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.
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.
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.
Writing about No-Fault gun insurance that provides an incentive for each successive owner to have insurance, one of the most common concerns in the comments was that insurance would protect criminals and wrongdoers.
Defenders of gun rights in articles and comments often seem to be writing from an assumption that the typical person who is shot is some sort of intruder or attacker who ran into the unexpected self-defense by an armed good guy. They often complain that media don’t cover such events. I don’t see much evidence, especially convincing evidence, to back that up. For example, Kleck and Gertz’s famous 1994 Survey claimed that there were about 2.5 Million incidents in which victims used guns in self-defense. Many of the loose figures in circulation come from this number. It was calculated by applying a 1.366% positive response on the survey to the estimated 190.5 Million households. This method has received a lotof criticism because of the likely possibility that no matter how low the real number was it only took a very small percentage of persons surveyed answering falsely to make up 1.336%. I expect you could get that many people to claim just about anything you want (say that they had ridden on a flying saucer in the last year) if you are taking that kind of a survey.
It’s really hard to get recent good figures on the nature of the shootings. Real data on most issues comes from government agencies collecting it from local sources and using their powers as part of federal government to insure that it is reported to them with a good bit of completeness and with consistent methods. That process has been shut down by political processes that oppose collection of data and examination of the subject. See Arthur L. Kellermann, MD, MPH and Frederick P. Rivara, MD, MPH “Silencing the Science on Gun Research” in The Journal of the American Medical Association.
So I’m looking at the log of news reports of gun deaths which you can get by following @GunDeaths on Twitter or use the excellent page on Slate which tracks it. I read the last 50 deaths reports as of this morning (January 8, 2010) and found that 7 were shooting by police, 1 was an accident, 2 suicides and 4 that were murder components of a murder/suicide. The rest were just plain murders by bad guys. It’s a pretty small sample but easily big enough to show that self-defense by innocent parties must not be common, in order to have it not appear at all. It’s likely that local media don’t usually report suicides; but it’s hard to imagine, they wouldn’t jump on the high reader interest that a real self-defense shooting would have. So I’m concluding that when a through study is done that gun insurance would not be protecting attackers killed in self-defense by legal gun owners. It does leave the question of whether, persons killed by police should be covered. I do imagine that there would be a resistance to insurance investigations to discover whether a person killed by police was actually committing a crime.