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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 can seem to be to punish gun owners for the danger they give society and is often 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.

 The two major goals served by a good system of insurance here are, 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.  All of them need medical care now, some need medical care for the extended future and some need economic support because they will not be able to work again.  There are many other needs coming from the deaths and injuries, a person killed may leave dependants to care for as well as need care for themselves.  As to the second goal, insurance companies in many contexts do a great amount of loss prevention either through the market place with their underwriting departments or by direct contact with the insured by loss prevention departments.

In order to achieve these goals gun insurance needs to be No-Fault to have the compensation reach further than to those who can prove negligence on the part of the insured person and to relieve the victim of having to prove that they didn’t have any contribution of fault in order to be compensated.    It also has to reach the great number of situations where the gun has strayed by loss, theft or diversion from legal, presumably insured, hands to an illegal holder.  A good example of No-Fault in a somewhat parallel situation is New York State’s No-Fault system Regulation 68 as it applies to accidents where cars hit pedestrians.  It covers pedestrians hit by stolen cars until the car owner drops the insurance.  The problem is the car owner can drop the insurance.

I think the way to achieve these goals is to require No-Fault insurance that starts at the manufacturer or importer of firearms.  That insurer would only be able to relinquish responsibility when another insurer, probably contracted by a buyer, takes over the responsibility.   The responsibility would pass down the line to each new legal purchaser and in the event of loss or theft would remain with the last insurer.  That way, there would always be an insurer in effect for each gun; and there would be an incentive for legal owners to prevent what is probably the most serious threat from legal guns-- that they might turn into illegal guns.  Insurers would put conditions into their insurance contracts to keep guns from being lost or stolen.  Straw purchasers would have a hard time getting insurance and dealers would be prevented by their own insurers from selling to those without insurance.  This insurance does not need to be expensive, calculations based on the total deaths and injuries, generous benefits and a realistic insurance company markup point an average premium of less than $60 per gun annually.

An advantage of this top down system of insurance is that that the regulations only need to mandate insurance for those who introduce a gun into the system.  Manufacturers and Importers could be required to have insurance with these provisions and subsequent owners need not be regulated by the government for this to work.  Laws and regulations would be much easier to uphold if challenged by 2nd Amendment issues.  Gun purchasers with deep privacy concerns would only have to reveal themselves to insurance sales organizations, which would compete for their trust.  There would need to be information available to the government or injured persons only about connecting the specific weapon identified by serial number or, perhaps a bullet scan, to the insurer responsible at the time of the shooting.
There are many details and questions about this scheme, which need exploration.  I am looking at them at a dedicated blog on the subject.  I would welcome suggestions about this or any better way.

Crossposted on Gun Insurance Blog

Originally posted to guninsuranceblog on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 06:07 AM PST.

Also republished by Repeal or Amend the Second Amendment (RASA) and Shut Down the NRA.

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What do we need in the way of gun insurance?

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Comment Preferences

  •  I have car insurance. (7+ / 0-)

    I still get hit.

    "I wanted to go on a killing spree today, but my insurance lapsed. I have to wait til next week"..

    I think "gun insurance" is another nifty way to set up a massive income stream.

    Register guns. If your gun is stolen you;d better report it immediately. If your gun is used in a crime and you haven't done anything about reporting it, you're officially an accomplice.

    I consider this a for=profit scheme to make money off of people's fears and resentments while accomplishing little to nothing.

    AT BEST you'll make money off of rule-followers.

    The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.

    by xxdr zombiexx on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 06:16:05 AM PST

    •  Don't forget (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      xxdr zombiexx, Joy of Fishes

      we do live in litigious times. Even if a crime was not committed with your firearm, but an injury to some one occurred, you still have to contend with civil suits, which could break you. The problem is not insurance so much, as unregulated and expensive insurance, especially of the type that goes up an up every year. Hell most people could, at best, only afford basic life insurance, the kind that just buries you, unless the employer offered it.

      "The United States is a nation of laws: badly written and randomly enforced." -Zappa My Site

      by meagert on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 07:21:14 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Then I'll be really clear (6+ / 0-)

        I can already sue somebody for injuring me with a gun. That's not new. I see no need to set up yet another corporate entitlement scheme to get people to pay money for an additional rule that accomplishes the same thing.

