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.
1. Concealed Carry as a Start and 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.
Starting by requiring insurance for permit holders is not only easier to implement, but it will address quite a few additional dangers for guns carried in public that do not apply to guns kept for self-defense in the home:
- Citizens who do not want to be exposed to the dangers of guns have no choice to avoid them.
- People carrying guns often need to leave them in cars or other less protected places, encouraging theft and misuse.
- The new “Stand Your Ground” laws often prevent innocent citizens injured in incidents from receiving compensation in shooting incidents.
- Private property owners and businesses may be at legal risk from the guns brought by their visitors and customers.
- The “bad guy” in a situation may respond with additional violence perhaps turning a robbery into a murder.
These additional dangers give the states an incentive to make this requirement. Several states have instituted a provision for issuing these permits under great pressure from gun proponents or even in the case of Illinois from a federal court. In other cases the state legislature has reluctantly expanded the permit system from a “may issue” system where local law enforcement officials may or may not approve the issuance of a permit based on the need in the particular case to a “shall issue” system where permits must be given to any person meeting defined requirements. Those states which are uncomfortable with their system of issuing permits are likely to welcome required insurance as a way to provide a guarantee of responsibility on the part of permitees.
Enforcement of the insurance requirement can be made through the permitting process and because it is attached to the person holding the permit rather than directly to identified guns there is no limit to legally owned firearms. Invalidation of the permit is a readily available way to enforce continuance. The benefits can be defined by reference to a pre-existing system such as worker’s compensation in any state or no-fault motor vehicle insurance if available in that state.
Example of Possible Legislation for Carry Permit Insurance
Relating to requiring insurance for Concealed Carry Weapons Permits and establishing strict liability for injuries and death resulting from firearms used under such permits.
SECTION 1. As used in sections 2 to 5 of this Act:
(1) “Covered Firearm” means any firearm owned, controlled or used by a Covered Person. Includes any otherwise included Firearm which is lost or stolen until the loss or theft is reported to a law enforcement agency in the area where the loss or theft occurred.[a]
(2) “Covered Person” means any person holding a [Name of Permit].[b]
(3) “Evidence of Insurance” means a card issued by an insurer authorized to issue Firearm Permit Insurance which lists the name of the Covered Person and the dates of coverage and certifies the existence of Firearm Permit Insurance.
(4) “Firearm” has the meaning of any firearm or other weapon that is covered by [Name of Permit].[c]
(5) “Firearm Permit Insurance” means insurance issued to comply with the requirements of this act by an insurer authorized to issue such insurance by the [State Insurance Regulatory Agency].
(6) “Issuing Agency” means [Name of state permit issuer]
(7) “Worker’s Compensation Equivalent Benefits” means all benefits that would be provided for a similar injury or death arising out of employment under [Workers Compensation Law].[d]
SECTION 2. Worker’s Compensation Equivalent Benefits Requirement
(1) Firearm Permit Insurance must provide Worker’s Compensation Equivalent Benefits to any person injured in an incident involving a Covered Firearm.[e]
(2) A person injured after display, use or threatened use of a Covered Firearm is considered to be injured in an incident involving the Covered Firearm, regardless of the actual agency of injury.[f]
(3) A person injured in the act of a felony that started prior to the display, use or threatened use of the Covered Firearm may be denied Worker’s Compensation Equivalent Benefits by the insurer.[g]
(4) For the purposes of this section the average wage of any injured person whether or not actually employed or employable shall not be considered less than the average weekly wage of the state.[h]
(5) The minimum death benefit provided for a person killed in an incident involving a Covered Firearm is $100,000.[i]
(6) Nothing in this section will be construed to relieve the owner or user for liability incurred because of injury involving a Covered Firearm.[j]
SECTION 3. Liability Insurance Requirement
(1) Firearm Permit Insurance must provide liability coverage to each covered person in an amount of not less than $500,000.
(2) The liability insurance must cover liability for negligent injury caused by a Covered Firearm in any location.[k]
(3) The liability insurance must cover all liability incurred under section 5 of this act.
