This is the second post in a series about workers’ compensation insurance as a model for mandating gun insurance. The series starts with Firearms and the History of Workers’ Compensation.
The two sides of the bargain
The Great Bargain of Workers’ Compensation is called that because employers gain immunity from lawsuits for negligence from their workers and the workers gain certainty that they will be compensated for work injuries by compulsory insurance purchased by the employers. As the first post in this series described; the system came out of an intense reform effort from many people determined to protect and benefit workers; but employers, especially the larger firms, also pressed hard for enactment of the system. The result was adoption of compulsory insurance in many states before 1920. Even in states where an employer could elect not to participate (still allowed in Texas) nearly all employers opted in to get protection from liability.
This is the first of a series of posts which are designed to show that workers’ compensation systems, insurance and laws are an excellent–the best that we have–model for dealing with gun violence victim compensation and for reducing that victimization.
A little over one hundred years ago, our country faced a crisis that was quite similar to the gun violence problem that we now face. Industrial and work related accidents were completely out of hand, producing deaths and injuries that reached almost every family. Looking back on my own family history, a great uncle on my fathers side was killed and my mothers grandfather lost an arm–both in railroad accidents of that era. It’s mostly forgotten today but it was a great issue at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Concealed carry permits provide a situation where gun insurance is needed that is much simpler than guns in general. Taking the guns out into the community provides an additional reason to provide guaranteed financial responsibility and many of the problems that have to be overcome to design good insurance are mitigated. Some of the reasons that required insurance would be easier to implement are:
- Most permit holders are generally responsible people and many have purchased or would purchase liability insurance to give legal protection to the insurance owner. The insurance that will be recommended here is much broader than currently available liability insurance which is designed to protect victims, it will also provide better protection to the permit holder.
- Permit holders are already registered with government entities. Enforcement of this insurance requirement will not require a new registration system.
- The problem that “criminals won’t buy insurance” is not applicable as they won’t have permits.
- Insurers are likely to be more willing to provide the required insurance to this group.
- The Supreme Court of the United States has declared that there is Constitutional protection for having self defense guns in the home; but it has not done so for guns in other places.
There are also good reasons over and above the reasons for guns in general to require this insurance for guns being carried in the community: Continue reading
It’s becoming clear that the underlying reason for insurance industry opposition to requiring insurance for guns is the latest move in a very old battle to keep the government out of regulating insurance and leaving the path clear for insurers to maximize their interests and profits. In a fascinating book from 1929 presenting both sides of the debate Edison L. Bowers, its editor from Ohio State University, wrote in an introduction:
No large group of persons stands as sponsors for compulsory automobile insurance in any of its forms, although an association has been formed to promote the compensation insurance idea. As already suggested, however, there is a strong undercurrent of public opinion to the effect that something needs to be done to curb the growing menace of the automobile, and that compulsory insurance of some sort will help in that direction. The opposition, on the other hand, is much better organized and considerably stronger. Both the United States Chamber of Commerce and the American Automobile Association have declared against compulsory insurance in its present contemplated form. The latter organization opposes it particularly on the ground that such insurance would not prevent accidents, which end is the basic issue in the problem.
The strongest opposition comes from a source least expected. The insurance companies have definitely declared against compulsory insurance. Their attitude has added new fuel to the controversy. It has raised the old issue of the “vested interests” versus the public. … the private interests present the argument that legislation should never invade the realm of private enterprise, that any change contrary to the welfare of private interests is un-American, socialistic, and perhaps unconstitutional.[i]
By the time compulsory insurance was being adopted in New York State in 1956 at least 85% of the motorists in that state had voluntary insurance with almost no regulation of terms and rates. The insurers were loth to allow a mandate which they were sure (and correctly so) would lead to regulation and especially regulation of rates. This history indicates that the insurance industry is no friend of the public but it will bend to the public will when it is finally expressed and then will serve the public.
[i] Edison L. Bowers, “Introductory Note,” in Selected Articles on Compulsory Automobile Insurance: Liability and Compensation for Personal Injury, ed. Edison L. Bowers (The H.W. Wilson Company, 1929), 16.
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
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 announcement of the hearing provides for written statements until May 30, 2013.
In a opinion article on Property Casualty 360 titled “Major Misfire” Paul Tetrault, state and policy affairs counsel for NAMIC, denounced the move in seven states and Congress to require insurance on guns. He repeated the statements that insurance cannot cover intentional acts. This blog has several times published numerous examples of current insurance that does cover intentional and even criminal acts to the benefit of parties other than the person who does the acts. This was pointed out to NAMIC but their spokesperson emailed that the organization stands behind the article.
A paper “Mandatory Liability Insurance for Firearm Owners: Design Choices and Second Amendment Limits” has been published by Nelson Lund of the George Mason U. School of Law and by Stephen G. Gilles of the Quinnipiac University School of law. While there have been simple calls for requiring gun insurance and comparisons of guns and cars at various times, Nelson Lund’s paper of 25 years ago “The Second Amendment, Political Liberty, and the Right to Self-Preservation” in the Alabama Law Review is the only serious and significant source known to this blog to address the issue prior to the Sandy Hook incident. The title of the new paper fairly describes its focus. Many issues of interest to those who want to think about the possibilities of using insurance to protect the public and compensate shooting victims are raised.
The authors of the paper are among those who believe that the Second Amendment gives individuals wide gun rights and that the narrow findings of the Heller decision only start to describe the limits of governmental regulation in this area. Others believe that Heller was the product of a momentary and ideological combination of justices which will not be expanded and will eventually fade in importance or even be overturned. The paper takes the view that, even under the broad interpretation of the Second Amendment, mandated insurance may have a role in containing gun violence. It does, however, see that role as being much more limited than does the author of this blog.
While this blog does not consider the Second Amendment as a major barrier to implementing effective gun insurance, many others do. This new academic analysis by widely respected conservative philosophers and thinkers is very valuable in laying out the nature of that objection. The paper should be read and considered carefully by anyone who is serious about understanding the possible role of insurance in dealing with America’s gun violence problem.
A bill HB976 has been introduced in the North Carolina Legislature. It has several gun control provisions including $100,000 in mandatory gun liability insurance. This insurance goes farther than in most other states by applying to willful acts and to unreported stolen guns. The bill introduced by Rep’s Luebke, Insko, Harrison and Adams has 7 sponsors so far. It was introduced on 4/17/13, showing that momentum to deal with gun violence is continuing and that insurance is seen as a part of the solution. There have now been bills introduced in 9 states and the US House.