Insurance for Victims Not Shooters

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The most important characteristic of the insurance needed for owning or carrying firearms is the basic structure of who is protected and paid by the insurance.  Voluntary insurance is always designed to protect the insurance buyer or owner first and pays third party victims only when necessary to protect the policy holder.  Required or mandatory insurance is intended to protect the public and persons other than the policy holder, and should promptly pay insured persons.

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Concealed Carry Reciprocity and an Insurance Requirement

Proposed bills have been introduced in the House (HR-38) and the Senate (S-446) which would allow holders of permits to carry firearms in all states. They have gathered a substantial number of sponsors. The current language of the bills is very broad and would not only prevent state restrictions on out of state permit holders but allow residents of states without a permit requirement to carry firearms nationwide. There are provisions to allow persons arrested under state laws to recover damages and legal expenses.

If this law passes states will have great difficulty enforcing any restrictions on gun carrying because of the difficulty in establishing that a person is not a resident of another state and because of the difficulty of checking the validity of out-of-state permits. There will be great pressure on states to relax requirements for their own citizens to match those of other states with no restrictions.

In this situation, an insurance mandate could be very important in providing at least some responsibility requirement.

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Reducing the Stock of Unwanted Guns—Insurance, Buyback and Amnesty

In a new article “Living on the Edge (of Austrailian Cities: Is Gun Amnesty Effective?” by Isabella Kwai, Adam Baidawi and Tacey Rychter, the New York Times questioned the usefulness of a new three month program to recover illegal guns in that country.

A 2002 buyback program in Australia is widely acknowledged to have removed most of the semi-automatic guns from private stocks, officially counting 659,940 newly prohibited weapons.  The Times article recognizes this program, pointing out that “the current rate of homicides involving guns in the United States is 23 times higher than it is in Australia” and that “Australia has not had a mass shooting since Port Arthur.”  Port Arthur was a very serious mass shooting that initiated the movement to adopt Australia prohibitions and the buyback program.  The buyback was a large program for a country of Australia’s size; and this amnesty will, no doubt, yield a much smaller reduction in the stock of illegal firearms.  But amnesty and other uncompensated programs are inexpensive and can be repeated over time.  The article linked above counts 219,721 additional firearms in uncompensated programs since the buyback.  This is a substantial reduction.

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A Straightforward Recommendation for Gun Insurance

FIVE REASONS TO MANDATE GUN INSURANCE

To require additional individual responsibility such as locking up firearms

To provide victims with needed funds for medical and other costs

To make those causing the deaths and injuries pay, rather than the public through Medicaid or the victims through private health insurance

To supplement public regulatory oversight with private insurance company oversight

To encourage new technologies such as “safe guns” that would reduce accidents

(below the fold)

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Firearms and the History of Workers’ Compensation

This is the first of a series of posts which are designed to show that workers’ compensation systems, insurance and laws are an excellent–the best that we have–model for dealing with gun violence victim compensation and for reducing that victimization.

A little over one hundred years ago, our country faced a crisis that was quite similar to the gun violence problem that we now face.  Industrial and work related accidents were completely out of hand, producing deaths and injuries that reached almost every family.  Looking back on my own family history, a great uncle on my fathers side was killed and my mothers grandfather lost an arm–both in railroad accidents of that era.  It’s mostly forgotten today but it was a great issue at the beginning of the twentieth century.

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Cars v. Guns about Mandatory Insurance

Many people, when asked about the possibility of requiring insurance that would protect victims of gun violence, compare guns to automobiles; and, knowing that we require drivers to have insurance, think that it’s a reasonable thing to do with guns.  It is a reasonable thing; but there are both similarities and differences.

Gun proponents, who often view compulsory insurance as simply an interference with rights they consider to be absolute, tend to offer a number of relatively unimportant differences by asserting things such as  “car insurance isn’t required on private property or unless the car is being driven.”  This isn’t always true; but, more importantly, it has little to do with how to handle a reasonable requirement for gun insurance.

The big difference is the way that we treat responsibility about the two classes of possessions and the politics of that responsibility.  People are used to car owners being responsible for their cars and expressing that responsibility through liability and insurance.  Gun proponents have worked to deflect responsibility away from owners and suppliers of guns and onto gun users; and then from gun users onto victims who can be perceived as responsible for their own injuries when the gun user thinks, rightly or wrongly, that shooting is justified.

The purpose of this post is to point out the similarities and differences that have substantial consequences in the design of appropriate insurance.

Similarities between Cars and Guns

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How Would Insurers Stop Straw Purchases?

One of the main feeders into the pool of illegal guns that cause a large portion of the deaths and injuries is those guns that are obtained through straw purchases.  A straw purchase is one that is done by a person with a clean record that can pass a background check to obtain a gun for a prohibited person.  For the purposes of this writing straw purchases are distinguished from other channels for guns to enter dangerous hands including:

  • Unchecked sales or gifts after the initial purchase
  • Theft of guns
  • Previously owned guns by persons who subsequently become prohibited persons
  • Guns used by persons who are not prohibited from having guns but who are clearly dangerous in hindsight

Straw purchases are the primary input to the “Iron Pipeline” which is the name that New York gives to the practice of buying guns in low regulation states such as Virginia and illegally smuggling them into New York for sale to prohibited persons.  The hate killing by a white supremacist in Kansas City in April, 2014 was with a straw purchased weapon.

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Questions and Answers on Mandating Gun Insurance.

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This post is a good place to start if you’re new to this blog. Scan the questions and follow the ‘Related:’ link(s) if you have an interest in a particular area.  You may also want to check the category’s listed in the right hand column. 

Q: What is the purpose of mandating gun insurance?

Required insurance for guns or gun owners should be designed to provide benefits for victims of gun accidents or violence. Insurers will automatically take appropriate steps to encourage gun safety as part of their loss control and underwriting activities.

Related: Insurance-Good for Victims, Safety and Gun Owners

Q: What specifically would be the best insurance system for guns?

Each state should adopt a system of no-fault insurance with a system of delivering medical and cash benefits directly to victims. This insurance should be required to be in place for any firearm brought into or kept in the state in order for that firearm to be legal. It should provide all of the benefits available to victims of motor vehicle or workplace injuries.

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John Wasik Calls for Gun Insurance Again.

In a new article published Sept. 20, 2013 on the Forbes website and titled “Five Reasons Why Gun Insurance Can Survive Political Indifference”, he advocated for insurance as the most effective and practical solution to gun violence in more detail than ever before.  Wasik is a pioneer in pointing out the need for gun insurance starting well before the tragic incident at Sandy Hook.  His prior articles include:

February 15, 2011 in Reuters: “Why gun insurance should be mandatory

December 17, 2012:  “Newtown’s New Reality: Using Liability Insurance to Reduce Gun Deaths

December 29, 2012: “Gun Liability Insurance: Still a Viable Proposal

April 4, 2013: “Gun Insurance: An Economic Argument

His five reasons are:

1. Liability Coverage Addresses the Issue of Potential Future Harm Better than Any Gun-Control Legislation.

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