HR-2546 Firearm Risk Protection with Suggested Personal Injury Clause

Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY-12) has introduced a bill, HR-2546, to require insurance for firearm transfers again in the congress.  The bill has been co-sponsored by representatives: Blumenauer (OR-3), Clark (MA-5), Grijalva (AZ-3), Lynch (MA-8), McGovern (MA-2), Rangel (NY-13), and Tsongas (MA-3).  It is a requirement for liability insurance for sales of firearms.  As introduced it does not specify the amount of insurance required or the parties to be protected by the insurance.

This blog has pointed out many times the limitations of the liability insurance model for protecting victims of gun violence; but many people easily see the parallels between the car insurance requirement and the need for gun insurance.  Liability insurance, as implemented in various states for the protection of people injured by cars, is often modified by the provisions of a mandate to be in a form which, while called liability insurance, is really based on some other insurance system.  These systems are typically called no-fault insurance or personal injury protection as well as being nominally called liability insurance.  They pay benefits directly to victims.

One of the good models for gun insurance is found in the requirement for a personal injury protection endorsement to car insurance in Rep. Maloney’s own state, New York.  It is codified in New York Regulation 68.   This provides for persons not covered by their own insurance (such as most pedestrians) a requirement for no-fault benefits which are paid directly to first parties (injured persons). 

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The Workers’ Compensation Bargain. A Model for Gun Insurance?

This is the second post in a series about workers’ compensation insurance as a model for mandating gun insurance.  The series starts with Firearms and the History of Workers’ Compensation.

The two sides of the bargain

The Great Bargain of Workers’ Compensation is called that because employers gain immunity from lawsuits for negligence from their workers and the workers gain certainty that they will be compensated for work injuries by compulsory insurance purchased by the employers.   As the first post in this series described; the system came out of an intense reform effort from many people determined to protect and benefit workers; but employers, especially the larger firms, also pressed hard for enactment of the system.  The result was adoption of compulsory insurance in many states before 1920.  Even in states where an employer could elect not to participate (still allowed in Texas) nearly all employers opted in to get protection from liability.

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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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The Question of Pricing Mandatory Gun Insurance

In addition to policy arguments such as those against putting costs and responsibilities on the public or burdens on gun owners, the insurance industry has offered two major substantive arguments against mandating gun insurance.  The first, which is the claim that insurance does not and cannot cover, intentional or criminal arguments is simply false.  This has been extensively explored by this blog at the post entitled  “Gun Insurance for Willful, Intentional & Criminal Acts.”  The second argument is basically a “Chicken and Egg” objection.  They claim that insurers have no experience to price such insurance and that without ratings experience such insurance cannot be sold.  This post is to show the reasons that this objection is of greatly diminished importance in the case of mandatory gun insurance.

Why can’t insurers simply add up the losses that are occurring as they are reported by emergency rooms, as part of claims for various other kinds of insurance, media reports and government statistics and assign them different weights in an estimate?  The basic reason is that, with voluntary insurance, the people who will actually buy the insurance are not a representative sample of the risk exposed public.  Sometimes that works for the insurers advantage because people can buy insurance because they are more than typically responsible in many ways and produce fewer than average claims.  But those who know that they have an elevated risk can buy insurance for that reason as well. Continue reading

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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Projected Costs for Gun Insurance are Low!

People who are opposed to gun insurance will often make arguments that the cost will be prohibitive.  They make guesses that it would cost typical gun owners thousands of dollars and work as a backdoor way to prohibit guns.  This is not actually what would happen if insurance was required.  We have enough information to make estimates that would put a ceiling on the average cost and it turns out to be quite reasonable.  Of course, insurers would take particular situations into account and dangerous owners and situations would pay more than average, perhaps much more; but, that’s realistic and can be handled by the owners taking measures to reduce the dangers.

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NYT OP/ED’s on Gun Manufacturer Responsibility—Insurance by Other Means

This is hot stuff!!  A very heartening reminder that the drive to establish a responsible gun policy in our country is here to the finish.

A pair of important OP/ED’s to hold gun manufacturers responsible for the injuries they create has been published in the New York Times.  The first “Make Gun Companies Pay Blood Money” by Lucinda M. Finley and John G. Culhane advocates a compensation fund to pay victims of gun violence financed by a tax on gun manufacturers or importers.  The second “Let Shooting Victims Sue” by Robert M. Morgenthau calls for rolling back the special laws that protect gun manufacturers and others in the gun trade from liability for the damage their wares create.

Make Gun Companies Pay Blood Money

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PreventingNewtown Blog Points Out Gun Insurance Benefits

A new post by Julia Hartman on the PreventingNewtown blog titled “A Case for Gun Liability Insurance” gives a thoughtful and interesting discussion of the benefits of requiring insurance to protect victims of gun violence.

The post gives a moving presentation of the damage done daily by guns and calls for insurance as a way to deal with the problem.  It makes the comparison to motor vehicles and points out the fact that gun deaths exceed motor vehicle deaths in 10 states currently.  Suicides are handled on a par with homicides and accidents, an position which is often opposed by those supporting the status quo for gun policy.

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Workers’ Compensation Insurance and Gun Insurance

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