If gun owners are mandated to have insurance, new guns can be monitored. But what about the 300,000,000 guns currently held by individuals, including illegal guns? Clearly, no system of insurance, gun regulation, or police activity can deal completely with problems arising from such massive numbers. The system of chaining insurance responsibility “Top Down” works to retain guns in the system one there, and stolen or otherwise illegally acquired guns will retain the insurer of the last legal owner. But the outstanding guns in the hands of criminals and a good proportion of those owned by otherwise law abiding owners will not be enrolled in insurance without good reason.
Although it might be assumed that political considerations will mean guns currently owned will be grandfathered in, that does not have to be the case. Legislators could establish a policy whereby all guns must be insured. When state or national laws are adopted to require insurance for guns sold by manufacturers or passing through the hands of legal gun dealers, the laws can require that persons owning guns acquire insurance.
In spite of declarations in the media from some gun proponents that they will not comply with various proposed measures regulating firearms, most gun owners are legal and responsible citizens and will comply with a requirement after a reasonable period of time. They will be able to purchase insurance and have their gun’s serial number added to the database without revealing their names to anyone other than their insurer. Much of the insurance now sold to gun owners is now provided to them in association with the NRA, and there is no reason that this cannot continue for those who have concerns about insurers protecting their privacy. Of course, any insurer, even the NRA, would have to comply with financial regulation as an insurer and provide the mandated insurance compensations for victims.
The database suggested as a part of the “Top Down” system would provide a quick way for a law enforcement officer to check if a particular gun is insured. The database is designed to provide a quick way to find the insurer responsible for a particular gun, but contains no information about the gun’s location or owner. An officer finding the gun as part of an action for some investigation or arrest can check if the gun is properly covered. Guns are routinely and legally declared when they are shipped in luggage on airlines and may have to be declared when brought into controlled places depending on local laws. Insurance can be checked in these situations as well.
Here are the detailed written comments submitted for the record by Tom Harvey, this blogger, after the hearing on the DC gun insurance bill. The bill is supported by this blog as a start in getting gun insurance enacted.
In a opinion article on Property Casualty 360 titled “Major Misfire” Paul Tetrault, state and policy affairs counsel for NAMIC, denounced the move in seven states and Congress to require insurance on guns. He repeated the statements that insurance cannot cover intentional acts. This blog has several times published numerous examples of current insurance that does cover intentional and even criminal acts to the benefit of parties other than the person who does the acts. This was pointed out to NAMIC but their spokesperson emailed that the organization stands behind the article.
A bill HB976 has been introduced in the North Carolina Legislature. It has several gun control provisions including $100,000 in mandatory gun liability insurance. This insurance goes farther than in most other states by applying to willful acts and to unreported stolen guns. The bill introduced by Rep’s Luebke, Insko, Harrison and Adams has 7 sponsors so far. It was introduced on 4/17/13, showing that momentum to deal with gun violence is continuing and that insurance is seen as a part of the solution. There have now been bills introduced in 9 states and the US House.
Representative Carolyn Maloney along with 8 cosponsors has introduced a bill, H.R. 1369 – Firearm Risk Protection Act of 2013, to require that gun buyers and sellers have “qualified” liability insurance when they make a transaction or continue to own the gun. They would be fined up to $10,000 if they do not have and maintain the insurance. The text of the bill does not define “qualified” and gives no further details. I spoke on the phone with Rep. Maloney’s press contact and was told that the bill will be filled out with more detail in the future. In this diary, I will lay out the principles and elements that should be considered when the bill language is developed.
Gun insurance should serve to protect victims and promote safe storage and use of firearms, without being an excessive burden on gun owners (for a description of possible insurance see here). Unfortunately, conventional liability insurance as sold, for example by the NRA, is designed only to protect the gun owner not third party victims. Gun insurance, like any insurance that is mandated by government or required as a condition of doing business, should be designed to protect those injured by an incident. Moreover, it needs to protect the public by encouraging safe practices. Currently, gun insurance only protects the gun owner from theft and lawsuits. Continue reading →
For details on the recommendations by this blogger on how to implement this bill and have this insurance see my the April 2 post on Daily Kos
A bill titled the Firearm Risk Protection Act has been introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney in the national Congress. As of March 29, 2013 there is not text available on Congress.Gov but the bill has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary. Rep. Maloney’s press release states that the bill will impose a $10,000 fine if an owner does not have the required coverage. It exempts service members and law officers.
Other details have yet to be developed. Rep. Maloney’s press aide stated that in a phone call and email that “like all legislation, it was meant to start a conversation about national priorities” and welcomed input to the process. This blogger will certainly be following the bill and recommending that it be done in a way that provides the maximum protection to victims. It’s likely that the bill authors have in mind a relatively simple model of Liability insurance which could be improved by adding provisions to:
Follow guns as they are lost or stolen
Eliminate provisions to limit coverage for intentional acts
Eliminate requirements for negligence by gun owners
Require steps it aid identification of the responsible weapon
We have responsible ways to handle things which are dangerous but which are not made illegal because of their actual or assumed benefits to society. We look carefully at ways to contain the dangers and enjoy the benefits in almost every case. The exception is firearms, but we are just beginning to pull our heads out of the sand and examine this important subject.
First Principle — Mandatory No-Fault Insurance to Cover All Victims
One of the most powerful tools to facilitate a dangerous activity is insurance. Unfortunately, requiring insurance to cover gun violence has been looked at only as a way to penalize gun ownership or at least to transfer costs to gun owners. The result is calls for high limit liability insurance, usually with terms that make actual implementation unlikely. This blog argues that the tort/liability model is one of the least effective ways to increase safety and provide for victims. A No-Fault system similar to worker’s compensation or some motor vehicle insurance is much better. It needs to follow a gun that changes hands in a way to insure that all guns are covered.
Second Principle — Top Down Insurance Does Not Require Gun Registration or Owner Tracking
This blog also is advocating that insurance be required of gun manufacturers or anyone bringing a gun into the system in such a way that the insurer only relinquishes responsibility when another insurer (contracted by a new owner) takes it up. Insurance should remain in effect through any transfer legal or not. This would allow confidence that insurance was always in effect without tracking the gun owners. With a proper No-Fault system the victim would not have to even be told the name of the owner to collect compensation. All transactions by claimants or the government would be with the insurance companies.
Yahoo’s OMG reports that an actress who left the jewelry in her car had it stolen while she was at a friend’s Hollywood apartment.
So what’s this got to do with gun insurance?
Well, hundreds of thousands of guns go bad by being stolen each year, many from cars. The value of the object being stolen does not seem to be adequate to prevent this problem. Insurers will limit this exposure if they are going to be responsible for the future damage the guns do. Of course, responsible gun owners don’t leave their guns in cars. Insurance is a way to engender that responsibility.
Senators Dingfelder and Burdick with Representative Denbrow have introduced a bill in the Oregon Legislature (SB-758) which is the first effective plan for gun insurance that would provide for victims. It works by imposing strict liability on a gun owner for injuries associated with a gun even for one year after the gun is lost or stolen. There is no limitation to economic damages as is typical of no-fault motor vehicle insurance. The limits are set quite high at $250,000 for physical injury or death. Continue reading →
Motor vehicle insurance has been the obvious model for insurance advocated by this blog to provide for victims of gun violence. There are many parallels, especially with No-Fault versions to serving the gun situation. There is another place in our society were insurance was poorly working to protect injured persons and where society with the insurance industry has produced a system which has shown durable benefits in efficiently dealing with an important risk. Continue reading →