America's gun debate has produced more political impasses than breakthroughs in recent years. Despite majority public support for common-sense measures like background checks and an assault-style weapons ban, the gun lobby, which opposes most limits, continues to exert a stranglehold on politicians.
Lately, there has been talk on both sides of the ideological divide about liability insurance for gun owners, just as motorists are required to buy auto insurance. The policies, under bills offered in Pennsylvania (HB 521 by Rep. Ronald Waters, D-Delaware County) and five other states, would not only help cover the cost of gun tragedies but also encourage gun training and other safety measures for gun owners. Those who take part would qualify for lower insurance premiums. No state has succeeded yet in passing such a bill.
Some gun owners and industry lobbyists oppose making insurance mandatory, but concede that there's nothing threatening to the Second Amendment about offering it. The National Rifle Association endorses voluntary coverage while other pro-gun groups have begun offering these policies to their members.
Liability insurance wouldn't be a panacea, although it could encourage the purchase of less lethal weapons and trigger locks so that gun owners could obtain lower premiums. Such policies would be narrowly written and cover only accidents and unintentional acts, not willful massacres, murder or illegal behavior. Still, as the country gropes its way toward sane gun safety measures in the wake of the Newtown tragedy, liability insurance is worth exploring.