As the United States opens up following the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, new analysis shows it faces a uniquely American problem – and a disturbing one at that.
As students filter back into school and universities and public businesses return to full capacity, some are taking precautions against a different scourge: mass shootings.
According to analysis by Reuters, last year was the least deadly for US mass shootings for a decade as lockdowns and social distancing measures were introduced across the country.
But the uptick in the sale of mass shooting insurance – yes, that's a thing – indicates Americans aren't necessarily expecting the trend to continue after a recent spate of mass shooting incidents in the first half of the year.
Client inquiries for what the industry calls active shooter policies have risen 50 per cent year on year in the past six weeks, said Tarique Nageer, Terrorism Placement Advisory Leader at Marsh, the world's biggest insurance broker.
In the US, such policies gained popularity in recent years following a number of highly publicised school shootings.
The insurance product typically covers victim lawsuits, building repairs, legal fees, medical expenses and trauma counselling.
'Uniquely American' insurance growing in popularity
According to Texas-based company TGS Insurance, the product was created in 2011 and has been steadily rising in popularity ever since.
"It is a uniquely American necessity, and is one that seems to be becoming more popular every year," the company says on its website.
"Predictably, the rise in popularity for this type of coverage rather closely mirrors the amount of mass shootings happening around the country."
If you think that's a disturbing indictment on the country's gun-toting culture, you're not alone.
"The fact that 'mass shooting insurance' is even a thing... This country is so warped," Los Angeles Times journalist Suzy Exposito tweeted this week.
Healthcare industry sees big demand for shooter insurance
In recent months, demand has been particularly strong from the healthcare sector, said Tim Davies, head of crisis management at Canopius, a Lloyd's of London global specialty insurer.
Most hospitals are open to the public and their emergency wards, where patients with Covid-19 and other severe illness and injuries get treatment, can become triggers for potentially volatile behaviour.
"Those are places where you could see people who are disgruntled that members of their family might have died and didn't get a vaccine or weren't treated properly," Mr Davies said.
Such concerns have led to about a 25 per cent to 50 per cent hike in active shooter insurance prices compared to last year for healthcare firms, while overall rates have remained steady, he said.
Brokers say that, besides hospitals, retail establishments, schools, universities, restaurants and places of worship are other prominent clients, buying cover ranging from US$1 million to as high as US$75 million (A$96 million).
The United States witnessed 200 mass shootings in the first 132 days of this year, according to a report by the Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit research group that defines them as any event involving the shooting of four or more people other than the assailant.
Hart Brown, senior vice president of R3 Continuum, a crisis management consultancy that helps clients deal with the aftermaths of about 800 shootings a year, said violence had migrated from public spaces into homes in 2020.
But this year, demand for R3 Continuum's services is up 15 per cent to 20 per cent. Mr Brown said the gradual reopening of offices has brought violence back to the workplace – compounded by pandemic-induced stresses and economic insecurities often endured in isolation.
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