It’s hard to get thoughtful responses to the ideas published on this blog. Most comments are from people who simply assert their, usually negative, conclusions. When I get a response such as The Truth About Maryland’s recent post “Mandatory gun insurance: an interesting smart idea that won’t really work. A primer, from a finance and insurance geek,” I welcome the chance to look for new information or approaches to the problem of dealing with gun deaths and injuries. Insurance is a tool and gun injuries are a problem that to be addressed by that tool require that it be specifically adapted to the problem. For example, the parallels between automobiles and guns are striking because both are widely used instrumentalities that result in a substantial amount of death and injury; but this blog outlines differences in the best implementations of insurance.
The blog posting above concludes that mandating insurance for guns is impractical and gives a number of reasons. Some of the problems with such insurance cited are reasonable and require discussion of the way to prevent those problems from being an insurmountable barrier.
Objection #1: No-fault insurance. The posting asserts that no-fault insurance leads to excessive insurance fraud.
The problem of high rates of insurance fraud for automobiles isn’t because some insurance is no-fault but because cars cause a huge number of hard to diagnose injuries of all levels of severity. There are about 100 insurance claims for injury for each motor vehicle death. The ones involved in fraud often don’t even have certainty that they are connected to the claimed accident. There are only about 3 or 4 injuries from guns, not all of which would result in insurance claims for each death. Injuries from guns are very visible and traceable to specific incidents and are very different from the subjective neck and back pain claims that cost car insurers billions of dollars each year.
Objection #2: Straw purchasers, and theft are the major sources of guns. I think the poster is assuming that these situations cannot be insured.
Straw purchasers can be required to present insurance certificates to take possession of firearms. This blog advocates that the required terms of the insurance continue its coverage after the gun is transferred to the illegal user. This blog also advocates that insurance cover guns after they are stolen. It’s important that gun owners take all possible steps to prevent their guns being stolen and insurers can work to require this. Many incidents involve legally owned guns which are not acquired by these illegal means.
Objection #3: Pricing gun insurance based on known observable characteristics of expected violent offenders would be downright illegal.
Insurers certainly shouldn’t price insurance on the basis of factors like race and ethnicity. Observations of disparate statistics in shootings by race are based on the characteristics of the shooters and victims and not on the last legal owner of a firearm who would be purchasing the insurance. We certainly have a problem in this country with discriminately priced credit and insurance bases on statistical surrogates such as zip codes for characteristics not allowed as pricing determinates. This should be addressed for all kinds of credit and insurance and would not be a particular problem for gun insurance over the other kinds.
Objection #4: Imports are a major source of guns. I assume the blog poster is thinking about smuggled guns which might avoid insurance.
We do have a problem with guns smuggled out of the United States.
Objection #5: Guns can be made untraceable, untraceable guns can be easily manufactured.
It’s not easy to make a cheap quality gun. Guns are cheap because they are mass production items. Plastic 3D printed guns could become a problem for screening checkpoints and we should have much tighter restrictions on 80% completed receivers for assault weapons, but these are relatively small problems.
There is a real untraceable gun problem. At lot incidents don’t result in a specific gun being identified. The victim is shot but the shooter isn’t apprehended or no longer has the gun. If there is a pool to compensate such victims, as there is in most states for car accident victims, it must be kept small enough to not threaten the maintenance of the insurance system. For that reason, we should adopt technologies that improve the identification of firearms involved in incidents.
I appreciate postings and comments that point out details that require addressing as we would implement gun insurance. Putting the problems on the table is helpful.