Insuring 300,000,000 Existing Guns

If gun owners are mandated to have insurance, new guns can be monitored.  But what about the 300,000,000 guns currently held by individuals, including illegal guns?  Clearly, no system of insurance, gun regulation, or police activity can deal completely with problems arising from such massive numbers.   The system of chaining insurance responsibility “Top Down” works to retain guns in the system one there, and stolen or otherwise illegally acquired guns will retain the insurer of the last legal owner.  But the outstanding guns in the hands of criminals and a good proportion of those owned by otherwise law abiding owners will not be enrolled in insurance without good reason.

Although it might be assumed that political considerations will mean guns currently owned will be grandfathered in, that does not have to be the case.   Legislators could establish a policy whereby all guns must be insured.   When state or national laws are adopted to require insurance for guns sold by manufacturers or passing through the hands of legal gun dealers, the laws can require that persons owning guns acquire insurance.

In spite of declarations in the media from some gun proponents that they will not comply with various proposed measures regulating firearms, most gun owners are legal and responsible citizens and will comply with a requirement after a reasonable period of time.  They will be able to purchase insurance and have their gun’s serial number added to the database without revealing their names to anyone other than their insurer.  Much of the insurance now sold to gun owners is now provided to them in association with the NRA, and there is no reason that this cannot continue for those who have concerns about insurers protecting their privacy.  Of course, any insurer, even the NRA, would have to comply with financial regulation as an insurer and provide the mandated insurance compensations for victims.

The database suggested as a part of the “Top Down” system would provide a quick way for a law enforcement officer to check if a particular gun is insured.  The database is designed to provide a quick way to find the insurer responsible for a particular gun, but contains no information about the gun’s location or owner.  An officer finding the gun as part of an action for some investigation or arrest can check if the gun is properly covered.  Guns are routinely and legally declared when they are shipped in luggage on airlines and may have to be declared when brought into controlled places depending on local laws.  Insurance can be checked in these situations as well.

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Questions and Answers on Mandating Gun Insurance.


This post is a good place to start if you’re new to this blog. Scan the questions and follow the ‘Related:’ link(s) if you have an interest in a particular area.  You may also want to check the category’s listed in the right hand column. 

Q: What is the purpose of mandating gun insurance?

Required insurance for guns or gun owners should be designed to provide benefits for victims of gun accidents or violence. Insurers will automatically take appropriate steps to encourage gun safety as part of their loss control and underwriting activities.

Related: Insurance-Good for Victims, Safety and Gun Owners

Q: What specifically would be the best insurance system for guns?

Each state should adopt a system of no-fault insurance with a system of delivering medical and cash benefits directly to victims. This insurance should be required to be in place for any firearm brought into or kept in the state in order for that firearm to be legal. It should provide all of the benefits available to victims of motor vehicle or workplace injuries.

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The Need for State Regulated Gun Insurance with a Federal Mandate.

The answer to the question of whether we need to mandate gun insurance at the federal or the state level is to have the mandate at the federal level and the regulation of the insurance at a state level.  The special problems that guns have of illegally traveling across state lines to do their damage and of states varying so much in their willingness to regulate guns can be solved by this structure.  The federal mandate should implement the top-down process for continuing insurer responsibility advocated by this blog.  It should require that the insurance pay benefits to victims in accordance with the gun insurance requirement in the state where the shooting occurs.

One of the special difficulties that makes guns different than almost any other risk, is that move around from state to state so easily once they are in illegal hands.  Much of the country has a relatively small problem with illegal guns and people there see no need to make access difficult.  In other parts of the country, there is a major problem with death and injuries from illegal guns.  No matter how carefully places like New York, Chicago and Washington, DC work to stop the transfer of firearms to dangerous people they cannot control the flood of weapons that come in from areas with more permissive policies. The process has been named the Iron Pipeline.

This blog believes that requiring insurance is a practical way to deal with the problem.  Insurers that remain responsible for deaths and injuries from guns after they pass into illegal hands will set up conditions to prevent that passage.  They will find ways to do this that are minimal inconveniences to legitimate gun owners.  The question is how to get a requirement for such insurance into place in this environment.  The states that sell the most guns are least likely to make such a mandate.

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Registration of guns and confirmation of insurance

In order to have a system of insurance the covers the dangers of having guns in our society, it is necessary to have a way to be sure that insurance exists that covers each victimization. The simplest system is to mandate the insurance and have the government check that it is in place. This requires that the government be aware of the identity of the gun owners in order to enforce the mandate. This means registration of guns or gun owners. The political objection to this is very great. If it is necessary to override this objection or wait for it to dissipate, then implementation of insurance for gun victims will be greatly delayed.