SECTION 4. Requirement and Proof of Insurance
(1) Any Covered Person must maintain Firearm Permit Insurance in place at any time a [Name of Permit] is in effect.
(2) A [Name of Permit] is immediately invalidated upon lapse of Firearm Permit Insurance due to expiration, failure to pay premiums, failure to comply with requirements of the insurer or other cause.
(3) An insurer issuing Firearm Permit Insurance must notify the Issuing Agency prior to lapse of Firearm Permit Insurance. The insurer is responsible for claims under the insurance for incidents that occur prior to 30 days after that notice.[l]
(4) Failure to return the [Name of Permit] to the Issuing Agency within 10 days of lapse of Firearm Permit Insurance is grounds for refusal to reissue the permit for a period of 2 years.
(5) At any time a [Name of Permit] is required the Covered Person must have Evidence of Insurance available for immediate inspection.[m]
SECTION 5. Strict Liability for injuries involving Covered Firearms
(1) The owner or user of a Covered Firearm is liable without consideration of negligence or intent and regardless of any other law granting immunity for any injury involving the Covered Firearm at any location other than that person’s home or a place of business under that person’s control.[n]
(2) This section does not apply to any injury where the injured person is in the act of committing a felony that started prior to any display, use or threat of use of the Covered Firearm.
[a] An important reason for including stolen firearms is that a gun may be taken from the Covered Person or from a place or vehicle where it was left by the Covered Person and used by another. This is one of the major risks of carrying firearms in public places.
[b] A law enforcement officer is not generally required to have a permit and so would not be covered.
[c] In most states this means that the insurance will not cover long guns.
[d] All states have worker’s compensation insurance systems. Use of these systems will allow effective insurance to be defined without setting up a new system. Due the much smaller number of injuries due to guns than to employment accidents this is efficient. It is also desirable to use an existing system so that the practicality of the system is demonstrated by the preexisting experience. Most state worker’s compensation systems have rules for intentional acts by co-workers or third parties and for self-inflicted injuries that are workable when applied to gun injuries. Opportunities for fraud by injured persons are much more limited than in worker’s compensation or in no-fault motor vehicle insurance because guns rarely cause the kinds of soft tissue injury that leads to uncertainties in the diagnosis or required treatment.
[e] Incidents that are covered by the insurance are not limited to those occurring in places where the permit is required. This is appropriate because persons having permits are more likely to have injuries produced by the permitted firearms in their homes and places of business. They may have additional weapons and keep these weapons outside of locked storage in readiness for taking them into the community.
[f] An example of another agency is that the use or threatened use of a Covered Firearm may elicit return gunfire or other hostile behavior from the person against whom the use or threat was directed. A person may also be injured in attempting to flee the area where the Covered Firearm was used.
[g] The limitation of the denial to felonious acts started prior to the use of the Covered Firearm is because after the incident starts, there may be a response with an unclear or controversial nature. It insurer should not be allowed to use this uncertainty to deny coverage.
[h] Average weekly wage is defined in most state worker’s compensation systems. It is important that there be compensation to persons who are not employed currently or are unemployable due to being children, having the duty to care for another person or being disabled prior to the shooting incident.
[i] This is higher than for motor vehicle insurance in most states, but should not be excessive for the states likely to initially adopt this insurance requirement. In most cases the limits for motor vehicles were adopted in the past and would be higher if set today.
[j] Worker’s compensation insurance usually relieves employers of other liability. It is not the intention of defining benefits as Worker’s Compensation Equivalent Benefits include this limitation on gun owners responsibility.
[k] The Strict Liability in Section 5 is limited to places outside the Covered Persons home or business. Negligent liability should apply everywhere as it not does.
[l] This gives the issuing agency time to invalidate the permit and take other enforcement action.
[m] A law enforcement officer who stops a person with a Covered Firearm will be able to check the card in order to take enforcement action.
[n] This language is intended to override any “Stand Your Ground” or other immunity law. The limitation to places other than a home or place of business is to limit the strict liability to places where the permit is required.