Gun Coverage and Safety– Part 1
Gun ownership is a topic that is often controversial. Regardless your opinion on the subject, it is beyond dispute that many millions of households include guns and other firearms. The existence of so many guns creates special considerations with regard to insurance coverage. It may be helpful to know a bit about the current status of firearms in the U.S.
Citizens of the United States are among the most enthusiastic firearm owners in the world. In a 2015 gun ownership study conducted by a midwestern university, the following information and trends were found:
- The level of households that have guns has long been high, but it is changing. In 1973, 47% of households owned firearms with the percentage falling to 31% by 2014
- Over a, roughly, 40-year period, personal gun ownership fell from about 28% to slightly over 22%
- While, by gender, men have always been far more likely to own firearms, the ownership gap is shrinking. In 1980, the gap was 40%. By 2014, the gap narrowed to a little more than 23%
The main driver that explains the reduction in gun-owning households and in personal ownership is the decline in recreational hunting. In 1977 nearly 32% of adults practiced hunting. By 2014, that percentage fell to roughly 15%.
The reasons given for gun-ownership falls under the following, in descending other, Protection/Personal Safety, Hunting, Sports Shooting, Collecting and due to Job Requirements.
However, the decline in firearm ownership has not affected the number of guns owned. In fact, the opposite is the case. Currently, there are enough firearms in private hands (+260 million) to arm every single person in the U.S. While fewer own guns, that groups own more of them. Decades ago, the average number of guns owned by a household was four. Today, the average is eight.
Please see part two of this discussion for information on both property and liability concerns with firearms.
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Gun Coverage and Safety – Part 2
Please see part one of this discussion for information on U.S. firearms ownership.
Most personal property coverage is provided under homeowners, condominium and tenants insurance policies. Such coverage is quite standard. Property policies typically offer only minimal coverage for certain types of property that is particularly vulnerable to loss by theft. Naturally, firearms are among those classes of property with limited protection. It is likely that, without purchasing extra coverage, a policy may only provide a few hundred dollars’ worth of protection. If a household includes more than a single firearm, it’s quite likely that the available coverage is insufficient.
Often the insurer that provides property coverage can offer more protection by either endorsing (modifying) coverage to increase the available limit or by writing separate coverage that offers a higher amount of coverage as well as provide protection against more sources of loss. Guns and firearms often represent an investment of many thousands of dollars. Guns are also among the type of property (such as jewelry, furs, photographic equipment and fine art) that are targeted by thieves. It makes sense to purchase additional coverage to adequately protect against losses that are likely to occur.
Guns create a huge issue on the liability side. Most laws deem them as having fatal instrumentality, meaning that, by nature, the use of guns can result in serious bodily harm and death. Losses involving guns are problematic because of this classification. For instance: Jim is sued after his five-year-old son picked up a baseball bat and hit a visiting neighbor’s child. The bat was just lying around in the playroom in Jim’s home. This is not likely to be a problem as an insurance company would probably view this as an accident and would handle any lawsuit. But change the item from a baseball bat to a gun and Jim is sued after his son picked up a gun from a table and fired, severely injuring a neighbor’s child. In the latter example, the incident would be scrutinized far more closely and a denial of coverage could occur if, for instance, the insurer investigates and discovers that the policyholder/gun owner was negligent by not having the gun in a secure spot or by having it in the open but loaded. The high hazard represented by firearms severely restricts available insurance protection. Even claims that involve incidents of self-defense, a situation that is usually covered under homeowner policies, would still be subject to detailed examination.
In order to increase the chances of getting appropriate property as well as liability coverage for losses involving guns, it is helpful if the owner practices and documents safe handling and storage of firearms. It may also be prudent to demonstrate the ability to proper handle firearms by taking a certified safety or training course.
COPYRIGHT: Insurance Publishing Plus, Inc. 2018
All rights reserved. Production or distribution, whether in whole or in part, in any form of media or language; and no matter what country, state or territory, is expressly forbidden without written consent of Insurance Publishing Plus, Inc.