Many people, when asked about the possibility of requiring insurance that would protect victims of gun violence, compare guns to automobiles; and, knowing that we require drivers to have insurance, think that it’s a reasonable thing to do with guns. It is a reasonable thing; but there are both similarities and differences.
Gun proponents, who often view compulsory insurance as simply an interference with rights they consider to be absolute, tend to offer a number of relatively unimportant differences by asserting things such as “car insurance isn’t required on private property or unless the car is being driven.” This isn’t always true; but, more importantly, it has little to do with how to handle a reasonable requirement for gun insurance.
The big difference is the way that we treat responsibility about the two classes of possessions and the politics of that responsibility. People are used to car owners being responsible for their cars and expressing that responsibility through liability and insurance. Gun proponents have worked to deflect responsibility away from owners and suppliers of guns and onto gun users; and then from gun users onto victims who can be perceived as responsible for their own injuries when the gun user thinks, rightly or wrongly, that shooting is justified.
The purpose of this post is to point out the similarities and differences that have substantial consequences in the design of appropriate insurance.
Similarities between Cars and Guns
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.
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.
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. Continue reading
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.