Turner Osler: Gun owners should be required to have insurance, just like cars

This commentary was written by Dr. Turner Osler, an academic trauma surgeon at the University of Vermont Medical Center turned research epidemiologist.

During my long career as an academic surgeon, I have had the opportunity to observe and study how arms change, and sometimes life ends. I struggled to control the bleeding in the operating room and sometimes made a heartbreaking call to parents who thought their son was in the library.

These experiences come sinking again as I write.

Although I have long since come out of clinical surgery, I have continued to study the problem of gun violence from an epidemiologist’s point of view.

Congress, at the behest of the gun lobby, has blocked weapons research funding for decades, so there’s a lot we don’t know, but some facts stand out.

For example, cars have always killed more people than guns, but as cars become safer and weapons become more lethal and available, this balance has been reversed: In 2020, more people died from gunshot injuries (45,222) than car accidents ( 38824).

And there it is: in a typical year, more preschoolers are killed with a gun than police officers.

Why did we fail to control the chaos of arms? My years as a physician have taught me that, in the absence of a correct diagnosis, any treatment would almost certainly fail. And I think that explains our continued failure to stop the growing gun massacre: we simply misunderstood what the actual problem was.

It turns out that gun chaos is not a moral problem, a mental health problem, or even a constitutional law problem; Rather, it is an economic problem, a problem of skewed external factors.

It turns out that people who carry guns cause problems with costs, but, unfairly, these costs are not borne by gun owners; Instead, these costs are passed on to all of us in the form of loss of life and increased healthcare costs that must be absorbed by health insurers and hospitals.

But this is not fair. Rather than simply transferring these costs to the rest of us, gun owners should bear the costs of the guns they choose to own.

Think about cars: Cars infect and kill thousands of people every year, but those costs are borne by car owners, who have to get insurance. Thus, requiring gun owners to carry insurance for the expenses that their guns impose on us all has a well-established precedent; Indeed, the necessary infrastructure for insurance companies is already in place.

Since the range of gun deaths and injuries is very similar to that of cars, and the number of cars (263 million) is similar to the number of guns (393 million) in America, we might expect the annual cost of gun insurance to be similar to cars.

Of course, some cars that are more common in accidents are more expensive to insure (a Maserati at $5,000 a year) than others (a $2,000 Subaru), so we would expect some rifles (the AR-15) to be more expensive to insure than others (hunting rifles). ducks).

Fortunately, the invisible hand of the market will handle the details for us.

As an aside, the insurance industry would likely support this approach: providing insurance for millions of guns in circulation would be profitable, and perhaps even more profitable, than car insurance.

The consequences of properly allocating the cost of gun ownership could lead to a virtuous cycle: Gun manufacturers will have a reason to make guns that are safer (trigger locks, fingerprint readers, etc.) because they will be cheaper to insure. Guns that pose certain risks can be prohibitively expensive for most firearms enthusiasts, just as insurance costs put some cars out of reach for most of us, so the most dangerous guns may be gradually being removed from circulation. Another bonus: gun buyback programs may get a boost.

Impossible, you say? Consider the following: The San Jose City Council approved the nation’s first law requiring gun owners to obtain liability insurance; It is scheduled to enter into force in August.

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Tags: Weapon insuranceAnd the gun manufacturersAnd the Guns are more dangerous than carsAnd the Transfer costsAnd the Turner Osler


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