The Corner

House Democrat Carolyn Maloney Floats Obamacare for the Second Amendment

Carolyn Maloney is at it again. Per The Hill:

House Democrat Rep. Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.) has introduced a bill that would require gun owners to carry liability insurance.

The Firearm Risk Protection Act, unveiled Friday, would require gun buyers to have liability insurance coverage before being allowed to purchase a weapon, and would impose a fine of $10,000 if an owner is found not to have it. Service members and law enforcement officers, however, would be exempt from the requirement.

“We require insurance to own a car, but no such requirement exists for guns,” Maloney said in a statement. “The results are clear: car fatalities have declined by 25 percent in the last decade, but gun fatalities continue to rise.”

Maloney said auto insurance carriers incentivize drivers to take precautions to reduce accidents, but no such incentives exist for firearm owners.

“An insurance requirement would allow the free market to encourage cautious behavior and help save lives,” she said. “Adequate liability coverage would also ensure that the victims of gun violence are fairly compensated when crimes or accidents occur.”

Goodness me. How many mistakes can one make in one statement?

Let us count the ways:

  • Maloney says “we require insurance to own a car, but no such requirement exists for guns.” There are three errors in this opening sentence alone:
    1. Maloney is a federal legislator, which means that the “we” in the sentence is “the federal government.” But the federal government does not require anybody to buy car insurance. That question is left to the states, which all treat the matter differently. Constitutionally, the states play a different role than does the federal government: they have police powers; the federal government has enumerated powers. The analogy falls.
    2. The states do not in fact “require insurance to own a car.” Rather, insurance is necessary only when one’s car is driven on the public roads. If Maloney wants this comparison to work, she will have to change her bill so that it only applies to those who carry guns in public. (If she does, she’ll still likely run into constitutional challenges.)
    3. Americans enjoy an individual constitutional right to own firearms. There is not, however, any such constitutional right to own a car. As such, the two purchases can be — and are — treated differently. This is pretty basic stuff. What, one wonders, would Maloney think of a bill that required all individuals to take out libel insurance before they opened their mouths?
  • Maloney suggests that “the results are clear: car fatalities have declined by 25 percent in the last decade, but gun fatalities continue to rise.” This is an extremely odd claim. Are we really to believe that “car fatalities have declined by 25 percent” because drivers are expected to obtain car insurance rather than because cars have become much safer? Hardly. Not only has car insurance been required for more than “a decade,” but there is a solid argument to be made that, because they don’t have to deal with the consequences of their actions, insurance actually makes people more reckless. (This is not to mention that neither car nor firearm insurance cover the sort of intentional acts — suicide, murder, etc. – that Maloney wants to see covered.) I would be thrilled to hear Maloney explain what she means by this.
  • As for her “gun fatalities continue to rise” submission? That is a bald-faced lie. Over the last two decades — as the laws have been loosened and the number of firearms in circulation has been almost doubled — homicides and injuries caused by firearms have been cut dramatically. Here’s Pew:

​Compared with 1993, the peak of U.S. gun homicides, the firearm homicide rate was 49% lower in 2010, and there were fewer deaths, even though the nation’s population grew. The victimization rate for other violent crimes with a firearm—assaults, robberies and sex crimes—was 75% lower in 2011 than in 1993. Violent non-fatal crime victimization overall (with or without a firearm) also is down markedly (72%) over two decades.

  • Maloney argues that “an insurance requirement would allow the free market to encourage cautious behavior and help save lives.” This is a nonsensical and self-contradictory statement that needs no further attention.
  • Maloney proposes that “adequate liability coverage would also ensure that the victims of gun violence are fairly compensated when crimes or accidents occur.” This is certainly arguable. But one has to wonder about Maloney’s priorities. Two-thirds of all “gun deaths” are suicides; in those cases the victim and perpetrator are one and the same. In America’s troubled inner cities, meanwhile, the biggest problem is gang violence, not accidents or mistakes. Do we really imagine that criminals will obey these laws? Of course not. Rather, the people who follow the rules will line up and comply, and the people who are creating the problems Maloney is trying to fix will not. 

Stupid errors and obvious constitutional questions aside, the primary risk here is that this rule would serve to further price poor and at-risk people out of the gun market. Is that Maloney’s intention? If so, she’d be in bad company.

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