Gun Laws & Legislation

HOOBER: Smash, Grab And Getting Involved To Stop It

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By Sam Hoober

Spend any time on social media and you’ll see people in the gun/self-defense/concealed carry get into the question of whether or not to intervene in the event of a robbery. People who sound off in the comments fall into one of two camps.

One side puffs out their digital chests and boldly declares that they would intervene no matter what, bad guys need a spanking and anything less is letting the bad people off the hook and yadda yadda yadda.

The other side says they don’t care, it’s just property, the other guy is just being an internet tough guy and yadda yadda yadda.

As George Carlin said, somewhere between “Live Free Or Die” and “Famous Potatoes” lies the truth…and it’s probably closer to “Famous Potatoes.”

So let’s talk about something that doesn’t seem sexy or dangerous. Let’s talk about insurance. Oh but not concealed carry insurance; that’s been done to death. We’re going to talk about retail insurance.

And why is that? Well, we can talk about the principles of things until we’re blue in the face. However, business insurance that covers retail theft and robbery is very real. The convenience store, cell phone store, liquor store, supermarket or what have you often has property insurance that will pay out.

So let’s get into business insurance and why that matters as far as concealed carry and so on is concerned.

As we’re all aware, bank deposits are insured.

Chartered banks are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and credit unions are insured by the National Credit Union Administration. The days when people actually did lose deposits to robbers are long gone, along with the irony of people cheering on bank robbers like Dillinger and Bonnie and Clyde by the same people whose deposits they were actually stealing.

As far as the rest of the retail sector, businesses will generally carry a general property and liability policy. It could be of their own volition or it might be required by either the franchise in case of a franchise arrangement (such as most fast food chains) or by a commercial landlord.

The premiums are generally not exorbitant; according to the Los Angeles Times, many businesses pay less than $1,200 per year in premiums. According to Insureon, their median premiums paid by small businesses is $790 per year or $65 per month. The greater the value of inventory or size of the business – and the greater the number of employees – the higher the premiums, of course.

Convenience stores do pay more (median of $1,800 per year) as do other higher-risk businesses, because that’s how insurance works. Insureon reports the average policy covers up to $1 million per claim, and $2 million in aggregate coverage.

Just like some types of insurance purchased by us common folk, some businesses do opt to not purchase a policy or to let a (seemingly) useless policy lapse, depending on circumstances.

In other words, yes, businesses are insured in case of theft or robbery.

How common is it, though?

According to a 2015 report by The Hartford via InsuranceJournal, burglary and theft is the most-common type of claim but is also among the least-costly. The Hartford reported that 20 percent of small businesses that filed claims on their policies reported burglary or theft, but that the value of the claim was $8,000 or less.

One of the least-common types of claims was the most costly, namely that of reputational harm. Businesses that filed reputational harm claims were less than 5 percent of claim-filing businesses, but the damages were up to $50,000.

Overall, the type of claim that was more common and was among the most costly was fire damage; 10 percent of businesses that filed claims filed fire claims and the cost was typically $30,000 or less.

So, it definitely happens but the monetary value involved is not hugely significant.

That begs the question, however, of whether or not filing a claim due to burglary, theft or robbery will increase the premiums of the policy holder. The answer there, of course, is that it depends. Just as with a homeowner’s policy, it has everything to do with how the individual policy is written. It’s therefore the case that some businesses will see increased premiums due to robbery claims and some will not.

In the broad sense, robbery and theft costs the retail sector a great deal; the National Retail Federation reports that theft, fraud and other losses cost the retail sector in the United States almost $51 billion in 2018. The average loss in robberies was just under $2,900 though it had been as high as $4,237 as of the year prior to that.

So yes, robbery and theft are real and they result in a lot of lost value in property and cash stolen from businesses in aggregate, but it’s also true that businesses are insured against such things and their policy may not even get more expensive if they file a claim.

Obviously, this isn’t to suggest that robbery or any other violent crime should be overlooked, pardoned, tolerated or otherwise. That would be ridiculous.

Instead, this is to present some information to get you to think about something.

Have you seriously thought about whether you would intervene if you were at the scene of a robbery when it began? Would you draw down on a robber sticking up the Gas’N’Mart for a few bucks or even shooting them for doing so? Or are you more committed to just getting home alive?

Some people take the attitude that “I will not intervene unless they clearly threaten me or someone else, but I won’t do anything if they’re just after the cash in the register.” And others think that if they’re in a store and a robbery takes place, by god they’re going to burn them down.

It’s a good thing to actually ponder.

Are you willing to risk your life – and other people’s, because you are introducing risk if you fire at an armed robber – to keep someone else from having to file an insurance claim? Is saving other people from a little paperwork really so important?

Some people don’t think so. Others are so obsessed with principles that they are willing to overlook reality for the sake of them. It’s also true that the laws of most states would scarcely be at odds with intervening to stop an armed robbery.

It’s also true that someone who commits armed robbery has clearly gone beyond a poor soul, down on their luck and just needing a break to get on their feet; when a person chooses to engage in violent crime, they have declared that they don’t care for the safety and wellbeing of others and that is not something that should be tolerated in a society.

So what do you think? Have you thought about whether to intervene in robbery or other crimes if they occur in front of you? Or are you not getting involved unless there’s no choice?

Sam Hoober is a hunter and shooter based in the Inland Northwest.