The Objection To Registration

Many people who are concerned about gun safety are not aware of the depth of the fear of government held by some of the gun rights defenders. There are a considerable number who have deep and broad paranoia which has been focused on this issue with severe personal mental health issues but an even larger number are simply trained to express this distrust by gun organizations, the media and those who want even more guns in circulation. Even more are aware that some form of tracking guns is essential for application of many measures to control or limit their circulation. They may fight registration of firearms as a way to prevent control of firearms.

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Insurance-Good for Victims, Safety and Gun Owners


We have responsible ways to handle things which are dangerous but which are not made illegal because of their actual or assumed benefits to society. We look carefully at ways to contain the dangers and enjoy the benefits in almost every case. The exception is firearms, but we are just beginning to pull our heads out of the sand and examine this important subject.

First Principle — Mandatory No-Fault Insurance to Cover All Victims

One of the most powerful tools to facilitate a dangerous activity is insurance. Unfortunately, requiring insurance to cover gun violence has been looked at only as a way to penalize gun ownership or at least to transfer costs to gun owners. The result is calls for high limit liability insurance, usually with terms that make actual implementation unlikely. This blog argues that the tort/liability model is one of the least effective ways to increase safety and provide for victims. A No-Fault system similar to worker’s compensation or some motor vehicle insurance is much better. It needs to follow a gun that changes hands in a way to insure that all guns are covered.

Second Principle — Top Down Insurance Does Not Require Gun Registration or Owner Tracking

This blog also is advocating that insurance be required of gun manufacturers or anyone bringing a gun into the system in such a way that the insurer only relinquishes responsibility when another insurer (contracted by a new owner) takes it up. Insurance should remain in effect through any transfer legal or not. This would allow confidence that insurance was always in effect without tracking the gun owners. With a proper No-Fault system the victim would not have to even be told the name of the owner to collect compensation. All transactions by claimants or the government would be with the insurance companies.

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Article on this blog crossposted to Daily Kos

I posted the last article “How to Seriously Approach Gun Insurance That Protects Everyone” on this blog to Daily Kos.  I’ve been getting quite a few comments.  Half or so are positive and the rest are very interesting.  The three things I need to study so far from the problems pointed out are:  It’s hard to explain the point of my approach so a quick reader working from scratch will get it, a lot of people think it won’t slow down the rate of injuries and deaths and a lot of people think insurance companies are just a rip off.  The last two problems are strongly affected by the way the system is implemented and I need to give that a lot of thought.  Good to get informative feedback.  Not much general negative feed back but some think that guns shouldn’t be touched at all.

How To Seriously Approach Gun Insurance That Protects Everyone

There are lots of posts, comments, OpEds and media articles about requiring liability insurance for guns since Newtown.  In fact, you can find a dozen (or many more) less than 24 hours old by searching “gun insurance” on your favorite search engine.  They tend to fall into three categories—advocating that we have it, denouncing it as an assault on gun rights or regretfully explaining the impossibility of making it work.  All of these categories are based on conventional liability insurance mandated in various amounts up to about $1 Million.  The purpose of the insurance advocates often seems to be to punish gun owners for the danger they give to society and is seen as a back handed way to ban guns by the gun advocates.  I think insurance, if differently structured, can be a way to deal with the deaths and injuries associated with guns without unduly burdening people who want to own and use guns.

 There are two major goals that are served by a good system of insurance here, first to provide compensation for persons injured and, secondly, to allow the costs of gun violence to fall on those who can do something about it.  In addition to the deaths, approximately 75,000 persons per year are non-fatally injured by guns according to the CDC.  Continue reading

Mandatory vs. Topdown Requirements for Gun Insurance

This is a quick post to remind readers that there are at least two ways to require gun owners to have insurance.

Mandatory Gun Insurance

The regulation or law could simply require every gun owner to have insurance in place on a gun.  This would be simple to mandate but it would require enforcement for every owner with all of the practical and political problems that brings.  There would be no automatic procedure to guarantee complience on transfer (legal or not) of the gun.  The probable result would be a large number of uninsured guns in circulation.

Topdown Gun Insurance

The requirement for insurance could have as part of its terms that an insurer remains responsible for injuries from a gun until responsibility is taken up by another insurer.  In that case, it would not be necessary to have enforcement measures taken for subsiquent owners.  Insurance coverage could remain in place for lost, stolen or diverted firearms greatly expanding the protection of potential injured persons.


Systems of Insurance applied to guns

There are many systems of insurance with varying breadths of coverage. The liability insurance that is talked about in the discussion at the moment would only cover a small proportion of the deaths and injuries that are occurring. The systems described below run from something so narrow that provides compensation to only a miniscule proportion those hurt to ones that could be implemented to protect almost all injured persons. Continue reading