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.

The legislation, which is being considered in a handful of states, would require gun owners to insure firearms as a market-based approach to incentivize safe firearm ownership and usage. But questions remain regarding the efficacy of such a measure, and it faces tough opposition from pro-gun groups.

1. What is gun liability insurance and how would it work?

Joshua Lott/Reuters
Susan Byrne-Dewhirst holds a blue dummy handgun as she attends the Arizona Women's Shooting Associates and NRA gun safety training class taught by a certified instructor in Phoenix this March.

Just as car owners must carry auto insurance, gun liability insurance would require gun owners to purchase insurance for firearms to cover damages to “individuals whose person or property was in some way injured or damaged as a result of the use of a firearm,” says Robert Hartwig, president and economist at the Insurance Information Institute, an industry group that educates Americans on insurance issues.

The theory behind such proposals is that mandatory gun insurance provides a market-based tool to reward safe, responsible gun ownership. Hypothetically, insurance companies would consider a gun owner’s risk characteristics to determine insurance rates. For example, gun owners who have no criminal record or history of mental illness, take safety courses, own fewer weapons, and store them securely would have lower rates than, say, an ex-convict with an arsenal of assault rifles and a record of domestic abuse.

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