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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Who protects gun victims from bearing the costs of their wounds?

by Spocko

Gun goes off at health clinic after woman drops purse; 1 shot in leg

May 25, 2017 --Jackson Mississippi

Woman drops her gun in hospital waiting room, shoots another patient in the leg

The patient was hospitalised but said to have suffered "non life-threatening" injuries.

The question I'd like journalists to ask every time this happens:

Who will pay for the injured person's health care?

In this story in Politico about insurance they talk about the difference between the insurance that the states want to require gun owners to have, and the insurance the NRA is selling.

"Government-mandated firearms insurance shouldn’t be confused with the NRA’s insurance product—the former protects gun victims from bearing the costs of their wounds; the latter protects gun bearers from carrying the costs of their wounded."
- Matt Valentine, Politico

Gun owners are not required to have any liability insurance, but some have it; what does it pay for? Full medical care? Rehabilitation? Loss of time at work? Long term disability? Pain and suffering?

What if the injured person ends up having a pre-existing condition now because of the injury? "Non-life threatening" doesn't mean it's not life changing.

Journalists don't usually ask questions of who is going to pay for medical care, but given our current President and the hostility toward providing health care by the GOP, this needs to be asked right now. Lawmakers in Massachusetts, Washington, North Carolina, New York and Hawaii have introduced bills this year that would require gun owners to carry liability insurance. But all state and national level politicians need to be asked, "How are the costs of guns and health care going to be dealt with in your community?"

Watch the video and note how the UMMC police officer talks about what was legal or not legal. Part of this information will be used in the eventual criminal case--but it can also apply to civil legal cases. If the gun owner did something illegal, it changes things for the criminal prosecution case, but there is still a civil case that can--and should--be brought by the injured against the gun owner. If something is declared illegal it might also change what the insurance company does. They can decide not to defend a person insured or not pay out on a policy because of exclusions.

But gun owners aren't required to have insurance, so who pays for the injuries their negligence caused? The individual shot, and the community that picks up the bill. The gun lobby has blocked efforts to require "good guys with guns" to have insurance, complaining that they have to pay when criminals do not.
Debra McQuillen.
 photo, HCSO

Debra McQuillen had a permit. She was still a law abiding citizen--up until the time she ignored the hospital's NO GUNS signs. If she was required to have liability insurance before she broke the law, she would be able to pay for the medical care of the woman she injured--due to her negligence.

When the argument is that law abiding gun owners shouldn't have to have insurance, since criminals don't, it exempts all the gun owners who go from law abiding to law breaking in an instant. This is also why the NRA works so hard to get rid of laws that make their members law-breakers. (Even acts that make gun owners an "accidental lawbreaker." if they bring their gun to a place that doesn't allow guns)

This line of reasoning --that members are super worried about being "accidental lawbreakers" --is used so that individuals can claim the "law-abiding citizen" moniker. But primarily it is used as a strategy by the gun lobby to avoid criminal prosecution and civil liability for gun owners.

If McQuillen did everything the same, except it was in a location where it was okay to bring in her guns, the injury would still happen. No law would have been broken, no criminal charges would be filed--but there could still be a civil case brought by the injured person against the gun owner. This is a key part of the way financial responsibility is avoided by the gun lobby. They shift the status from illegal to legal. Intent is a huge part of the issue, and by having the police and the media verbalize the word accident and legal instead of negligence and illegal they change the perception of what is happening.

I don't expect journalists to start asking these questions, so we will need to prompt them. I don't expect gun owners to accept being financially responsible for the damage their negligence caused as part of being a responsible gun owner. We will need to ask them. The next time you are in person talking to a gun owner ask them, (And I recommend doing this in person, because online no one is under oath, and you can't see their eyes if they lie to you.)

"Do you have liability insurance? Who provides it? What does it cover? Does the insurance cover you or the person who is injured? Do you think all gun owners should be required to have liability insurance? Why or why not?"

There are a lots of different gun shooting scenarios to ask about. If you need one to choose use this one with McQuillan, or the one I wrote about last week with a 7-year old boy, Gage Meche or the one tomorrow, or the next day and the next and the next...

Fiscal responsibility must be part of the definition of a responsible gun owner.