Can Gun Owner’s Insurance Protect Shooting Survivors?

Every time a mass shooting happens, the headlines tell us how many are killed. The body count then allows us to rank mass shootings: Robb Elementary (21 killed) was terrible, but not as bad as Sandy Hook (26 killed), which was worse than Parkland (17 killed). But what about the injured survivors, who often outnumber the dead? In the 2002 mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, for example, 12 people were killed but 58 were injured; the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting killed 60 people and injured at least 413.

Every day in the United States, more than 300 people are shot, and just over 200 of them survive their injuries, according to data compiled by Brady. That makes 76,725 gunshot survivors per year. While the emotional trauma certainly takes its toll, the financial damage can be just as devastating. The luckiest survivors are treated at the local emergency room for an average of about $5,200 and sent home. The less fortunate require additional care—multiple surgeries, nursing home stays, rehabilitation treatment, physical therapy—for an average additional cost of about $179,000. Many survivors live the rest of their lives with physical limitations such as missing or damaged limbs and often require wheelchairs, home modifications and home care. Some of them go permanently into nursing homes or treatment centers, where the cost of their lifetime care runs into the millions of dollars.

Some survivors, desperate for the kindness of strangers, are setting up GoFundMe campaigns to raise funds for their medical and other expenses. Survivors and families of those killed in the Uvalde, Texas school shooting, for example, have 37 dedicated GoFundMe sites that have collectively raised $6.7 million so far to cover medical treatment and memorial costs.

A 2017 study by Johns Hopkins University researchers estimated that the US spends $2.8 billion annually on medical treatment for gun violence survivors. Many survivors struggle with co-pays and deductibles if they are insured, and mountainous medical bills if they are not. An insured who was shot could easily find himself liable for $20,000 of a $100,000 bill. According to the survey, only 12 percent are able to pay their medical bills in full. In any case, Americans are subsidizing the gun industry and gun owners by picking up these unpaid bills through our taxes or increased insurance premiums.

This approach to the medical needs of survivors of gun violence is cruel, irrational and unjust. A more reasonable and fairer model for paying such costs is staring us in the face: car insurance. Americans have accepted the price we pay to live with cars, a cost of over 35,000 lives each year and millions of injured people. We have created a complex insurance system to ensure that the medical expenses of car victims are paid not by the victims, but by the car-owning community. As this system has evolved, insurance companies have developed nuanced ways of assessing the risk posed by each driver and adjusting their system payouts accordingly. Men are at higher risk than women. Teenagers are riskier than middle-aged drivers. Those with speeding tickets are at higher risk than those with clean driving records. Porsche drivers are at higher risk than Volvo owners.

It is easy to imagine an analogous system that would pool the risks posed by gun owners and aim to ensure that innocent victims of gun violence do not pay exorbitant bills as punishment for the bad luck of ending up in the wrong place in the wrong time. In such a system, older gun owners with clean records would pay lower insurance rates than 18-year-olds, and people with many guns would pay more than those with one gun. And just as insurance companies offer discounts to those who take defensive driving courses, they could also offer discounts to gun owners who have taken firearm safety classes or who can demonstrate that they keep their guns locked up. home.

The suggestion that most American gun owners would never allow this encroachment on their liberties is countered by car owners, who generally do not see mandatory auto insurance as intolerable or as a sign that the government is going to take away their cars. Except for a small minority who illegally drive without insurance, they may complain about their own insurance rates, but accept that a system of pooling the cost of risk is far better than a world where one mistake – self-inflicted yourself or another driver—can lead not only to a totaled car and hospital stay, but also to financial ruin. Car insurance is also designed to absorb the residual risk caused by those who refuse to insure their cars or let their policies lapse temporarily. Insurance fairly distributes these liabilities and mitigates the risks of driving. Such a system, run by market institutions rather than government, could do the same for gun owners and the more than 200 Americans who are shot by guns every day and survive – people who do not deserve to pay the price for foreign mistake.

Gun owners have succeeded in shifting the medical costs of gun ownership to the rest of us.

This is not a proposal for gun control, but a proposal to more fairly share the costs of America’s love affair with guns. It may even have beneficial effects on gun safety: by increasing the cost of gun ownership, it may encourage Americans to buy fewer guns. And it could encourage gun owners looking for rebates to take more gun safety courses or buy gun safes for their homes, where an estimated 4.6 million minors live with unsecured guns.

Gun insurance probably wouldn’t have prevented the carnage of Uvalde or Buffalo. But it can mitigate the other 99 percent of gun incidents and violence in this country. If Americans have really decided, as a matter of principle, that they want to live in a society with more guns than people and few restrictions on who can own them, then the least we can do is make fair provisions for the innocent who will inevitably suffer the consequences of that choice.

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