What Is Active Shooter Insurance? After Las Vegas, Demand Increases As Gun Control Debate Fizzles

ByLindsey Kortyka
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

More than 50 people died and over 500 were injured in the deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas almost two weeks ago. The suspect shot at a crowd attending a music festival from the window of his room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. In the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, something called "active shooter insurance" has come back into the conversation as companies look to shore up their financial ability to deal with the aftermath of a mass shooting in lieu of gun control laws.

As mass shootings in the U.S. become more common, companies are purchasing active shooter-specific policies more frequently. Paul Marshall, the managing director of the Active Shooter/Workplace Violence Division of McGowan Insurance Group, tells Bustle that McGowan has experienced a "huge increase" in inquiries about active shooter insurance. The company, he says, has "over 1,000 events and organizations insured throughout the U.S. We even have international exposures."

Insurance companies cite the huge numbers of mass shootings as reason why there is need for insurance that covers them. So far in 2017, there have been 281 mass shootings total — an increase from 273 in 2014, according to GunViolenceArchive.org. In 2016, there were 383 mass shootings.

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Some insurance carriers that provide general liability insurance do not necessarily cover active shooter incidents — which is why there is a need for this type of insurance, John Powter, president of GDP Advisors in Texas told Insurance Journal. “There is a concern, or gray area, with the general liability policy — in reality it was never designed to cover an active shooter incident,” Powter said. “We think there is a disconnect there, and it’s a concern.”

According to Small Biz Daily, some business owners have found that they are not always covered if a shooter causes damage to their property or if there is a mass shooting. General liability insurance only covers the insured party if they are liable for the event, and may not cover customers or any other person at the scene. That insurance might also refuse to cover your income losses if law enforcement officials make you shut down your business for a period of time after the shooting.

Small Biz Daily also asserts that general policies don't necessarily cover the cost of hiring new employees that are needed to take the place of employees who can't work after a mass shooting, and workers' compensation isn't always a guarantee if the shooting itself wasn't work-related.

Active shooter insurance aims to more comprehensively address a company's needs after a mass shooting. According to Southern Underwriters Insurance, Inc., a company that provides active shooter insurance, any building open to the public is at risk, including hospitals, concert venues, nursing homes, schools, churches, stores, and so on. It offers up to $20 million in coverage for damage caused by the active shooter, as well as coverage for any lawsuits that may arise as a result. It also provides crisis management services.

But as more companies look to buy active shooter insurance, there is another solution that some people say is obvious: gun control laws that prevent this deadly violence in the first place. In a response to Second Amendment advocates after the Las Vegas shooting, Timothy William Waters wrote in a Los Angeles Times op-ed: "We’ll be quibbling over everything except the heart of the issue, which is what to do about the 300 million guns in this country."

It is unclear if any mass shooting will motivate Congress to pass laws restricting guns any time soon. After Las Vegas, there was debate about bump stocks and automatic weapons. The National Rifle Association — a powerful lobbying force in Washington, D.C. — agreed that bump stocks should be subject to regulation, but opposed Congress' bill that would ban its sale and production. And there is little consensus among Democrats and Republicans about gun control laws in a country where mass shootings are thought of as "when it happens," not "if it happens."

"If they get their way, it’s going to be like Johnny Cash’s “One Piece at a Time,” NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch recently said. “They are going to ban every single part of a rifle — period — your regular hunting rifle, until the whole thing is banned. It was made perfectly clear last week and it was made perfectly clear the week before that — no bans, no bills, period. None.”

In the wake of the Vegas shooting, President Donald Trump said that now is not the time to discuss gun control, but he did not elaborate on when he thought the time for that was. In the meantime, as lax laws allow more people to purchase guns more easily and the threat of mass shootings remain high, businesses will continue to purchase active shooter insurance to cover possible tragedies down the road.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated on Oct. 23 to meet Bustle’s editorial standards.