Next big thing in gun control? 7 questions about mandatory gun insurance.

As President Obama prepares to travel the country to drum up support for federal gun control laws ahead of a Senate vote in April, one idea is gaining steam at the state level: mandatory gun insurance.

3. How effective might mandatory gun insurance be in reducing accidents or gun violence?

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    Gladwin County Sheriff Michael Shea, shown here ealier this month, is investigating a robbery of a gun store in Michigan. Gun insurance laws would likely not be able to account for the use of stolen guns.
    Jessica Fleischman/The Saginaw News/AP
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It’s clear mandatory gun insurance isn’t a panacea. For one thing, many people would still acquire guns illegally and operate them without insurance – much as about a quarter of the driving public is uninsured, according to some estimates.

And many questions remain, including how to deal with lost, stolen, or transferred firearms, as well as whether and what types of damages insurers would cover.

“It makes a lot of sense in theory. But I'm skeptical that it would work in the real world, both in a practical sense or to reduce violence,” says Morgan Housel, an economic analyst with Motley Fool. “It's not clear that [insurance companies] could handle the risk of an immediate flood of mandatory insurance among hundreds of millions of firearms.”

“There is also evidence that a large portion of firearms used in violent crimes have been stolen or transferred between one owner to the next. It is unclear how insurance would avoid this reality,” he says. “Just as background checks still cause guns to end up in the wrong hands, liability insurance may deter less bad behavior than we might think.”

Still, proponents like Robert Frank, an economist at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., say mandatory gun insurance is a market-based approach that would incentivize more responsible behavior and reduce accidental shootings.

“As a lone measure, requiring insurance would not be enough to screen out the people we're most worried about,” says Professor Frank. “But in combination with numerous other measures that have been proposed, it would be a step in the right direction.”

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