Thursday, March 14, 2013

Gun Insurance: A few Free Thoughts

A few ruminations on the problem of a society generously supplied with homicidal people with guns, and what to do about it.In addition to the various measures currently under consideration (bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, closing background check loopholes, etc), we could require that, without exception of any kind, each gun in America must be insured in the name of its owner. A few specifics:
1. Insurers may sell any policy they like(subject to each state’s insurance regulations), but the minimum standard policy must include the following:
2. A person injured accidentally by the insured gun, whether by the insured or another, would be compensated according to a grizzly schedule of benefits such as is common with life and accident policies: certain amounts for the loss of various body parts, certain amounts for various levels of disability, certain amounts for various levels of disfigurement, and so forth. In addition, ordinary and necessary medical expenses would be covered. Other health insurance would be then secondary.
3. The beneficiary of a person who died of his or her injuries would receive a specified standard death benefit.
4. All of the benefit amounts would be multiplied dramatically (perhaps ten times) if the injury or death was the result of an intentional act.
5. Except for medical expenses, there would be no recovery if the person injured or killed was related, by birth or marriage, to the insured. (The degree of relatedness would have to be established.) This would prevent an insured from killing a spouse and then himself, for example, in order to confer financial benefit on his children. (Of course, he could obtain life insurance and then wait beyond the suicide exclusion period to act, but that is a different issue.)
6. Except for medical expenses, there would be no recovery if the injury or death was the result of the gun owner’s (or another’s) legally correct actions in defense of himself or others, or of his home. If these or similar measures were in place, insurance companies would be doing society’s work for us by rating those who
sought insurance, just as auto insurers presently do drivers. A driver with a bad enough record cannot obtain insurance, perhaps at any price, and so can drive only at the continuous risk of serious criminal consequences.Over time,more and more uninsured guns (including those uninsured because their owners are uninsurable) would be discovered and confiscated,while responsible gun owners would enjoy very modest rates.It might even be possible to provide by law that a gun owner who met certain criteria (no violent crime, no adjudicated mental problems, above a certain age, no restraining orders, sufficiently secure gun storage, passed a safety course, etc.) would be entitled to get his or her base policy for a certain specified(modest) annual premium. If the gun were kept at all times at a licensed gun club or shoot-
ing range, the premium would be even lower. On the other hand, it would be announced in advance that, after some specific period of time, a factor in rating an insured would be whether he or she had ever been discovered to have an uninsured gun. Insurance companies would presumably require guns kept at home to be secured in specified ways, and guns to be kept at the ready (for example, in businesses) would command a higher premium. They would probably also increase premiums for owners who purchased more than a moderate amount of ammunition per year, perhaps excluding that purchased and used at a licensed gun club or firing range.
Such a measure may turn out to have the full-throated support of the insurance industry (lots of new customers!).In all likelihood, some companies would decide simply to incorporate it as part of the liability provisions in their homeowners’ policies.
The mere existence of this sort of program could be expected to have a favorable impact on health care costs in America, since some proportion of those injured with guns today, many fatally, have neither money nor health insurance, and therefore impose a cost on the society at large which could be partially offset by this insurance. There is already lots of precedent for this sort of requirement in modern American society. We have long required insurance for our cars,motorcycles and aircraft, and an increasing number of states now require it for motorboats.
Furthermore, since the premiums for very responsible gun owners should be quite modest, the gun lobby might come to see it as an “it could be worse” outcome. In fact, the gun industry might view it as a revenue opportunity and try to get licensed to sell insurance themselves. And on a different note, we need (in addition to a noexceptions comprehensive background requirement, of course) an obligation on the part of every gun owner (leaving aside the issues of insurance and registration)to report to the local police in writing, within 4 hours of its discovery, the loss or theft of
any gun.
Would these measures eliminate the shootings that have so many people wondering whether they live in an acceptably civilized country, capable of governing itself in ways that provide for a secure and orderly society? No. Would they reduce the problem? Absolutely. Is there any excuse for not enacting them? None.
Joque Soskis  is a humanist, retired attorney, retired professor of criminal justice and a former law enforcement officer. This article was published first in the Feb 2013 newsletter of  FB:

1 comment:

  1. A remarkably rational, unarguable idea. Why hasn't anyone thought of this before? And why is it so hard for Americans to talk about guns rationally?