John Wasik Calls for Gun Insurance Again.

In a new article published Sept. 20, 2013 on the Forbes website and titled “Five Reasons Why Gun Insurance Can Survive Political Indifference”, he advocated for insurance as the most effective and practical solution to gun violence in more detail than ever before.  Wasik is a pioneer in pointing out the need for gun insurance starting well before the tragic incident at Sandy Hook.  His prior articles include:

February 15, 2011 in Reuters: “Why gun insurance should be mandatory

December 17, 2012:  “Newtown’s New Reality: Using Liability Insurance to Reduce Gun Deaths

December 29, 2012: “Gun Liability Insurance: Still a Viable Proposal

April 4, 2013: “Gun Insurance: An Economic Argument

His five reasons are:

1. Liability Coverage Addresses the Issue of Potential Future Harm Better than Any Gun-Control Legislation.

Wasik says the liability laws evaluate harm well and insurers will have an incentive to pressure gun owners for safety.  He does not mention no-fault principles which would be needed for effective general coverage.

2. Liability insurance should be required of all sellers and manufacturers.

He points out the importance of their responsibilities in selling and distributing guns.  He alludes to but does not explicitly state that their responsibility might continue to guns that were improperly sold and not insured by purchasers.  This chain of continuing responsibility is the core of this blogs advocacy for getting insurance in place to cover all gun injuries.

3. Liability Insurance is good business.

Wasik points out that the additional business should be welcomed by insurers and agents.  He does not point out that the insurance industry adamantly opposes any mandates for insurance in any area.  As this blog has often stated, this is because insurers think that mandates will bring regulation and especially regulation of prices.

4. Insurance is an accepted economic vehicle that’s been around for more than 200 years.

This is certainly true. Over that long time every new form of risk that has appeared has resulted in innovative solutions from the insurance industry.  Guns are the only important activity that has a substantial danger unaddressed by insurers.

5. The social costs are staggering and insurance can cover some of them.

Wasik mentions the medical costs which are only a part of what insurance should cover.  Worker’s Compensation and some Motor Vehicle insurance covers many economic damages—loss of work and support of dependents.  Even with these costs spreading them of the the huge number of guns to be covered would make insurance affordable.  The existence of an insurance requirement would reduce the number of incidents through it effects on safety and reduce the cost further.  It would also reduce the even greater costs of gun violence that are spread throughout society rather than concentrated on victims of shootings.  Costs such as reduction of property value, avoidance of activity through fear and the cost of protective measures.

John Wasik recognizes that dealing with guns is a difficult task for our society and will take a long time, but that insurance is one of the best tools we have.

A Progression of Kinds of Insurance for Guns

The purpose of having insurance for victims of gun violence is to provide money for the many needs they have after they suffer from a shooting. The insurance should be structured to pay in the various situations that occur, for the various needs that are faced and in a timely manner. There are lots of kinds of insurance in use today and several ones will be examined in the chapters that follow. Starting with the most basic insurance designed only to protect the buyer of the insurance, we will add features until we see that it is possible to create a system that works to provide the needed protection. We’ll start with the simplest in the progression.

Simple Liability Insurance

Simple liability insurance is the kind of insurance that a gun owner would buy voluntarily to protect himself or herself. If the gun owner is sued by a victim, the insurer is obligated to defend the gun owner in court. It’s necessary for the victim to prove fault on the part of the gun owner. The degree of blamelessness required on the part of the victim varies. If there are terms in the policy excluding coverage because of any situation of action by the gun owner, they will prevent recovery even if they are very arbitrary. The insurance company will probably fight tooth and nail to blame the victim, deny responsibility or get out of having to pay by any means available. If it looks like the victim will win the suit than there may be an offer of settlement and if the victim does win the money to pay will be available. This is a considerably better situation than trying to sue a gun owner or user who does not have any money. The existence of insurance is usually a major part of getting legal representation for an injured person without the victim having to prepay an attorney.

Liability Insurance for Paying to Victims

When insurance is mandated or otherwise designed to protect victims, then it should work differently. The victim in effect becomes an additional insured. It’s still necessary to show that the gun owner was at fault in the incident, but other acts by the insurance purchaser usually don’t prevent payment. The most important is that reasonable system for compelling insurance will pay if the gun and insurance owner intentionally do the shooting. In addition, the mandate should restrict the arbitrary exclusions that could become a barrier. The insurer normally pays directly to the victim. This is the way that the required motor vehicle insurance works in most states that do not have no-fault systems.

