Florida’s legislature does some underwriter-splainin’.


Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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92 Responses

  1. Avatar Jim Heffman says:

    If insurance were a voluntary product which consumers could choose not to purchase, then a laissez-faire attitude towards it would be more justifiable. But since it isn’t, regulation is appropriate to prevent people from being priced out of constitutionally-guaranteed activity. “Well, we won’t ban guns. But we’ll allow insurers to charge you a million dollars a year if you want to have a gun. That’s not banning guns, we’re just giving people a choice”.

    PS this isn’t the first time Ken at Popehat has got lit up about something involving Florida and guns.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Jim Heffman says:

      But why would insurers want to overcharge gun owners?Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Right, this.

        Is there any evidence that risk-appropriate assessments of gun ownership are providing a real damper on second amendment expression? Are insurance companies providing discounts for things like gun safes or trigger locks or ammo storage or home security systems? Like, are they engaging with the community they serve in order to provide them with risk-appropriate discounts, as well?

        Because “they charge more” isn’t necessarily a substantive infringement on somebody’s freedom. If they were charging a million dollars more a year then yes, it would be.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        I think gawker has plenty of stories in their archives about self-injuries from gun owners or gun owners accidentally (or not) injuring others.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        True enough, but I think it would be similar to auto-insurance, in that unless you have a history of bad behavior, or fall into an at-risk group, it wouldn’t be an issue. The percentage of risky owners is pretty small taken against the whole.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Offhand, I suspect owning a gun is more akin to owning certain brands of car.

        My insurance is different on my Prius than it would be on, say, a Ferrari. Not because State Farm or whomever hates Ferrari. But because they get stolen a lot more, and there’s this odd statistical blip in the number of accidents, speeding tickets, and problems the driver of a sports car has.

        My driving record is the same, but my rates vary between models and makes of cars. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        I don’t think it’s an issue of an insurer deciding to have higher rates for gun owners on their own, but that the legislature will mandate, through it’s regulatory process, that insurers impose higher rates-perhaps even at the point of specifiying the amounts-all to make gun ownership unaffordable and therefore backdoor gun control.

        Something very on point that Ken said about the Repubs though: “The Republican party attempts, with mixed success, to brand itself as the party of small government, reduced regulation, and free markets. This bill illustrates why that branding is not entirely successful — because too many Republicans, given a favored issue (Guns! Drugs! Crime!), are as unabashedly nanny-statish as Bloomberg on his most Big-Gulp-decrying day.”

        IE, they just a dirty as the Dems.Report

    • Avatar Barry in reply to Jim Heffman says:

      BTW, this is off-topic, but a church is challenging NC’s gay marriage ban on religious freedom grounds:


      I wonder if all of those right-wingers who backed the Greens will support this church?
      After all, if the owners of a for-profit corporation have a right to loopholes in the law, don’t churches?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Barry says:

        One of the big “escape clauses” used by the Traditional Marriage folks was the whole “they can get married, this is a question of state recognition!”

        Except, of course, for this law.Report

  2. Avatar Kolohe says:

    So are we back on board with charging women more for health insurance?Report

    • Avatar RTod in reply to Kolohe says:

      We always have.Report

    • Avatar Creon Critic in reply to Kolohe says:

      Who is this “we” you speak of?

      To me, values easily trump markets. They even more easily trump actuaries. I happen to think the particular elevation of affordable gun ownership isn’t worth this intervention. In contrast, affordable health care and anti-discrimination principles make intervening on differential insurance costs for men and women worthwhile.

      (Also, there’s a genuine point in highlighting the discrepancy between claiming market’s near-omniscient conduct, except when it comes to insurance and gun owners.)Report

      • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to Creon Critic says:

        It’s also worth noting that gun ownership is a choice in a way that vagina ownership is not.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Creon Critic says:

        It’s also worth noting that having a vagina may make one more likely to be murdered by someone who owns a gun.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire in reply to Creon Critic says:

        Thing is, I don’t necessarily hate a law like this. I mean, okay, face it, combining the term “Florida” with the term “gun” does set off certain alarm bells for me.

        (On the other hand, I used to live in Florida, and when I did, I owned guns. So go figure.)

        Anyway, a reasonable person might conclude that gun ownership is so fundamental a right that we must accept a certain amount of market distortion to protect its unfettered expression.

        (Engage sarcasm circuit.)

