gun from a private individual they sign the back of the title over to you and mail it in to register it. You have to register with the state and show proof of insurance. You are responsible for your gun. Even if it its stolen. You might be shown leniency if it was the first theft and you report it immediately. Gun Theft insurance anyone? It's going to be pricy.

Those that are caught driving / carrying without a license are fined and banned from driving / carrying for 1 year. If you are in a car / gun accident, insurance pays the damages. Young men pay the most for car / gun insurance.

You have to take a driverís / carrier's test. Criminals drive -- the laws don't stop a criminal from driving but they make it difficult Ė the criminal wonít do anything to draw attention to his driving. It's not the criminals that cause the majority of automobile deaths - it's the average citizen and alcohol or drugs. Criminals own guns -- the laws don't stop a criminal from carrying but they make it difficult. It's not the criminals that cause the majority of gun deaths - it's the average citizen and alcohol or drugs. But nothing here says that only criminals will have guns. With automobiles as with guns, you can drive / carry as many as you want (or can afford).

You obey the automobile laws - or if you don't and get caught you pay a fine. You obey the gun laws - or if you don't and get caught you pay a fine. You have to renew your carrierís license every 5 years. You get the "opportunity" to go down the carrierís license bureau and stand in line for 4 hours. It can be in the same address as the driverís license bureau and maybe you can get them both the same time. While you are there you can get your voter ID. (If privacy were not a concern you could get one card with three boxes: Driver, Carrier, and Voter.)

But automobiles are public and guns are private. No, guns are private until they harm someone. Then they are very public. And that is occurring more than 30,000 times a year. But guns are protecting your freedom. No, when people fear going out because of guns they have lost their freedom. But the second amendment protects us from out-of control government as much as from foreign attack. Ok, the insurance industry doesn't care why you carry; just that you make your payments. And although the initial registration is with the insurance industry they will want to share their database to protect their investment. But registration will lead to confiscation. No, the insurance industry wouldn't want their revenue stream to dry up.

Gun owners should have to pay the true cost of gun ownership. In addition to the "Gun Victim Compensation Financing" (aka Gun Insurance mentioned above) a tax dedicated to reducing gun violence should be on every box of ammunition just like the cigarette tax dedicated to reducing cancer is on every pack of cigarettes. Maybe the Surgeon General could put a note on every box "Warning: Bullets Kill People." But this is like a poll tax. No, you can apply the gun portion of insurance you paid (limited to one gun) and the tax you paid (limited to one box of ammunition) as a credit on your form 1040 (provided you fill out another form).

I can see it now. Progressive Insurance will have an upper hand Ė Flo already has a "Price gun." GEICO and Allstate will offer multi-gun discounts. Popular TV ads will be with an ambulance chaser. "If you feel you have been damaged by ..." Or "Do you have uninsured carrierís insurance?" The price of insurance should reflect the number of deaths by each type. Handguns cause the most deaths and should carry the highest rate. Shotguns cause the fewest deaths and should be the lowest. The price of an AR-15 will drop from its current $1900 back to $899. And now $1000 every year will go toward paying for the AR-15 insurance. It's the American way.

Explain that buy-back program to me again -- it's starting to sound pretty good.

How do you move the U.S. to change the status quo? Invite the insurance lobby to the White House. Ask them if they would want this to happen. I think they will say yes. They know right now they are paying for the damage but there is no income from this source to offset the costs. Ask them to do an open feasibility study. They will have a draft law written and a cost analysis done within two months. Publish that study. Have the insurance companies ask the congressional representatives if they want this to happen. If yes, the insurance company will support the candidate. Personally, I think the insurance lobby can outspend the NRA.

10Feb2013 Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
16Feb2013 Add discussion on suicides
18Mar2013 Add ammunition tax
02Oct2015 Add insurance feasibility study and poll tax response
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