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.
This blogger has been researching statistics for presentation to the District of Columbia City Council in relation to their bill B20-170 to require insurance for guns. Some of the figures are striking. Firearm homicide for DC over the 10 year period 2001-2010 is over 5 times the national average but firearm suicide is one third of its national average. This means there are over 15 times as many suicides per homicide nationally than in DC. Part of this difference is no doubt demographic. Suicide rates vary dramatically by race, age and gender. But the non-firearm suicide rate per 100,000 persons in DC is 75% of the national average and the firearm suicide rate is only 32% of the national average. That difference is probably due to the scarcity of guns in DC even with the large illegal gun problem. If this difference had not existed then there would have been an additional 142 firearm suicides in DC during the 10 year period.
It’s fair to conclude that DC’s strict firearm laws are saving about 14 lives a year from suicide, but would an insurance requirement have a substantial part of this effect in places where firearms are common. Suicide researchers generally think that most suicides are impulsive and that substitution of means is uncommon. This is an area where removal of the restrictions on firearm data gathering and research is very much needed. Insurers requirements for safe storage can make a large difference. Many informed public health experts believe that even things as small as separate storage of ammunition and keeping guns unloaded will make a substantial difference. A person who keeps his gun at a range or shooting club rather than at home in order to get a lower insurance rate is far less likely to take an impulsive but irreversible and tragic action with it.
The figures in the table all concern deaths by firearm unless otherwise labeled. They are totals for the period 2001-2010 and are taken from the CDC’s WISQARS system. Rates are per 100,000 population and are not age-adjusted.
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.
If a good solid system of insurance that pays everyone injured by guns is adapted, an obvious question will be “should it cover suicide.” This is likely to be controversial because many people think that payments to survivors would encourage persons thinking of killing themselves. The issue has been worked out for regular life insurance by having “incontestability clauses” which allow such coverage two years after the policy goes into affect. The idea is that a person is unlikely to plan that far ahead which handles the insurers concerns about the hazard of selling insurance to one who knows that it will be soon be paying the benefit.
Social Security pays survivors benefits after the suicide of a parent or spouse who has been married for more than 9 months. In some cases life insurance paid for entirely by employers will pay in cases of suicide with out a waiting period. The requirement is that the insurance be given automatically by the employer and the employee not contribute to the cost. In that case the insurance may or may not have a suicide clause. It seems unlikely that a person will take a job to get insurance covering their planned death and it seems unlikely that a person will buy a gun to get insurance rather than commit suicide in some other way. Continue reading →