        I think 'gun insurance' it is a very silly idea that will not do a thing to limit the types of incidents some folks naively believe that this will prevent. It will be lucrative if they can set it up, but it won't really change anything.

        Rule-followers will follow the rules and enrich the gun insurance industry. It will mean nothing to those who refuse to follow the rules. (I suppose we could hunt them all down and put them in FEMA Camps.....seems like there would be plenty of support for this....)

        It won't eliminate the sorts of tragedies that people rightfully want to prevent. One has to be clear about this. If it is not one thing (which is GOOD) it will be another. I am all for keeping this shit to a minimum or eliminating it, but I am a realist.

        How many Americans drive cars without insurance? I have heard that much of the Memphis, Tennessee area folks don't have insurance, nor even valid licenses. They just drive when they want to....

        You all can enact all the laws you want: I merely wish to remind you they won't stop determined/disturbed people or those who will not obey the law.

        Not so much 'pro-gun' as some erroneously believe, as I am pro-smart. Hysteria makes for dumb and ineffective laws.

        The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.

        by xxdr zombiexx on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 07:33:32 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Often I say "you" and I mean "one" (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Joy of Fishes, Hey338Too, JR

          I'm not singling out the person to who I am responding - just making a rhetorical argument in general.

          The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.

          by xxdr zombiexx on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 07:34:53 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  I agree completely (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          xxdr zombiexx

          with the fact that this will do absolutely nothing to contain violence, . And that insurance companies are greedy capitalists.
           I am more concerned with being able to afford some financial safety for me and my family should the worst ever happen. As my post below says, I would appreciate reasonable insurance, but doubt there would actually be any, or that any laws concerning it would lean in the individuals direction..

          "The United States is a nation of laws: badly written and randomly enforced." -Zappa My Site

          by meagert on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 07:51:25 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  A couple of things: (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          xxdr zombiexx, meagert
          I can already sue somebody for injuring me with a gun.
          But, depending on their solvency, you may collect nothing. I think the idea is to provide a guarantee that a liable or partially liable party would have funds to pay judgments against them; it just ensures that the burdens don't shift more heavily to victims.
          I think 'gun insurance' it is a very silly idea that will not do a thing to limit the types of incidents some folks naively believe that this will prevent.
          I'm happy to have that discussion, but I don't think it's the primary purpose of the plan. The author is clearly more concerned with establishing a liability system for these incidents than preventing them:
               "The two major goals served by a good system of insurance here are, 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."
          Register guns. If your gun is stolen you'd better report it immediately. If your gun is used in a crime and you haven't done anything about reporting it, you're officially an accomplice.
          I can see the wisdom in this, but I don't really see the virtue of putting a criminal liability in place (especially one so severe) but not a possible route to civil liability.

          If I'm reading it correctly (and there's always a good chance I'm not), the author's thinking seems to be that, in addition to providing a guaranteed payout for liability, a gun insurance requirement would discourage unlawful transfers, unsafe/unsecure storage, and delays in reporting thefts. If it's correct, as studies show, that most guns used in crimes are obtained through theft, straw purchases or other illegal transfers, this still seems to get at that problem.

          It looks like the author means to use an insurance model as a prerequisite to a sale or transfer, starting as soon as the gun enters the stream of commerce. What that really amounts to is universal registration coupled with liability protection. And the idea seems to be that the liability stays with the most recent registered owner, unless a theft or loss is properly reported. Whether or not that would pass constitutional muster I'm not certain, but I don't see this being inherently ineffective. (The author's point about the impact on straw buyers seems like a great advantage to the plan, since it would inject a profit motive into ensuring that guns are only lawfully purchased and transferred.)

          You all can enact all the laws you want: I merely wish to remind you they won't stop determined/disturbed people or those who will not obey the law.
          I'm not sure that's the author's point. This seems to be aimed at reducing the likelihood that "those who will not obey the law" will be able to obtain firearms, since, somewhere in the stream of commerce, almost all firearms pass through the hands of those who will obey the law--whether manufacturers, importers, store owners, private owners or lawful dealers--and this model will increase the pressure on those actors.

          ..