No-Fault Insurance

As its name implies, no-fault insurance does not depend on negligence or other fault on the part of the shooter. It pays to the victim on the basis of the losses and injuries received. In the case of motor vehicles, most no fault has an injured person collect first from their own insurance. This makes since because most of the time there are either two cars involved or the driver or a passenger of the one car is the injured person. But for situations where a car hits a pedestrian, the driver’s or the car owner’s insurance is the one to pay. This is the way it would work for guns. It should be clear that there is no problem with requiring the insurance to pay for intentional or criminal shooting on the part of the gun owner. One serious problem remains, the gun may be in the hands of someone other than a responsible owner who can be required to have insurance.

Insurance Guaranteed to Follow the Gun

If no-fault insurance as described above is mandated and it applies to particular guns rather than guns in the hands of an insured person, there is a cure for the uninsured gun problem. The insurance can stay in effect after the gun is diverted, lost or stolen as long as necessary. Various calls in state legislatures do this directly until the loss is reported to police, but the rule can be that the only way an insurer relinquishes responsibility for a gun is to have a new insurer take it up. Of course, insurers would take steps to guarantee that a gun owner does not lose control of a gun without getting that new insurer in place. This would also eliminate the need for the government mandating the insurance to follow up or track guns and owners directly. It would only need to track the insurers.

The last form of insurance is the one needed to provide for the broad array of victims of shootings.

Latest News on Mandatory Gun Insurance

June 25, 2013  Two new interesting OP/ED’s in NYT about guns and manufactures. Not insurance but with similar results
Finley, Lucinda M., and John G. Culhane. “Make Gun Companies Pay Blood Money.” The New York Times, June 23, 2013, sec. Opinion.
Morgenthau, Robert M. “Let Shooting Victims Sue.” The New York Times, June 23, 2013, sec. Opinion.
May 1, 2013  OP/ED by Paul Tetrault of National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC) claiming again there can’t be insurance for intentional acts.
April 10, 2013 New paper from Nelson Lund of GWU an important libertarian who supports gun insurance in principle but who thinks 2nd Amendment issues would narrow it’s application greatly.  Mandatory Liability Insurance for Firearm Owners: Design Choices and Second Amendment Limits.

April 5, 2013 Huffington Post Blog: Rep. Carolyn Maloney: “Inaction on Gun Safety: Unacceptable and Unaffordable.  Defends her two bills on Gun Trafficking and Gun Insurance.

April 4, 2013 What Am I Missing Here: “Mandatory Gun Insurance.”  Rant against insurance.  Blames III’s Robert Hartwig (no friend of gun insurance) as “insurance Mafia consiglierie

April 4, 2013 Forbes Blog: Personal FInance: John Wasik: “Gun Insurance: An Economic Argument”  Advocates Insurance, looks at current proposed legislation.

April 3, 2013 Rep. Carolyn Maloney Statement on Death Threats Over Legislation Requiring Gun Owners to Have Insurance

Continue reading

Workers’ Compensation Insurance and Gun Insurance

Motor vehicle insurance has been the obvious model for insurance advocated by this blog to provide for victims of gun violence. There are many parallels, especially with No-Fault versions to serving the gun situation. There is another place in our society were insurance was poorly working to protect injured persons and where society with the insurance industry has produced a system which has shown durable benefits in efficiently dealing with an important risk. Continue reading

Costs put on gun owners are not Poll Taxes

When a proposal for requiring insurance for guns is put into a blog discussion, many of the strong pro-gun advocates reacting to the post base their objection on rights as they assume they have them from the second amendment to the US Constitution. These assumptions can be very broad. And I see statements such as “what other rights do you have to pay for?” and “paying for gun insurance is like a Poll Tax.”

Well, I see us paying taxes on the means necessary to exercise a right all the time. Look at your phone bill, it’s full of taxes on a means to communicate. You have a right to travel, but pay taxes on cars and on air and rail tickets.

Poll taxes are really obnoxious, especially the way they were historically used, but they were not found to be unconstitutional until a specific amendment (The 24th Amendment to the US Constitution) was adopted. There is no similar amendment for gun rights. It’s interesting that rather heavy taxes for automatic weapons have never been found to be unconstitutional.

