Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY-12) has introduced a bill, HR-2546, to require insurance for firearm transfers again in the congress. The bill has been co-sponsored by representatives: Blumenauer (OR-3), Clark (MA-5), Grijalva (AZ-3), Lynch (MA-8), McGovern (MA-2), Rangel (NY-13), and Tsongas (MA-3). It is a requirement for liability insurance for sales of firearms. As introduced it does not specify the amount of insurance required or the parties to be protected by the insurance.
This blog has pointed out many times the limitations of the liability insurance model for protecting victims of gun violence; but many people easily see the parallels between the car insurance requirement and the need for gun insurance. Liability insurance, as implemented in various states for the protection of people injured by cars, is often modified by the provisions of a mandate to be in a form which, while called liability insurance, is really based on some other insurance system. These systems are typically called no-fault insurance or personal injury protection as well as being nominally called liability insurance. They pay benefits directly to victims.
One of the good models for gun insurance is found in the requirement for a personal injury protection endorsement to car insurance in Rep. Maloney’s own state, New York. It is codified in New York Regulation 68. This provides for persons not covered by their own insurance (such as most pedestrians) a requirement for no-fault benefits which are paid directly to first parties (injured persons).
People who are opposed to gun insurance will often make arguments that the cost will be prohibitive. They make guesses that it would cost typical gun owners thousands of dollars and work as a backdoor way to prohibit guns. This is not actually what would happen if insurance was required. We have enough information to make estimates that would put a ceiling on the average cost and it turns out to be quite reasonable. Of course, insurers would take particular situations into account and dangerous owners and situations would pay more than average, perhaps much more; but, that’s realistic and can be handled by the owners taking measures to reduce the dangers.
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:
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 →
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. Continue reading →
This blogger has been researching statistics for presentation to the District of Columbia City Council in relation to their bill B20-170 to require insurance for guns. Some of the figures are striking. Firearm homicide for DC over the 10 year period 2001-2010 is over 5 times the national average but firearm suicide is one third of its national average. This means there are over 15 times as many suicides per homicide nationally than in DC. Part of this difference is no doubt demographic. Suicide rates vary dramatically by race, age and gender. But the non-firearm suicide rate per 100,000 persons in DC is 75% of the national average and the firearm suicide rate is only 32% of the national average. That difference is probably due to the scarcity of guns in DC even with the large illegal gun problem. If this difference had not existed then there would have been an additional 142 firearm suicides in DC during the 10 year period.
It’s fair to conclude that DC’s strict firearm laws are saving about 14 lives a year from suicide, but would an insurance requirement have a substantial part of this effect in places where firearms are common. Suicide researchers generally think that most suicides are impulsive and that substitution of means is uncommon. This is an area where removal of the restrictions on firearm data gathering and research is very much needed. Insurers requirements for safe storage can make a large difference. Many informed public health experts believe that even things as small as separate storage of ammunition and keeping guns unloaded will make a substantial difference. A person who keeps his gun at a range or shooting club rather than at home in order to get a lower insurance rate is far less likely to take an impulsive but irreversible and tragic action with it.
The figures in the table all concern deaths by firearm unless otherwise labeled. They are totals for the period 2001-2010 and are taken from the CDC’s WISQARS system. Rates are per 100,000 population and are not age-adjusted.
The insurance industry through its trade group spokespersons has been very negative on the possibilities of dealing with the gun violence problem by means of requiring insurance. The legislative proposals made so far have all been very narrow calls for conventional liability insurance sometimes with high limits. The trade groups have been quick to jump on the limitations of that approach and on projected difficulties with implementation. The quotes in various new articles have been very hostile to gun (and actually all) insurance.
In a statement made to the Connecticut State Legislature on March 19, 2013 the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) made a more carefully worded opposition to such insurance. This allows an analysis of the reasons for the reservations of the insurance industry on this matter.
PCI opposes this legislation because it will be ineffective in curbing gun violence and will create significant burdens for law abiding gun owners and insurers. As a general rule, PCI opposes mandating the purchase of liability insurance. We have found that mandatory insurance requirements are often ineffective and serve only to add enforcement and administrative costs for both government entities and insurers.
The comparison with motor vehicle insurance is relevant here in showing that this is a ridiculous statement. While it varies greatly from state to state, in many states motor vehicle insurance is mandatory, enforced and highly effective in compensating injured persons. In states where it is not effective, it is because insufficient insurance is mandated or enforced.
The bill in the District of Columbia Council, B20-170, requiring insurance for guns will have a hearing at 10AM on May 16, 2013. The text of the bill requires liability insurance of $250,000 for gun owners. It provides for willful acts.
(b) The insurance policy required under subsection (a) of this section shall specifically cover any damages resulting from negligent acts, or willful acts that are not undertaken in self-defense, involving the use of the insured firearm while it is owned by the policy holder.
The post gives a moving presentation of the damage done daily by guns and calls for insurance as a way to deal with the problem. It makes the comparison to motor vehicles and points out the fact that gun deaths exceed motor vehicle deaths in 10 states currently. Suicides are handled on a par with homicides and accidents, an position which is often opposed by those supporting the status quo for gun policy.