          All that said, don't count me on board with this proposal just yet: I'm not sure what I think about it, since I do think there's a major constitutional issue in mandating an ongoing commercial transaction in order to keep a firearm, and in requiring a purchaser get a private, third-party's approval before purchasing additional guns for his household (while I think limiting the number of guns per person is constitutional, such a limit should come from Washington and not Hartford, if it comes at all). And God only knows what it would cost me per month--it might damn near bankrupt KVoimakas :).

          "Speaking for myself only" - Armando

          by JR on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 09:06:07 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Since when would an insurer (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      meagert, xxdr zombiexx

      be required to cover liability in the commission of a crime? This kind of proviso would jack up the price ridiculously, and I can confidently predict insurers would simply refuse to pay.

      The diarist might say that coverage for illegal use of the firearm could come attached to the technicality of insuring the inanimate object rather than the human user. But I don't see why any insurance company would want to get into the business of insuring inanimate objects - designed to kill or maim - no matter who is using them, legally or illegally.

      You could point to car insurance as insuring inanimate objects, but in truth it is the owner and all designated drivers (owner permission, duly licensed wife, kids, etc.) who are insured for mishaps that occur while driving. This can come with coverage in case of theft, but the thief isn't covered if he wrecks the vehicle during his getaway.

      I like the idea of liability insurance for gun owners. And I am a gun owner. But I'm having a really hard time imagining that anybody would insure for harm caused by a gun thief (or wayward gun owner) while using the gun to rob a convenient store...

      •  People can do this if they want (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        meagert, Joieau

        I just don't want people sleeping easier at night thinking that making somebody pay a fee is going to prevent tragedies.

        The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.

        by xxdr zombiexx on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 08:25:01 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  You're right that (0+ / 0-)

          requiring insurance isn't going to keep gun violence from occurring. Neither will registration or any other law that might be passed. Short of repeal of the second amendment and door to door jackboots, that is. Which I don't believe will happen in my lifetime, and which if it did happen would quickly cause a big increase in gun violence.

      •  Furthermore... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joieau

        WRT car accidents: a car accident usually comes with somebody getting a ticket for breaking some law related to the accident. That establishes fault, guilt, and blame (when it's all said and done). Then one can sue the person at fault, usually handled by the ins co. I have sued people who have hit me in small claims court because the hit me. If I were to be at fault, I get sued.

        Hell, some local trash tried to sue me for an accident in which I was (A) not at fault and (B) a victim. (They lost. Morons.) Defense was paid for by my car insurance fees.

        But, this incident  prompted to wonder what new criminal scams gun insurance would inspire - I am not a criminal and I don't think like one, so off the cuff I have no real idea, but I am certain any new law like this will inspire a new wave of financial crime, not that supporting crime is any reason to not have a law....

        (It occurred to me there would be an increase in filed-off serial  numbers as a simple way to avoid tracing)

        And regarding thieves using a pilfered gun for criminal activity, I think that registration of certain weapons - handguns in particular - can put the onus on the owner to ensure dogmatically that that thing is secured and if it's missing to alert the police ASAP. Some threat of criminal liability could add to responsible gun owners redoubling their commitment to weapon security - which should, at least aid in reducing (some) accidents, if not robberies.

        The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.

        by xxdr zombiexx on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 09:32:33 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  But that is what the diarist is arguing for! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joieau
          Since when would an insurer (2+ / 0-)

        be required to cover liability in the commission of a crime? This kind of proviso would jack up the price ridiculously, and I can confidently predict insurers would simply refuse to pay.

        Per the example of NY State's requirement that the insurance covers even a stolen car.

        I see what you did there.

        by GoGoGoEverton on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 10:44:42 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Your insurance doesn't (0+ / 0-)

          cover you for stealing a car. Insurance can cover the value of my home if it burns down - even if it catches fire from the burning cross the local KKK put on my lawn to scare me into moving (crimes against me and my property). My insurance will NOT pay off if I deliberately burn it down. See the difference?

          •  You're missing it. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Joieau

            The NY statute stays that the owner's insurance is liable even if the car is stolen, therefore potentially covering the commission of a crime.

            I see what you did there.

            by GoGoGoEverton on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 11:24:56 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Ah, so. (0+ / 0-)

              So you think gun liability policies would pay out regardless of the circumstances of the claim, including paying damages to innocent victims a gun thief might later shoot. How about if the owner flips out and shoots up a theater full of people?

