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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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:
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.
On Thursday May 16, 2013 the District of Columbia held a hearing on the B20-170, Firearm Insurance Amendment Act of 2013 their Gun Insurance Bill. The first panel consisted of Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign; Erin Collins from NAMIC; Tom Harvey, Gun Insurance Blog and Kris Hammond, Resident of DC.
The hearing was taped and the video is available here. Written testimony from Dan Gross, Kris Hammond and Chester A. McPherson is here. News coverage generally ignored the supporters of the bill. For example see the Washington Post Story.
After preliminary remarks by Committee Chair Vincent Orange and Councilmember Mary M.Cheh (the bill sponsor) the first to present was Dan Gross who gave a good presentation in support of the bill outlining the seriousness of gun violence in the US. He gave an example illustrating that current insurance does not apply even to many accidents, if it is available at all. He stated that “it is absolutely unfair to saddle innocent victims with all the costs.
Erin Collins gave a presentation of the industries opposition to mandating insurance for guns. It stated that this insurance was unnecessary and impractical and repeated that it couldn’t cover intentional acts.
Tom Harvey for this blog gave an oral version of the written statement below but added examples to counter the statement by MS Collins that insurance couldn’t cover intentional acts. Continue reading →
The bill in the District of Columbia Council, B20-170, requiring insurance for guns will have a hearing at 10AM on May 16, 2013. The text of the bill requires liability insurance of $250,000 for gun owners. It provides for willful acts.
(b) The insurance policy required under subsection (a) of this section shall specifically cover any damages resulting from negligent acts, or willful acts that are not undertaken in self-defense, involving the use of the insured firearm while it is owned by the policy holder.