        Since, you know, no doubt there is overwhelming historical evidence showing that gun owners are treated in a broadly unfair manner.

        (Disengage sarcasm circuit.)

        But whatever. The law, I don’t love it or hate it. It’s a thing.

        On the other hand, compared with the evidence that women get a raw deal — and being alive as a woman is surely as fundamental a right as gun ownership — I mean what can I say. Republicans make me want to fucking puke.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Creon Critic says:

        “It’s also worth noting that having a vagina may make one more likely to be murdered by someone who owns a gun.”

        Roughly 3/4 of homicide victims are male.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Creon Critic says:

        @brandon-berg that’s correct; 3/4 of the homicide victims are men.

        But women are more likely to be murdered by an intimate partner — someone who supposedly loves them. And for every women who’s murdered, there’s a whole lot of terrorizing that goes on beforehand. I’ve known and worked with several women who were threatened by their husbands/boyfriends with guns.

        One once told me about how her husband would come home, and if everything wasn’t exactly to his liking, he’d take his gun out and clean it and calmly explain how she’d screwed up that day; lifting it repeatedly and sighting her as he inspected his work.


        There are other statistics that also suggest the that women who live in households where there are guns are also more likely to be victims of domestic violence.

        Very few men, on the other hand, are shot by their intimate partners.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Creon Critic says:

        Yes, if we confine our analysis to the small subset of homicides that are committed by intimate partners, then yes, the majority of those are women. But when considering all homicides, women are less, not more, likely to be murdered with guns than men, and by a pretty wide margin.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Creon Critic says:

        @brandon-berg you missed it.

        It’s not just the murders that happen, horrible as they are.

        It’s the murders that are threatened that don’t happen, the terrorizing of someone you share a home with.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Creon Critic says:

        @zic I didn’t miss anything. Your exact words were “having a vagina may make one more likely to be murdered by someone who owns a gun.”

        That’s not true. It’s the opposite of true. The other stuff you said may or may not be true, but this isn’t.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kolohe says:

      Owning a gun is a choice. Being a woman is not.Report

  3. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Well, we won’t ban guns. But we’ll allow insurers to charge you a million dollars a year if you want to have a gun. That’s not banning guns, we’re just giving people a choice”.

    If only there were a market-based solution to this.Report

  4. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    Over the years, I’ve had home owners & renters insurance through a number of local & national insurers & I have never, not once, ever faced a spike in my premiums because I own firearms. Nor has anyone I know absent some kind of history of incidents with a firearm.

    Basically, if you own guns (& divulge this information to an insurer, perhaps as part of the list of property you want covered), and have never had an incident of irresponsible gun use, your insurer will more likely than not treat it as merely a line item valuable and charge accordingly.

    However, if you have a criminal record or other history of negligent firearm use, yeah, you are probably going to suffer a hit, as you should.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      That just seems freaking sensible.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Kim says:

        Not looking at gun ownership for insurance purposes seems akin to not allowing CDC and NIH to study gun violence. Because you know, information and data are dangerous things. Guns aren’t dangerous.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kim says:

        Presumably, if the insurers don’t care about a gun in the household (absent a law like the one we’re talking about here), gun ownership on its own does not actually indicate an increased risk increase sufficient enough to even ask the question.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Kim says:

        Well, there is stuff out there like this, which presents both sides.

        And as I recall from the gun symposium, insurance was viewed as a good free-market way to take responsibility; perhaps my memory is faulty. I’d imagine if a child in your home got access to your guns, liability insurance might be a good thing in an otherwise uncomfortable, perhaps unbearable, situation.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kim says:

        Zic, we are referring to property and auto insurance, not the gun liabiliy insurance proposal that has been floated. According to MRS, gun ownership does not actually increase insurance liability for your home and car (at least not in Washington).Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kim says:

        Regarding gun liability requirements, as long as the costs aren’t prohibitive, then I have no objection.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Kim says:

        Well, I would imagine it a matter of state regulation, and there is a hodgepodge, @will-truman ; like health insurance, not really safe to speak of one state and presume we’re talking for everyone since, in FL, the legislature deemed in important to separate it from homeowner’s insurance.

        I seem to recall my agent asking us if we owned any guns; we don’t, so it wasn’t an issue. But he did ask, so I presume it was of interest to him.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kim says:

        I think the regulation in Florida could just be a GOP asking “How many ways can we reinforce that we are pro-gun?” sort of thing.