              •  Liability Policies vs. No Fault (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Joieau

                A conventional liability policy such as the one the NRA sells today is primarily to protect the owner if the owner is sued.  The NRA policy specifically excepts crimes by the owner and a lot of other stuff.  There is no need to require people to buy this; they can make their own decisions on it.  What I'm thinking of is something that is mandatory to protect victims, it would apply if the owner flips out; and the victims can sue on top of collecting from the insurance in that case.  Depending on the implementation the insurance company might also be able to sue the owner to get their money back.  Of course, most owners that do great damage aren't millionaires.

                •  I've been thinking conventional (0+ / 0-)

                  liability, for accidents and non-criminal negligence. For which owners would get sued, just as if their kid left a skateboard on the sidewalk and the mailman breaks a leg (or dies). I've never known an insurance company to pay on a policy (any kind) without a fight. And almost all policies come with exemptions for criminality or "acts of god" (which, interestingly enough, include nuclear war/accident).

                  For what you're thinking of, I'd suggest a 'gun tax' (kind of like the property taxes we pay every year to keep our cars legal), receipts going into some kind of victim's compensation pool. That would be gun owners paying on a regular basis for the societal harm that comes from guns, which just might serve to keep that current in their gun-consciousness.

                  But perhaps you're right and insurers would offer just about anything to take the market. None of it will pay the lawyers you'll have to hire to get them to pay a claim, though.

  •  thanks for post-- excellent (5+ / 0-)

    This is what the conversation needs to be about.

    guns are too too deeply embedded in a society predicated almost entirely by.. money.

    make it profitable to carriers and let the lobbies battle it out.

    and THEN- we would see major change in the management of this problem, as insurance carriers would police the hell out of people (even with high tech)-
    Because their profits would be at stake.

    People who say they don't care what people think are usually desperate to have people think they don't care what people think. -George Carlin

    by downtownLALife on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 06:25:08 AM PST

  •  Would it insure/protect the assets of criminals? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joy of Fishes, Joieau

    Life insurance policies don't pay in cases of suicide. Would the same policy apply to gun insurance?

  •  Nice nickname. :-) nt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DefendOurConstitution

    Join us at RASA: Repeal or Amend the Second Amendment. (Repeal will not ban guns, just help regulate them.)

    by Sharon Wraight on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 06:52:13 AM PST

  •  We don't know how many, but certainly a few (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joy of Fishes, a2nite, Nance, Hey338Too, myboo

    percentage (somewhere between 5% and 50%) of gun owners would secure their guns, resulting in a reduction in gun deaths.  The best part would be that the covering insurance companies would require safety training and measures for their customers.

    Then they came for me - and by that time there was nobody left to speak up.

    by DefendOurConstitution on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 06:54:16 AM PST

  •  I would consider extra insurance (0+ / 0-)

    IF it were not mandatory on the individual and was a blanket policy, not on individual firearms. Many people own more than one. $60 a year seems reasonable with that one firearm, however 5 or 6 starts to add up to a serious chunk of change, thus becoming a means test for a Constitutional Right.
     With the life span of a firearm, it could add up to thousands and thousands. And as a side note, if manufacturers were responsible for that lifespan, they would build inferior products with planned obselesence.
      Would it be like term life in that you get the money back if the policy never had to be used within say 20 yrs.
     Lots of questions, but this was the first serious look at the insurance angle I have seen.

     

    "The United States is a nation of laws: badly written and randomly enforced." -Zappa My Site

    by meagert on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 07:12:26 AM PST

  •  non-starter (0+ / 0-)

    car insurance exists to protect against damages from accidents incurred during the lawful use of a car.  

    killing someone with a gun is not a lawful use; how do you ensure against criminal behavior?  it'd be like car insurance offering separate DUI riders.

    Please don't dominate the rap, Jack, if you got nothin' new to say - Grateful Dead

    by Cedwyn on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 07:55:06 AM PST

    •  liability insurance protects the victim regardless (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      a2nite, Hey338Too, JR, myboo

      Someone injured by a DUI still gets to collect.

