Hearing Held on DC Gun Insurance Bill

On Thursday May 16, 2013 the District of Columbia held a hearing on the B20-170, Firearm Insurance Amendment Act of 2013 their Gun Insurance Bill.  The first panel consisted of Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign; Erin Collins from NAMIC; Tom Harvey, Gun Insurance Blog and Kris Hammond, Resident of DC.

The hearing was taped and the video is available here.  Written testimony from Dan Gross, Kris Hammond and Chester A. McPherson is here.  News coverage generally ignored the supporters of the bill.  For example see the Washington Post Story.

After preliminary remarks by Committee Chair Vincent Orange and Councilmember Mary M.Cheh (the bill sponsor) the first to present was Dan Gross who gave a good presentation in support of the bill outlining the seriousness of gun violence in the US.  He gave an example illustrating that current insurance does not apply even to many accidents, if it is available at all.  He stated that “it is absolutely unfair to saddle innocent victims with all the costs.

Erin Collins gave a presentation of the industries opposition to mandating insurance for guns.  It stated that this insurance was unnecessary and impractical and repeated that it couldn’t cover intentional acts.

Tom Harvey for this blog gave an oral version of the written statement below but added examples to counter the statement by MS Collins that insurance couldn’t cover intentional acts.

The panel was extensively questioned by Councilmembers Orange and Cheh primarily about issues of cost and effect of covering willful acts.  Chairman Orange had serious doubts about the willful act issue and in light of the opposition to the bill from the Mayor, it is likely that willful act coverage will be dropped.

The second panel consisted of Eric Goldberg, VP of the American Insurance Association and three residents.  All were opposed to the bill.  Mr. Goldberg began by questioning the contributions of this blogger, Tom Harvey, because of his not having experience as an insurance professional.  He stated his opinion that this situation would not meet any of the 3 classic conditions of insurability. (Measurable risk, sharable risk, and risk not subject to adverse selection).

The first panel took about an hour and the second panel about half of that time.  There was a third panel of officials of the Administration which summarized the bill and their role in administering it.  Chester A. McPherson, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking gave the Administration opinion that the bill was not needed.

After the testimony I asked Mr. Goldberg if the insurance industry was quietly studying the matter of insurance to protect gun violence victims and he replied “Why would I tell you that?”

The written submission from this blog is below.

I’m Tom Harvey, I write for Gun Insurance Blog. I’m a retired manufacturer.  I have no connection with the insurance industry.  I am here to support the bill.

Insurance is the way we deal, in our society, with potentially risky activities that can injure or kill.  Think about car accidents and workplace injuries.  Insurance companies make sure that individuals act responsibly or face consequences.  Requiring insurance for gun owners is very similar to requiring insurance for drivers or employers.

Gun insurance in particular will help in two ways.

§ First, it will encourage safe use of guns and safe storage of firearms.

§ Second, it will provide financially for the victims of shootings.

The bill being considered by the Council addresses common gun violence problems.

I think you would be surprised how few shooting situations are covered by insurance today, whether insurance from the NRA or homeowners insurance.  The neighbor kid comes over, gets the gun, and accidently shoots someone.  That victim can usually only get recompense by going to court against the legal gun owner.  This bill is good because it covers shootings by anyone, not just the gun owner.

We also know that most shootings are not accidental.  Guns are involved in homicides ranging from justifiable to heinous.  This bill is good because it doesn’t just cover accidents.  It also covers willful shootings.

A major problem is that guns get into the wrong hands.  There is another reason this bill is helpful.  The bill will require gun owners to promptly report lost or stolen guns.

The concept of requiring gun insurance has been discussed for 20 years.  It is now under consideration in at least 8 states, DC and the US Congress and the time for implementation as come.  After we have this kind of insurance, no one will believe it was once unheard of.

You will hear from others that insurance can’t cover intentional or criminal acts.  This is simply not true. There are many kinds of insurance in common use today that do pay out to innocent persons when insured persons become bad actors.  The key is they are designed to protect others and not just those who buy the insurance.

Gun insurance must be mandatory to be effective, not only to guarantee that it exists, but because only then will a market for the insurance appear. The insurers loss rates will normalize and premiums will adjust to reflect the real risks in the many circumstances of gun ownership.

Insurance trade groups, who seem to reflexively object to any requirements or regulations concerning insurance, claim various barriers to mandating gun insurance.  Few of these claims stand up to even cursory logical scrutiny and the ones that do only apply to the situation of thinly sold protection designed for the benefit of the gun owner

This bill requiring guns to be insured is good for safety, good for victims, good for gun owners, achievable and affordable.

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