        Interesting that they did ask you. This article leaves me with the impression that not asking is more typical.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kim says:

        As I stated below, I think this is mostly GOP signaling & a solution in search of a problem, & not actually a real issue. Although this is FL, whose home-owners insurance market is so heavily screwed up thanks to hurricanes & such that it’s amazing anyone wants to do business there.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Kim says:

        @will-truman “Presumably, if the insurers don’t care about a gun in the household (absent a law like the one we’re talking about here), gun ownership on its own does not actually indicate an increased risk increase sufficient enough to even ask the question.”

        No, insurers don’t care because they aren’t covering you, or if they are they aren’t covering you for much.

        Go pull out your homeowners policy, and check both under the property and liability sections of that policy and you will see firearms are either excluded, or the total damages you can expect to receive in the event of a claim is capped at a low amount. (Usually it’s $2,000 but the specific amount can vary from policy to policy.)

        If you want to actually be fully covered, you need to declare them and itemize them, and an additional premium will be charged. (It should be noted, however, that this amount charged is not the kind of “now no one can own guns” amount Jim Heffman is suggesting that it is.)Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kim says:

        All of which goes back to my general belief that gun ownership is not generally a significant risk criteria (due to the particulars of the policies issued, as you say) and that this is grandstanding. That doesn’t contradict your post, but does play against the notion that gun ownership is something that has to be looked at, which is what I was responding to.

        In the second paragraph of the article itself, it called into question the notion that insurers care.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kim says:


        Exactly! I usually choose to carry an additional liability rider so if I do have an incident, either accidental or because I was defending my home, I have a large value balloon to cover me.

        The rider comes out to an extra $100 a year, I think.Report

    • Avatar notme in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:


      If you have a criminal history, you probably don’t have the legal right to own firearms anyway. So insurance really isn’t your first problem.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to notme says:

        Possibly, but remember that it takes a felony to lose your gun rights. There are quite a few misdemeanor gun law violations that can indicate risky firearms behavior without rising to the level of a felony.Report

      • Avatar notme in reply to notme says:


        Zic will be more than happy to tell you how you can lose your gun rights over a misdomener domestic violence conviction, see Castleman.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to notme says:


        Well, yes, misdemeanor DVs can get it stripped, which is something I have a problem with. And @zic, before you pounce, it isn’t because I think abusive men need a pass, it’s because if a crime does not rise to the level of a felony, it should not result in the long-term or permanent loss of rights.

        If what someone did was so bad you need to take away their guns permanently, you should be able to make a felony stick.

        A misdemeanor DV conviction should at most cause guns to go into escrow holding until such a time as the person has completed a course of treatment &/or all associated punishments are completed & fines paid.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to notme says:


        I would agree with this if I didn’t know as much about dv as I do. (I’ve spent a lot of time volunteering my time and home to victims of DV; I provided a save house for women after difficult court hearings, the time many are most likely to be murdered.)

        And that’s the problem: they’ve already been threatened, multiple times, including the threat that if they testify or tell the cops, they will die. Also, the women who need to testify to make the felony charge stick often still love their abusers, have children with their abusers, and are financially dependent on their abusers. It’s often a he-said/she-said situation, without witnesses, and difficult to prove in court beyond a shadow of reasonable doubt. Just because there are no broken bones or black eyes does not mean there is no violence.

        So it’s just not that simple; and there have been a lot of women who’ve died because it’s not that simple.Report

      • Avatar notme in reply to notme says:


        Are there any other rights you would so casually take away with a misdemeanor?Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to notme says:

        @notme it wasn’t me what took those rights away, it was the Supreme Court.

        And I wouldn’t say there was anything casual about my perspective; it came from knowing women who were threatened, and living in absolute terror. It came from knowing family members of women who were murdered. It came from my best friend, the woman I raised my children with, who’s husband (a physician and on the faculty at a major university) threatened them repeatedly, and who threatened me after I started going to court hearings so that she didn’t need to go alone.

        I’d sit in court with my friend waiting for her case to come up, getting to hear all the other sorry tales that proceeded. Once, a couple days after, the woman pleasing one of those sorry tales showed up in the back pages of the newspaper, murdered; he did it. That’s why I started volunteering my home as a safe house; a place to spend a day or two where you knew he would not look for you. I saw too many women who, in trying to gain safety from their abusers, were putting their lives on the line.

