The District of Columbia is scrambling to react to a Federal District Court decision that threatens to invalidate the ban on carrying guns for self-defense in DC. The current law in accordance with the direct decision by the Supreme Court in Heller v. DC forbids carrying guns outside the home except by certain classes of armed professionals. There has been a 90 day suspension of the application of this decision for an appeal which could be used to enact legislation which allows registration for that purpose. If DC is required to allow individuals to carry guns in public there are various options in regulating such carrying that are in accordance with the recommendations of this blog.
They should certainly increase the level of responsibility that gun owners have if their guns result in injury. They can pass provisions in the Municipal Code which are parallel to the specific requirements that give motorists a duty not to follow so closely as to strike other vehicles in the rear and a duty not to strike pedestrians in crosswalks. There should be provisions in the DC Code to establish a duty, with a presumption of negligence if not followed, to avoid the following:
Allowing a gun to make an unintentional discharge.
Allowing a gunshot to strike an unintentional target or a person not intended to be shot.
Allowing a gun to get into the hands of an underage person or a person prohibited from possessing firearms.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) and several other companies or organizations sell or sponsor the sale of insurance to defend and indemnify gun owners from liability in self defense situations. They do this on a nationwide basis and promise protection in a wide range of situations where the purpose of the gun use is to defend ones person or property. The point of this insurance is to have no restriction against covering self-defense as an intentional or willful act. The question raised in this post is: How can this be possible under California’s Insurance Code?
We see armed people working around us on a daily basis. Some of these private professionals are highly visible such as guards for banks and armored car services and some are less obvious to the eye such as private investigators or detectives. In almost all states there are requirements for them to have licenses and in most states they must have insurance or bonds that function as insurance. But there is tremendous variation in the requirements and in the definitions and terminology of the various roles.
Much of this blog is about how insurance should be designed and how it would work if an ideal insurance mandate was in place. Opponents of such a mandate point out real and imagined problems that would prevent such insurance from working. When the possibilities are examined the problems turn out only to apply to particular models of insurance and can be avoided by designing the insurance for the particular nature of guns and gun violence.
But there are also transitional problems that could block adoption of an insurance mandate that would work well once it was in place. The most important of these problems is the fact that gun insurance that would protect victims does not exist currently. The insurance that is designed to protect gun owners from accidental or self-defense incidents is very narrow and is not adapted to the need to protect victims even to the extent that existing liability laws could allow the redress in the courts.
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.
Many states have adopted stand your ground laws that protect shooters in public spaces that accidently(with or without negligence) either unintended bystanders or innocent persons who are wrongly believed to be a threat. This is the most uncontroversial situation where insurance should be required. These innocent people need to be protected and many of them are not insured themselves.
As this blog has argued people who have permits to carry weapons into streets and outside the home. These people are more likely to confront real and perceived threats with an audience of bystanders. They represent an additional risk over those who only have guns for protection in their homes. These risks and the relative ease of insuring against it are described in another post “Enacting a Concealed Carry Insurance Mandate”
While it would be ideal to have a gun insurance adopted at a single time as one well designed national mandate, it’s likely that political reality will force it to come into being in stages. The logical place to start is for the more amenable states to require insurance for holders of permits to carry firearms in public. If this can be extended to general coverage of guns in some of these states, the stage is set for a federal mandate for top-down insurance which extends into any state requiring insurance. This in turn will encourage other states to have their own requirements in order not to have their citizens paying for insurance without their state receiving benefits for victims.
Concealed Carry as a Start and an End in Itself
Mandating gun insurance for holders of permits to carry weapons in public is much simpler than mandating gun insurance in general. Permit holders are already registered with state government agencies; there is no need for an additional registration system. They are generally responsible people who have already shown their willingness to cooperate with reasonable regulations. Insurers will find these people to be desirable customers. Most measures to deal with gun violence have to deal with the flood of illegal weapons that come from states with weak regulation of gun trafficking. But, states requiring insurance for permits can simply refuse to recognize permits from other states without insurance requirements or require proof of insurance in addition to such a permit.
While it would be best to adopt gun insurance in the United States by national legislation that puts into place a full blown no-fault plan with the “Top-Down” provisions to guarantee that it covers all of the millions of guns in the country, it is not necessary to wait until that is politically feasible to make progress in protecting victims. There are several paths where an important part of this protection can be implemented both for it’s own value and to demonstrate the practicality of more complete plans.
The first and the one that already in the public eye is to adopt compulsory liability insurance for gun owners who are registered in particular states. This is the plan that is being offered in state legislatures. It would apply to a fairly small subset of the injuries and killings because it has no way to be in effect for illegal guns. But, as the proportion of gun injuries from legally possessed guns is going up due to a downward trend of crime in general and a greatly increased spread of legal guns, it would have a substantial value. It may very will be accomplished in some places in the next few years. This is the type of adoption that is seen by most writers who suggest insurance in the mass media.
Concealed carry permits provide a situation where gun insurance is needed that is much simpler than guns in general. Taking the guns out into the community provides an additional reason to provide guaranteed financial responsibility and many of the problems that have to be overcome to design good insurance are mitigated. Some of the reasons that required insurance would be easier to implement are:
Most permit holders are generally responsible people and many have purchased or would purchase liability insurance to give legal protection to the insurance owner. The insurance that will be recommended here is much broader than currently available liability insurance which is designed to protect victims, it will also provide better protection to the permit holder.
Permit holders are already registered with government entities. Enforcement of this insurance requirement will not require a new registration system.
The problem that “criminals won’t buy insurance” is not applicable as they won’t have permits.
Insurers are likely to be more willing to provide the required insurance to this group.
The Supreme Court of the United States has declared that there is Constitutional protection for having self defense guns in the home; but it has not done so for guns in other places.
There are also good reasons over and above the reasons for guns in general to require this insurance for guns being carried in the community: Continue reading →
Persons who carry guns for self defense or who keep guns in their homes often worry about the liability should they shoot someone. This motivates the drive by the NRA and other pro-gun organizations to adopt laws that immunize shooters, but it is also makes a substantial market for legal protection. It’s likely that steady publicity given to dubious claims of millions of defensive uses of guns make many people think that such protection is needed. There have sprung up a number of organizations which attempt to fill this market with products which may contain an insurance component or, if not claimed to be insurance, are similar to it in most respects.