What is an affinity group and why create one in an effort to reduce gun violence? These are good questions! Most of the time, advocates for the reduction of gun violence take on the issue via legislative strategies: they appeal to lawmakers, find advocates for good legislation and fight bad legislation. They corral as many people as possible to their cause through a variety of means to encourage the passage of new laws.

And there’s been some success with that strategy in Massachusetts.

None of that should stop. There’s plenty of legislative work to be done, here and throughout the country. But the gun violence problem isn’t getting better. Approximately 40,000 people still die from gun violence in the United States each year, and it appears that 2020 may have set a modern record for the number of Americans killed by firearms violence. Even more Americans are injured each year. Less talked about is the financial burden of gun violence, estimated to be more than $160,000 per patient—a number that doesn’t take into account long-term care costs like physical rehabilitation and mental health services. So it’s time to find a new approach to the problem.

That’s why we’re turning to the market and creating an affinity group.

An affinity group is a group of people formed around a common interest or goal. Individual members of the group might come to it via some formal commitment, or there may be only an informal bond. The group might form with the intent of sharing experiences on an ongoing basis, or perhaps its members hold a specific purpose: to advocate for a political position or to participate in a big event together, for example.

In the insurance industry, insurers generally market to affinity groups by offering perks and/or lower rates to groups of people whom the insurers deem slightly less risky for one reason or another. Automobile insurers, for example, offer discounts to alumni associations, business associations, students with good grades, etc.

We aim to form an affinity group of at least 3,000 members to convince at least one homeowners’ insurance company in Massachusetts of the commonsense notion that firearms in the home are safety risk—enough of a safety risk, in fact, that their absence ought to earn homeowners a premium safety discount akin to those offered for the absence of a swimming pool or a monitored fire alarm system.

A mere handful of homeowners saying they would switch insurance companies for this discount would probably not be convincing. But 3,000 homeowners pledging to make this change? That’s a different story.

We know that consumers can make a difference in corporate behavior when it comes to the topic of firearms because there’s precedent. To take just one recent example, Walmart has taken numerous steps to restrict the sale of firearms in its stores in response to public pressure (and walked back some of those steps later on). But Walmart presents a story of influence over direct gun sales.

We’re going to meet home insurers where they are: directly in the business of home safety.

It’s a truism to state that home insurers want subscribers to keep their homes as safe as possible. The safer the home, the less likely an insurer will have to pay out a claim following a horrible event. With an affinity group of at least 3,000 homeowners willing to commit their home insurance dollars to a company that credits those homeowners for that safety decision, we can demonstrate the power of firearms safety in the marketplace. And once one insurance company makes that mutually beneficial decision, others will seriously consider following.

In other words, we’re creating an affinity group that will make a difference.