        So there’s nothing casual about this, @notme. I take it very, very seriously.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to notme says:


        My primary problem with pulling gun rights from an abuser is the idea that a person who is willing to threaten &/or harm his partner with a gun will somehow be less willing or capable of said harm absent the gun. Do we have data showing that taken in isolation, removing firearms from an abuser improves the survivability of the victims, or are we merely hoping it does? Is it effective when combined with other actions, such as removing the victim(s) from the abusers household?

        My concern is not to enable or defend actual abusers, it is to offer some protection to a person on the bad end of a spiteful partner & a false accusation (our justice system is far from perfect; although, now that I think of it, I wonder if we have any data on how often DV accusations are false; perhaps this is a non-issue in any significant way).

        You seem to have ready access to such data, so I ask.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to notme says:

        @mad-rocket-scientist you’re asking me to give numbers on a counterfactual (less deaths) for a thing we haven’t really done much of yet, so I don’t know how to answer that; the one study I found in the link below is not online that I could find.

        What I can tell you is that it’s very easy to get a temporary restraining order. It’s not so easy to make that order stick once you’ve had to go before a judge. I also think you should be aware that a lot of women will lose gun rights here; a lot of DV involves women doing the assaulting. There are two parts of this. First, men are also victims of abuse in relationships and that’s a hidden problem; how emasculating is it to admit your wife beats you? Second, particularly when there are children in the home, women who are abused often provoke attacks on themselves to defuse violence that they see will be directed at the children.

        Research indicates that abused women are five times more likely to be murdered if there is a gun in the home, and that 2/3 of DV murders are committed with a gun. Source: http://smartgunlaws.org/domestic-violence-and-firearms-statistics/#identifier_6_6012Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to notme says:


        a lot of DV involves women doing the assaulting

        Damnit, I thought I avoided any gender specific nouns & pronouns! Seems I missed one.

        To your link, Items 4 & 7 seems the one most relevant to my question (& of course I can’t access either, sigh…). A lot of the others seem to express a correlative link, rather than a casual one (i.e. abusers will use whatever effective means are available to achieve their end, so if a gun is handy, it will be used, but removing a gun will not alter the overarching abusive behavior, merely cause it to find another effective means).

        I’d be curious to read 4 & 7 if they ever become publicly available, since they seem to claim a more casual relationship.

        Thank you for the link.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to notme says:


        False accusations of domestic violence are horrid. Like false rape accusations, they damage the credibility of all victims seeking help, and I will never defend anyone who does this.

        But I also suspect they are overblown, because like rape, when they surface in (often in divorce proceedings,) there’s lack of witnesses and he-said/she-said stuff going on, on top of the animosity that often surrounds divorce.

        I could find anything about false DV accusations that I trusted, mostly stuff on mens rights websites; maybe @tod-kelly knows of reliable information behind what they say. The best thing I’d read was of a UK study, and in nearly every case, they found mental illness at work; I could not find a link to it, sadly. I’ll look more later.

        I did find this FBI report on false accusations of adult crimes in general, which says they are the exception and present difficult problems for law enforcement.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to notme says:

        Excellent links @zic, thank you again.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to notme says:

        Thank you, @mad-rocket-scientist

        And just to be very clear, I am not in favor of removing people’s 2nd amendment rights casually. But when you consider DV, you have to consider these rights in the face of what actually happens. I talk a lot about the weight of history and women’s rights. It’s not because I’m particularly a feminist, either; it’s because I’ve lived through the blossoming of women’s rights. My view here is also not US-centric, it’s global; I want my nation to help lead the way in showing why women should be treated as fully-free people, and we know that in much of the world, they are not free to varying degrees.

        Since I believe they have the right to be fully free people, the ways that freedom is infringed — the your bodily sanctity, the right to be safe in your own home ought be included — bears discussion in the face of other’s rights, including the right to own a gun. But sometimes we have to rank rights against one another, we have to balance them. And one person’s right to own a gun does not, in my book, outrank the right to be safe in your own home.Report

  5. Avatar Kazzy says:

    “If you keep guns and ammo in your house, your property premiums will go up because homes with guns and ammo are the ones most often targeted by thieves.”

