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Washington - Lawmakers Propose Liability Insurance For U.S. Gun Owners

Published on: February 6, 2013 03:35 PM
By: Reuters
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FILE -  Derek Ringley, a second amendment supporter, auctions off a gun  in Dallas, Texas, USA, 19 January 2013. EPAFILE -  Derek Ringley, a second amendment supporter, auctions off a gun in Dallas, Texas, USA, 19 January 2013. EPA

Washington - Lawmakers eager to reduce gun violence in their states are proposing mandatory liability insurance for American firearm owners as a new way to limit deaths and injuries.

Provoked by the December 14 massacre of 20 schoolchildren and six adults at a school in Newtown, Connecticut, the legislators hope to harness market forces as another tool for gun control.

Proponents argue that operators of vehicles, for example, must have liability insurance, so gun owners should as well. Those who take safety courses, have fewer and safer weapons, and store them securely could get lower rates than those who did not, they say.

“We may not be able to reduce intentional shootings as a result of liability insurance, but I do believe we can reduce accidental shootings,” said David Linsky, a Democratic representative in Massachusetts who has proposed mandatory insurance for gun owners.

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California on Tuesday became at least the fourth state to have a liability insurance bill introduced, following Massachusetts, Maryland and Connecticut.

No state has a gun liability insurance law. Since 2003, almost two dozen such bills have been rejected nationwide, 15 of them in New York, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The liability insurance proposals come as President Barack Obama is campaigning for stricter federal gun controls.

Efforts to control guns face an uphill climb politically in the face of a strong pro-gun lobby, including the National Rifle Association (NRA), and constitutional protection for firearms ownership.

“ACCIDENTS DO HAPPEN”

The NRA itself offers “excess personal liability” insurance of up to $250,000 for hunters and for shooters at competitions or private ranges, according to its website.

“Because accidents do happen no matter how careful you are,” the website says.

A Maryland proposal would mandate that anyone possessing a firearm have liability insurance of at least $250,000. It requires anyone selling, renting out or transferring a gun to verify that the person getting it has liability insurance.

Mandating liability insurance would help pay for damage caused by guns, Linsky said. But the main reason “is to get the marketplace involved in making gun ownership safer,” he said.

NRA spokeswoman Stephanie Samford said the organization opposed liability insurance for gun owners because it was “economically discriminatory.”

“You don’t have to carry insurance to exercise any other constitutional right,” Samford said.

Robert Hartwig, the president of the Insurance Information Institute in New York, said that since no market now existed for gun liability insurance lawmakers would have to negotiate coverage criteria with insurers.

“A legislature could in theory mandate gun liability coverage, but you cannot require insurers to offer that coverage,” Hartwig said.

If insurers declined to offer coverage, states themselves might have to set up insurance liability programs, Hartwig said.

Some homeowners’ policies cover accidental gun discharges, but those cases are a small fraction of the millions of claims filed each year, he said.

The cost of U.S. injuries from firearms was about $174 billion in 2010, including lost work time, medical care and insurance, according to a breakdown of U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation.

Of the 31,328 deaths by firearm in 2010, 1.9 percent were accidents and 0.8 percent were of undetermined intent, according to CDC and National Vital Statistics Report numbers on the institute’s website. The rest were suicides and homicides.


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1

 Feb 06, 2013 at 05:04 PM InsideOne Says:

Leave it to the NRA to oppose anything rational - this is a far better approach than any ban or regulatory regime, and is quite the opposite of economic discrimination.

In every aspect of our society, we require owners of assets to insure against injury to others - owners of businesses, of cars, of real estate. Let those who choose ownership and sale of potentially lethal objects to bear the costs, not innocent bystanders. If they choose more weapons, or more dangerous weapons, or don't employ appropriate safeguards, their premiums will be higher than those gun owners who act responsibly.

2

 Feb 06, 2013 at 05:56 PM yaakov doe Says:

I like the idea.

3

 Feb 06, 2013 at 06:05 PM qazxc Says:

Terrific idea. Responsible citizens get to keep our firearms and paying to insure each gun will likely keep many people from buying more guns than they reasonably need for sport, hunting and security.

A win - win solution.

4

 Feb 06, 2013 at 06:30 PM Benny Says:

"Proponents argue that operators of vehicles, for example, must have liability insurance, so gun owners should as well. Those who take safety courses, have fewer and safer weapons, and store them securely could get lower rates than those who did not, they say."
What a stupidity!

Let us argue. The operators of vehicles, for example, must have liability insurance, so MOUTH owners should as well. Those who take safety courses, have fewer and safer words, and store them securely could get lower rates than those who did not, they say.
So if you learn Chofetz Chaim - you can speak for free, if not - pay 1000 $ per year, to cover the damages done by a bad mouth!

5

 Feb 06, 2013 at 09:33 PM Mentsch613 Says:

To the first 3 posters.
Sure it sounds rational, but is it logical?
Bottom line, homeowner policies cover accidents in the home. Should we require separate policies for owners of table saw's? Why insist on insuring guns when they account for a lower percentage of injury compared to power tools?
It's obvious that the govt is trying to make gun ownership less affordable and therefore less palatable, and that is why gun owners are upset.
Case in point is NYC where a gun license costs at least $100 a year, making a constitutional right unaffordable for many law abiding citizens.

6

 Feb 06, 2013 at 09:54 PM Doc Says:

They are trying to make it sound rational, but really this is encroaching tyranny.
This will hurt honest poor people who live in crime ridden areas the most.
As a rule, ANYTHING that comes out of the Obama White House is going to be a progressive, ultra liberal idea, and bad for America.

7

 Feb 07, 2013 at 06:58 AM Voice-of-Reason Says:

The government should insure its weapons as well. Every police officer and soldier's gun should have liability policy in place. Accidents happen.

8

 Feb 07, 2013 at 09:59 AM Raphael_Kaufman Says:

As a gun owner I see nothing wrong with requiring insurance as long as it is actuarially based, but consider.
1. No insurance will cover criminal misuse of a firearm.
2. Accidental misuse is already covered by home owners insurance.
3. Stand-alone liability insurance should only be required for holders of Hunting licenses (if not covered by homeowners) and Concealed Carry Permits. If the rate is not intentionally made punitive but is actuarially based, Stand-alone insurance will be very cheap, say $20 per year, because accidental misuse of a firearm rarely results in large claims. (for intentional misuse, such as the recent atrocity at Sandy Hook, see item 1.)

9

 Feb 07, 2013 at 10:24 AM qazxc Says:

Reply to #7  
Voice-of-Reason Says:

The government should insure its weapons as well. Every police officer and soldier's gun should have liability policy in place. Accidents happen.

Do government agencies carry auto insurance or do they self insure?

Whatever they do for government vehicles should be done for government arms.

10

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