So have you purchased your gun insurance yet? In case you shoot someone, there are insurance policies available to cover any liabilities you might face, pay for your bail if you are accused of a crime, cover your attorney fees, and even pay for any psychological therapy you might need. So if you are going to fire away, nice to know that you are financially covered, right?
Legislation has been introduced in six states that would make gun insurance mandatory for all gun owners. New York, Hawaii, Washington, North Carolina, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts would require government-mandated firearms insurance, and several insurance companies are considering offering such a product.
In fact, the National Rifle Association offers scaled down coverage called Carry Guard right now in all 50 states. The organization’s website states rather dramatically that: “There is a whole team of lawyers attached to every bullet that leaves the barrel of your weapon. If the suspect goes down, even if you’re justified in shooting, we guarantee you the world is going to come crashing down on you.”
Should every gun owner be required to buy liability insurance? After all, if you drive a car, you are required by every state in the U.S. to have liability insurance. So, if drivers have to have auto insurance, why shouldn’t gun owners have to have gun owner’s insurance?
First of all, courts nationwide have determined that driving is a privilege. And not a (second amendment) right as defended by gun owners. A driver is generally on a public highway, built with taxpayer funds, and the “rules of the road” require liability insurance. It should be pointed out that a driver is not required to have either a driver’s license or insurance if the vehicle is driven on private property. I taught my kids and assorted nieces and nephews to drive at our family camp in rural Louisiana, where they could practice on dirt roads. No license or insurance necessary.
Based on my experience as a former Louisiana insurance commissioner, I can also tell readers that the cost of such proposed gun liability insurance would not come cheap. New York is presently considering in their legislature a proposal to require every gun owner to have a minimum of $1 million in liability coverage.
I have not sat down with insurance actuaries to figure out specifically what the premium would be, but I would estimate that a gun owner is looking at a minimum of $2,000 a year to pay for such insurance. The insurance premium could be significantly more for someone living in the inner city. Such a cost would price the ownership of a gun outside the reach of the average citizen.
Unless the activity to be insured is considered a privilege, there is no requirement or a “right” to insure any object or undertaking. I do not have to insure my house, but it just makes good financial sense to do so. There is no requirement that an individual have life insurance. One makes such a choice to protect their loved ones when they die. Many people have general liability insurance coverage on any activity that might subject them to a lawsuit. That would include protection against a lawsuit involving a gun accident. But purchasing such insurance is not mandatory. It’s a choice.
With so much interest in gun safety, numerous ideas will be floated in an effort to regulate gun ownership. Certainly there are some people who should not be in the possession of a gun. To many gun owners, the issue is about restrictions on hunting. But to others living in crime-infested areas, and in the face of violent criminal threats, your weapon and your wits may be all you have to protect yourself.
There are no easy answers here. But it’s unrealistic to think that gun fatalities will decline simply by making gun insurance mandatory.
“Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.” Benjamin Franklin, 1759
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown is a guest contributor to GCN news. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own. His column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show, Common Sense, each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Communication Network.
Hurricane Harvey has caused property owners along the Gulf and East Coasts to panic over projections of outrageous property flood insurance rates that, in some cases, could lead to increases of greater than 1000 percent. Is there really a problem finding affordable flood insurance along America’s coasts? Yes, and a growing one.
The current national flood insurance program has been around since 1968. Actually, it was created not so much because of hurricane damage, but due to widespread flooding along the Mississippi River in the early 1960s. More and more levees were built up and down the river, which created major flooding in unprotected areas. Private insurance companies could not handle the damage claims so the federal government stepped in. The program was extended to cover hurricane damage along the Gulf Coast, and if a homeowner didn’t get flood insurance, they were unable to get their home financed.
A year ago, Congress reauthorized the national flood insurance program through 2017. But in the process, a number of changes were made to make the program more financially sound. The new program caused rates to skyrocket along the Gulf Coast.
How do we begin to solve the affordability problem? First of all, we need to recognize how vast this exposure for national disasters has become. I live in hurricane alley, and we all understand that hurricanes are a major part of the puzzle to be solved. Hurricane Sandy, which devastated coastlines of New York and New Jersey, show that this is not just a regional problem. All coastlines are at risk. Over half of all Americans live within 100 miles of the coast.
But hurricane protection is just one part of the problem. Torrential rains in the Midwest have unleashed a wave of damage that is wiping out thousands of homes. Without flood insurance, they are out of luck. And what about wildfires out west? Wildfires are a rampant and growing problem that needs a national insurance response. Then there’s the massive destruction caused by tornados in Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, and a host of other states.
Get my point? Natural disasters happen all over America, and have increased way beyond the ability for state programs to be effective and affordable. So has any plan been proposed which is encompassing, and yet affordable for homeowners that doesn’t use taxpayer dollars? Yes. Louisiana’s Insurance Department, during the time I served as Commissioner, took the lead back in 1995 by proposing a comprehensive plan that could assist property owners following disasters all across the country. The proposal called for a Natural Disaster Insurance Corporation (NDIC) that would sell disaster reinsurance for residential and commercial properties while also providing primary coverage for residential properties.
In making this proposal, I commented at the time that “if a major hurricane strikes New Orleans, it could put 26 feet of water in the downtown area and cause insurance losses greater than $26 billion.” That’s right on the money as to what happened during Hurricane Katrina ten years later. I concluded by saying: “We are going to have a huge problem with catastrophic insurance losses all over America if we don’t get a national disaster program in place.”
I testified a few months later before a Senate panel in Washington on Senate Bill 1350. Private insurance would take a small portion of its premiums and contribute to a state fund. The state fund would then be backed up by a national fund. The national fund could borrow to pay for any shortfall, but no federal tax dollars would be involved. Each state could buy in and have a rate set according to the risk. Hurricane prone states like Louisiana would pay more than a state like North Dakota that experiences much less in natural disaster damage.
The U.S. Senate adopted my proposal, but the legislation became hung up and died in the U.S. House of Representatives. That was the plan then. And the good news is that a number of states are coalescing around this same plan now following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, and now Harvey.
It’s taken almost 20 years, but it looks like it could be the right time for problem solving. It’s just not a handout for the coastal states. The whole country will benefit. And at a price that’s affordable. We certainly cannot be any worse off than we are now.
“Do you know what happens when you give a procrastinator a good idea? Nothing!” -- Donald Gardner
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown is a guest contributor to GCN news. His views and opinions, if expressed, do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Genesis Communication Network. His column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show, Common Sense, each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Communication Network.