District of Columbia v. Heller is a very narrow decision in itself. It only overturns an extremely restrictive law that totally prohibits gun ownership. Later the court extended it to state laws in another case, McDonald v. Chicago. Since then lots of restrictions on gun use and ownership have been upheld by state courts. Whether the Supreme Court will strike a broader range of gun restrictions in the future is unknown. While lots has been written by legal scholars about the subject, the future path of this law will probably be determined by political considerations. Heller was supported by 5 justices with a strong dissent by 4 justices. It’s possible that it could be rolled back to the old view that any right to bear arms did not apply to individuals or it’s possible that it could be broadened.

As far as insurance is concerned, the system supported by this blog only requires regulations applied to the manufacturer of guns. Any requirement that the insurance be transferred to the subsequent owner, as would be needed to let the manufacturer’s insurer relinquish responsibility, would be a private contract.

Stray Guns and Stray Animals–Strict Liability

No-Fault Insurance is quite similar to the legal doctrine of strict liability.  When strict liability applies it is not necessary for the injured person to prove negligence or fault to hold a person responsible for damage from a certain cause.  It is often applied in Product Liability cases where it usually holds if the injured person can prove the product is defective, the product proximately caused the injury and the product was unreasonably dangerous.  After years of attempts to apply this to gun manufacturers where it generally did not apply because product was not found to be defective, Congress passed a law (Public Law 109-92), which among other Continue reading

ER Shootings Show Need for No-Fault Insurance for Guns

An OP-ED  in the New York Times on Jan 1, 2013 by David Newman titled “At the E.R., Bearing Witness to Gun Violence” does not mention insurance but shows the wide variety of cases which arrive.  The author linking to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine states that household members are 18 times more likely than intruders to be the victim.  NRA insurance excludes members of the gun owners family from coverage even if the gun owner is sued by them.    The author also states a quarter of gun crimes in American E.R.’s were committed with guns wrested from armed guards citing an article in The Annals of Emergency Medicine.  Assuming the shooter is indigent and uninsured (a good bet) the victim would have to sue the hospital who’s insurance company has deep pockets for defending the lawsuit.  Perhaps there will be some free immediate treatment in such cases; but how about follow up.  Fortunately, the article states that “Case fatality inside the hospital was much lower in the ED setting (19%) than other sites.”  Low fatality makes insurance more important because of the need to take care of the injured both immediately and over time.

This blog is dedicated to advocating for developing an insurance plan which covers all situations and all shooters, at fault or not, legal or not, known or unknown.  Other posts will analyze what is necessary to reach that goal.

NRA Liability Insurance vs. Complete No-Fault Insurance Costs

The NRA offers liability insurance for gun owners.  With the $100,000 limit and self-defence coverage the cost is $180.00 per year.  It only covers liability after the injured person wins a law suit and has many exclusions.  The self-defense part is by a separate endorsement.  It is excess liability so if the gun owners homeowners insurance pay NRA insurance will not.  It does, however, cover the individual owner and any number of guns owned or used by that person.

The calculation in the post on this Blog Gun Insurance Would Not Be Expensive shows Continue reading

Comments flood Eugene Robinson Washington Post Opinion

Eugene Robinson has an article “Stop the gun madness” in the Washington Post opinion section.  It calls for regulation but does not mention regulation.  It’s of interest to this blog because of the flood of comments.  There are over 2000 comments in about 24 hours as of 4:45 EST on Jan 1, 2013 and it is getting several comments a minute.  A rough scan of the comments shows a mixture with more in favor of increased regulation.  I think this reflects Robinson’s usual readership but is different than the bulk of comments in other places which are typically hostle and opposed to all gun regulation.  It raises the question of whether the dialog will permenently change after Newtown.

Useful Post by Ben Achtenberg on treating Guns like Cars for Insurance.

Ben Achtenberg has an article in the Caring for Survivors of Torture blog titled “We Already Have a Way to Cut Gun Deaths.”  It makes the case for treating gun ownership with the same standards of responsibility as cars in detail and with strength.  He points out our willingness to accept driving tests, licensing, training and mandatory insurance for automobiles.  He shows that these are support the use and ownership of cars and that the “the insurance industry has a vested interest in developing regulations and price points that will not unduly discourage car ownership and use.”  He then rhetorically asks if there any chance of that happening and answers “In the United States of today, not a snowball’s chance in hell.” 

He then goes on to talk about how an insurance system would work on a conventional liability model.  He discusses licensing, regulation, market price differences based on risks and insurance prices being affected by safe practices and good records.  He supports insurance as a part of universal regulation. 

He does not discuss the other models of insurance other than to say that one reader suggested that a surety bond for paying injured parties could replace or supplement insurance.  This is a well thought out article and gives a valuable list of links for Related Reading.