    Are we certain on the direction the arrow points here? Do thieves target homes with guns? Or do people in areas where more home burglaries occur subsequently buy more guns?Report

    • Avatar Jonathan McLeod in reply to Kazzy says:

      I assumed the implication was that thieves were looking for guns. Seems plausible.

      [I have no idea if this assumption is true, but it was far easier than asking probing questions.]Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kazzy says:

      This assumes that thieves know who owns guns & ammo.Report

    • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Kazzy says:

      I don’t know if the direction of causality matters very much from an insurance underwriter’s perspective. If more guns correlates with more break-ins, then gun ownership is a useful variable for analyzing risk, even if it’s not the gun owner’s “fault” that the risk is higher.

      I know that my car insurance premium changes based on what zip code my car is stored in, and it went up when I moved to a higher crime location and down when I moved to a lower crime location.Report

      • ZIP code and gun ownership may be correlated, but they can be distinguished. One is likely to be more predictive than another. If it’s really about location, then the incremental information of gun ownership, given location, is not useful for risk classification.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

        It seems to me risks associated with firearms are equivalent to risks associated with pools. If you own a firearm, you are somewhat more likely to have someone shot with a firearm in your home, in much the same way that if you own a pool, you are more likely to have someone injured or killed in the pool.

        I.E. If you don’t have a pool, it is next to impossible for anyone to have an incident with it. So of course owning a pool causes a significant increase in the probability of an incident.

        The same could be said for poisons, powertools, fireplaces (I had one insurance company refuse me insurance because I had a wood fireplace), etc.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

        I venture to say that the danger of using a gun for self-defense varies based on where you are (also your line of business).
        That said, there is some level of gun danger at all times (well, unless you bury the gun in the local park. in which case it’s endangered by geocachers).Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

        @mad-rocket-scientist – that is sort of what I was trying to get at with my “power tools” comment (I even looked up “top causes of home fatalities/injuries”, and they are of course things like drowning, poisoning, etc.)

        So I have no issue with insurance companies pricing the statistical risk of gun ownership into the policies, and in fact would look askance at govt. interfering in their business to tell them they can’t price it in.

        But if there is a lot of political pressure being brought onto the insurance companies to make that pricing higher than can be justified off the risk factors alone (IOW, if there was pressure to make gun rates HIGHER than rates for some other comparable risk factor, while those other risk factors are downplayed or ignored), that would be problematic to me.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Troublesome Frog says:


        Agreed. Although from what I’ve heard, this is not the case in FL. As far as I know, it was a few instances where gun owners felt they were being unfairly penalized by a few insurers.

        I suppose it is possible someone made some noise in the FL halls about mandating some kind of price spike via the insurance commissioner, or some such, but the people I know haven’t heard of anything.Report

  6. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    So I had a word with a friend of mine who is active in the Florida gun rights community. The short of it is that none of the gun rights groups asked for this. There was a couple of cases of some insurance companies doing rate hikes against gun owners, but nothing to indicate an industry-wide collusion to unfairly discriminate against gun owners, or any other indication of a market failure in this regard.

    Publicly, the rights groups seem to be neutral on this (politics being what they are). Personally, my friend opposes it as an unwarranted government interference. I agree & think it’s so some FL lawmakers can try to earn political points without doing anything substantive.

    File under Politics Ruins EverythingReport

  7. Avatar Road Scholar says:

    Can insurers just write exclusions into their policies? TV stolen? Here’s a check. Gun stolen? Not covered. Neighbor slips on your walk? Here’s a check. Neighbor gets shot by stray round fired from your property? No check, not covered.

    Because otherwise, it appears that they want everyone else to bear the cost for their decisions. Why are conservatives such free-loaders?Report

  8. Avatar Major Zed says:

    insurance company actuaries don’t actually set premium rates based on their personal whims and political preferences – bless you for saying this. (I am a member of the American Academy of Actuaries.) But, alas, sometimes they have to set them based on someone else’s whims and preferences.

    Even without imposed market distortions, I think the growing volume of information and the technology to mine it will head us in the direction of Lybertopia. Witness the burgeoning involvement of telematics in auto insurance.

    Civilized societies’ cultural imperative to control risk, coupled with the economically sensible imperative to internalize externalities, means that fairly charging you for the risk your behavior entails is the best outcome we can hope for. The alternative is 1984, where Big Brother’s minions (Democrat this year, Republican next year) use more … persuasive … methods to control your risky (as they define it) behavior.Report