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Are Gun Owners Going to Need to Buy Insurance?

Agent man presentation and consulting car insurance detail to customer and waiting for his reply to finish.
By Christopher Coble, Esq. on August 19, 2019

When people clamor for more gun control laws in response to firearm violence, one response from gun rights advocates is pointing out how many more people are killed in motor vehicle accidents every year. And, in recent years, the retort to that argument has increasingly been to regulate guns the same way as cars -- with strict licensing requirements and restrictions, compulsory annual registration, and mandatory liability insurance.

That latest prong is being pushed more heavily following the recent spate of mass shootings in California, Texas, and Ohio. In California, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is proposing a first-in-the-nation requirement that all firearm owners carry liability insurance for their weapons.

Who Pays the Price

Mayor Liccardo's proposal comes on the heels of the shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California, the victims of which included two children from San Jose. The shooter's semi-automatic assault rifle is banned in California but was purchased in Nevada three weeks before the shooting.

Specifically, the gun insurance regulation would include coverage for any accidental discharge of the gun. It would also cover intentional acts of any third parties who steal, borrow, or otherwise acquire the gun, but would not cover the policyholder for his or her own intentional conduct. So, at least with respect to the festival shooting, there would be no insurance payout, since it would've been the shooter's own policy at issue, and he committed the shooting intentionally.

Mayor Liccardo also floated a gun and ammunition sales tax which would fund gun safety classes, gun violence prevention programs, and victim assistance services. The tax would also pay cash rewards for anyone who reports a person who has unlawfully obtained guns or weapons. "With this measure, we won't suddenly end gun violence," Liccardo said. "But we're going to stop paying for it."

Criminal Coverage

Of course, gun owners can always choose to carry their own insurance. Many homeowners' insurance policies (or associated umbrella policies) include property and liability coverage for firearms. However, those policies also only cover accidental shootings and, possibly, acts of self-defense. Like the San Jose proposal, there is generally no coverage for criminal or other intentional shootings. Even the National Rifle Association's "Carry Guard," which purports to offer customers liability insurance for self-defense shootings, and even 20 percent of legal defense costs if a person faces criminal charges over the shooting, but only pays out in full upon an acquittal or dismissal of charges.

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