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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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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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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Article: Gun used to kill N.Y. cop came from Virginia

An article, “Gun used to kill N.Y. cop came from Virginia” published 1-26-13 in the Virginian-Pilot illustrates the kind of gun leakage from legal to illegal hands that insurance could discourage. Colleen Long writes that a robbery in 2011 resulted in the death of a New York City police officer, who was shot in the head. As our system for tracing guns that turn up in crimes relies on records kept by federal licensed dealers, the 9mm semi-automatic Ruger pistol was found to be sold legally in 1999 by a dealer in Colonial Heights, Va.

The buyer of the gun in that legal transaction said that the gun was in possessions he had packed but had ended up abandoning, when he was evicted from an apartment. The story linked above is interesting with more details.

One obvious question is, do we believe the story about the loss of the gun? A Ruger 9mm is not an especially valuable gun. According to firearmspriceguide.com a used one is worth about $200 to $400 depending on condition. A person being evicted may very well abandon a lot of stuff, so it could be true. But the gun did drop into illegal hands and end up in New York. If an insurance company had responsibility for for that gun that continued after it was lost, that insurer would have a strong incentive to require the owner to keep control of the gun. The value of the gun itself was not sufficient motive.

The laws of the State of New York couldn’t stop the gun from being illegally brought from Virginia. The laws of Virginia don’t insure that owner keep track of guns in a way that prevents their loss, illegal sale or abandonment. An insurance company on the hook would, no doubt, require the owner to periodically demonstrate that the gun was still under control. There would be some financial committment on the part of the owner, sufficient to convince the insurer that the gun would stay in legal hands.

This story is special because the victim was a police officer, which provided the motivation for tracing the gun and for the paper writing about it. Thousand of other killings with illegal guns are similar in many ways. As the article says 85% of the illegal guns in New York come from out of state.