A Disappointing Position on Insurance Mandates

Nelson Lund has been one of the leading law professors in the right to keep and bear arms movement. I very much agreed with his paper that police use needed to be looked at when evaluating restrictions, and believe that is a valuable standard to promote for review of gun control measures. That’s why I’m quite disappointed to see he once endorsed the idea that we can introduce severe financial burdens on the exercise of a right. Granted, this is from a 1987 paper, and perhaps Professor Lund has changed his mind since, but it’s difficult for me to see how an insurance requirement is respectful of the Second Amendment. What other right to we require one to bear insurance to exercise? Insurance companies are in the business of assessing risk, and then essentially betting you that what you’re insuring against will never happen. That risk is going to be higher for someone who’s poor, and lives in a neighborhood they are more likely to need to defend themselves. An insurance measure like this would make it nearly impossible for the poor to exercise their rights under the Constitution, while middle class suburbanites would likely find premiums affordable. I don’t see how that can possibly be constitutional.

h/t Instapundit.

14 thoughts on “A Disappointing Position on Insurance Mandates”

  1. I’d rather have an AWB than Mandatory Insurance. Why? Well, my Wife works for one of the Biggest Insurance Companies on the Planet, and she explained a few things. If they make Insurance Mandatory (and a LOT of Insurance Companies HATE Mandatory Insurance, see OBAMACARE), then YOU the Gun Owner will HAVE to Apply, giving ALL your Personal Info, including how many Kids live with you, etc. Then you HAVE to REGISTER EVERY Single Firearm and Serial Numbers, and you’l probably have to have an “Approved Gun Safe” where they MUST be locked up. And ALL that Data goes to the STATE, where they, if they decide to take Gun Control to the ridiculous level of Great Britain, can say “Now THIS is Banned, and WE KNOW you have one of those Evil Single-Shot 12 Gauges!” Just ask Ian Harrison from Top Shot what happened to him in England.

    Oh, and YOU have to Pay for the Insurance (Poll Tax, Anyone?), and God Forbid if you skip a Payment or lose your Job.

    At least with an AWB, we still can fight back with Pump Shotguns, Lever Guns, Bolt Actions, etc.

  2. It would be like requiring every home kitchen to pass a food safety inspection. Or every person who maintains a blog on the inter net to insure against slander and libel accusations. If any one tried to infringe on the First Amendment that way, we would have a massive uprising. So why is it okay for them to suggest restricting our Second Amendment that way?

  3. I am of the mind that just about EVERY behavior in life could necessitate mandatory insurance “for the common good” (or some other such BS) if the right idiot made the case.

    How about computer insurance? How many files and lost productivity are due to improper computer use?

    How about beverage insurance? How many broken families, hurt feelings, fights, and otherwise reckless behavior are due to the drink?

    And who could disagree with first amendment insurance? Why shouldn’t every reporter have to take out a policy?

  4. I hate to say it, but I expect a legal argument would be that there is no difference in principle between requiring insurance on weapons, and taxing them prohibitively as has been done with NFA weapons ever since the 1930s. The SCOTUS seems to have had no problem with the constitutionality of prohibitive taxation.

    I frankly don’t see how mandatory insurance could be enforced, except possibly for newly manufactured or transferred weapons. I see people making an analogy to motor vehicles. I have a motorcycle that last had its title transferred (to me) in 1964, was last registered in 1971, and has never been insured. Does The State know that it still exists? I doubt it. If I were to take it on the street, I would have to get it into the current system, but taking an “underground” gun onto the street is different. And it is “underground” guns that are most often crime guns, not signed-and-sealed guns, so insurance would accomplish nothing at all to prevent crime.

    1. There hasn’t been any definitive ruling on either the NFA tax or the idea of taxing firearms yet. The Pittman-Robertson tax has been around a while, but it’s quite possibly constitutionally problematic because there’s existing precedent that says you can’t tax a right (in the First Amendment context).

      The Supreme Court would also most likely uphold the NFA not because taxing a right is OK, but because machine guns are outside the scope of the Second Amendment. I would disagree with that, but that’s the likely path. My preference would be to prevent the Supreme Court from saying anything about machine guns. That’s probably not a case that’s going to be winnable in my lifetime.

      1. How are machine guns outside the scope of the 2A? They are “guns”, not tanks, missiles, etc. I feel this is eventually where the argument is going to be won or lost. The antis have already started to ask, and there are all sorts of trainwreck answers on our side. Piers Morgan asked Newt Gingrich about why ban full auto guns bu not semi auto? He asked Newt three times and he had three different answers. His first answer was “Well I think allowing 50 cal machine guns would be… strange.” Ouch. His last answer was, “well actually I think that ban has worked well.” Ouch. Yes, sure, it’s worked “well” since they were criminalized before he was even born and we have had a generation raised with the notion that “no one should ever own full auto guns”. Again, ouch.

