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.
Crossposted to guninsuranceblog