      •  yes...even DUIs are treated as accidents (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        meagert, Canis Aureus, xxdr zombiexx

        as car insurance purposes go.  but the drunk driver could still face liability in civil court.  because DUI is illegal.  but you can't reverse-engineer that to say that criminal activity should be pre-emptively covered by liability insurance.

        gun liablity insurance would be the equivalent of car insurance offering a separate DUI rider above and beyond collision and collateral.  the very idea of it as a means of addressing gun deaths is tacitly seeking insurance to protect against criminal behavior.  killing people with a gun when it is not self-defense is not a legal use of said gun.  

        Please don't dominate the rap, Jack, if you got nothin' new to say - Grateful Dead

        by Cedwyn on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 08:18:17 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  if someone intentionally uses a car (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          myboo

          to kill or injure another party the victim still is covered by the car owner's liability insurance, which is the point. As to the perpetrator, no one is suggesting he or she be exempted from liability.

          •  that only works because (0+ / 0-)

            there is a natural market for car insurance that just doesn't exist for guns.  and the million-dollar payouts on car accidents are rare cases.  if one is proposing gun liability insurance, what are the details?  what should the maximum payout per victim for loss of life be?  

            since the number of people purchasing gun insurance is a lot lower than that purchasing car insurance, one sandy hook could put some serious hurt on an insurer.

            well, we get around that by insuring each and every gun you say?  good luck with that; enforcement would be well nigh impossible.

            anyhoo, per the CDC, homicides, by gun or whatever, isn't even among the top 15 causes of death.

            http://www.cdc.gov/...


            http://www.seattlepi.com/...

            Statistics provided by Washington Ceasefire show that nationwide about 3 percent of all firearm-related deaths are accidental.
            so, 97% of gun deaths are intentional.  i'd bet the stats are just the opposite on cars, which is why insurers can shrug off the occasional outlier car assault.  the same model simply can't be applied to guns.

            and none of that is to mention the "shall not be infringed" part of the constitution, which does not encompass vehicular transport.

            Please don't dominate the rap, Jack, if you got nothin' new to say - Grateful Dead

            by Cedwyn on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 11:39:02 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Another potential problem I see is if someone (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    meagert

    uses a firearm legally to protect themselves from criminal attack (yes, it actually happens)-- only to find themselves in Insurance Litigation Hell by vengeful family members filing lawsuits, either because they want money or because they just hate guns and gun owners "just because".

    •  In that case, the ins co would provide all the (0+ / 0-)

      legal action. THAT is one thing that would, ostensibly, be paid for.

      I imagine that happens anyway - families suing somebody over a wrongful death....

      The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.

      by xxdr zombiexx on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 10:29:09 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  IMHO never (0+ / 0-)

    I am so anti insurance companies I spit nails. A few billionaires would love nothing better than for another way to fleece people.
    Find another way to deal with guns. Like follow the constitution  and REGULATE the firearms.

    A danger foreseen is half avoided.

    by ncheyenne on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 08:45:17 AM PST

  •  what about alcohol producers? (0+ / 0-)

    insurance required for them  as well? goose, gander etc?

    how about classes for everyone on how to drink responsibly?

    According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, every day 27 people die as a result of drunk driving crashes.
    and i'm  not trying to be facetious or argue with your reasoning, i'm asking a serious question.

     in my lifetime i've seen a heck of a lot of violence and death attributed to booze, to which much of society shrugs their shoulders. but i don't know a single person who has been shot.

    Granny Storm Crow's MMJ Reference List-686 pages of hyperlinks in PDF format Yesterday's history, tomorrow's a mystery. Today is a gift and that's why it's called "The Present".

    by elkhunter on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 10:33:49 AM PST

  •  I have a couple of questions: (0+ / 0-)

    1. If the insurance is no-fault, wouldn't that require everyone, including people who don't own guns but could be shot, to have it?

    2. How is this different than general personal liability insurance?

    I see what you did there.

    by GoGoGoEverton on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 10:43:11 AM PST

    •  No fault (0+ / 0-)

      Good questions!
      1.  With cars No-Fault works so you collect from your own insurance as you were saying, but if a pedestrian is involved then it has to be the car owners insurance.  That's why I compared to  NY's No-Fault for pedestrians which they call PIP (personal injury protection) for an existing example.  The same could work with guns.

      2.I'm not thinking of liability insurance at all because with liability you have to sue and find the insurance owner at fault.  

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