        I don’t think the NRA is prepared to handle questions on full auto firearms, so bringing it up would be problematic at the time we’re fighting the antis back on semi-auto bans. That still doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a good answer, though, and it must be consistent with our answers for every other type of gun out there including the “scary ones”.

        1. How are machine guns outside the scope of the 2A?

          I don’t think they ought to be, but most legal experts I’ve talked to on our side of the issue have conceded that in order to get the Courts to take the Second Amendment seriously, the machine gun issue had to essentially be conceded. That’s not because it makes sense, just because that’s as far as the Court was going to be willing to go.

          I’ve heard some arguments for how machine guns are different that aren’t completely ridiculous, but the Court has somewhat framed the issue with the somewhat more ridiculous circular “common use” language. The ridiculousness of it is that the reason machine guns aren’t in common use is because they’ve been restricted for nearly 80 years now. But that’s how the Court has framed it.

          So the answer is really because the Court has strongly hinted that they are, and that’s the best we can get right now. I don’t agree with it, and I suspect a lot of other people don’t either, but that’s where we are.

          1. Okay. My point though is that we need to sure up our language if/when they ask. And they ARE asking why that ban works and this one doesn’t, so it makes me think we’re already getting through to them on distinguishing between full and semi-auto guns.

            Yes, a common use argument is based on circular logic but also on a self-fulfilling prophecy. If a ban on something has been in place for over 80 years, you don’t have many of the items in circulation after an entire generation has grown up thinking “that’s bad,” therefore it worked. The key to repealing prohibition on alcohol was that it was done so relatively soon after it was passed that enough people knew what the difference was between doing something once legal, and doing something that is now illegal: Not much at all.

            How about pointing out that the only gun crime involving a full auto weapon was by a cop, the same people who can legally use them? :p

            That’s all I’m saying. We need to have a good ground game, and being consistent is part of it.

            1. I think we can have that debate, but until there’s broad consensus that semi-automatic firearms are deserving of protections… in other words when the idea of “assault weapons” bans are considered quaint and ridiculous, along with magazine bans, fighting for machine guns is fighting out way ahead of where the public is on the topic.

  5. I would suggest that even if the machine gun issue might never get past the court in Sebastian’s lifetime (and certainly not in mine) we should at least start introducing as a meme within our culture, that machine guns are protected under the Second Amendment. I guarantee that will never be embraced by a court if no one starts talking about it, and we are embarrassed to raise the issue.

    An analogy to me is Constitutional Carry, here in Pennsylvania. For all of my decades of activism, the consensus was that it was something we just shouldn’t talk about. To too great an extent, it remains that way. But once states like Alaska, Arizona and Wyoming introduced the concept as something plausible in our culture, a few legislators are at least willing to discuss it. So, a glimmer of hope exists for that which was once impossible and even unspeakable.

    1. I absolutely agree in spreading and advocating for it within our culture. This is an issue where you’ll get dissension in the ranks, largely because unfamiliarity breeds fear and ignorance. A lot of people mistake my position on this as being not talking about it, which it isn’t at all. We need to work on our own people, and work on others as well. But that’s where we are with that issue.

      What I don’t want to do is take it before the courts and lose, when if they just say little or nothing, it might be easier to walk through that door after the culture has changed. Culture leads the political battle, and the political battle leads the courts. I can’t really think of too many cases where the courts have stepped in to radically change things. Even some of the decisions that are considered groundbreaking like Brown did not happen in a cultural or political vacuum. The country had been moving in that direction already.

  6. I will oppose insurance with every fiber…

    But maybe that’s because I lived in a Connecticut city, where my zip code alone got me as high as $3,500/year auto insurance (that was without a single ticket and a clean driving record). And even in good years it was around $2,000.

    Meanwhile, 25 minutes away, a female friend of mine paid $600. She was on her third Dodge Neon (the first two she totaled).

    Moving out of that zip code, my insurance dropped to $1,000.

    So yes, the area you live, the demographics of your town, will make it prohibitive. Live in a city, and you’ll have to have $5,000 of insurance to own a gun.

  7. And what of the “disparate impact” that a firearms insurance scheme is sure to produce? If everything else can be squashed with phoney baloney disparate impact arguments, why is it suddenly OK for firearms insurance, which would almost certainly be more expensive for blacks than whites?

    1. And for people in shitty neighborhoods, it won’t only be absolutely more expensive, but relatively far more expensive. Even I can tell you, since I had to accept a serious reduction in pay, my perception of 100 dollars now is quite different than two years ago.

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