by Marshall Lewin - Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Lawmakers in at least four states are pushing bills to force gun owners to register with, and buy liability insurance from, casualty insurers.
So far, politicians have proposed imposing these mandates through state laws in Hawaii, New Hampshire and New York, and through city ordinance in Los Angeles.
The bills are similar to legislation proposed last year in Congress by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., whose “Firearm Risk Protection Act” would require gun owners to provide proof of liability insurance before purchasing a firearm and subject gun owners who fail to maintain insurance to fines up to $10,000, Insurance Business America reports.
The New Hampshire bill, introduced by Democrat state Rep. Katherine Rogers, requires not only firearm purchasers but also sellers and owners of firearms to maintain liability insurance. Violators would face fines of up to $10,000. When politicians trade campaign cash for policy support for the insurance industry—with mandates that harm the very people they pretend to protect—that goes beyond mercenary to malicious.
The Hawaii bill, proposed by Democrat state Sen. Josh Green, not only requires gun owners to keep insurance, but also requires them to re-register firearms with the state every five years.
The New York bill requires gun owners to maintain a minimum of $250,000 in liability insurance.
In addition to mandatory insurance for gun owners, Los Angeles is also considering imposing new taxes on firearms, ostensibly to offset the costs incurred by crime victims.
And these gun-owner insurance mandates are popping up all around the country. For example, a new Vermont bill, H. 709, introduced by Democrat state Rep. Thomas Stevens, would force insurance companies to require homeowner’s policy holders to report whether they, or anyone in the household, owns a firearm stored on the insured property.
Not only are these insurance mandates predicated on lies—they’re fraught with peril for lawful gun owners. Here are just a few of the ways.
First of all, as George Mocsary of Southern Illinois University School of Law explained to Insurance Business America, these schemes would neither prevent gun crime nor compensate victims adequately.
Why? For one thing, most insurance carriers put language into their policies that specifically exempts intentional criminal acts from being covered. According to Mocsary, that means that about 97 percent of gun-related deaths—suicides and homicides—would not even be covered by the required insurance policies.
Moreover, Mocsary said, nearly one in five so-called “gun violence victims” are actually criminals who were shot while committing a crime themselves. Imagine the fun insurance-industry attorneys would have when challenged in court with that fact.
Add to that the fact that storing a firearm negligently, or entrusting it to someone negligently, are not recognized as “negligence” by many jurisdictions—especially in cases where firearms are stolen and then used to commit crimes—and you see these insurance mandates are really not, nor even intended to be, the solutions their hucksters claim.
Finally, there’s the inconvenient fact that criminals won’t obey liability insurance mandates, and those mandates won’t reduce criminal behavior any more than having auto insurance prevents people from driving drunk.
Rep. Maloney, the author of the federal mandatory gun-insurance bill, claims, “We require insurance to own a car, but no such requirement exists for guns. The results are clear: Car fatalities have declined by 25 percent in the last decade, but gun fatalities continue to rise.” Since when do civil rights depend on how much money you make?
But Maloney spouts baloney: First of all, there’s no “right to drive a car” in the Constitution, let alone the Bill of Rights. Even if motor vehicles existed when the Constitution was written, there’s not much chance that your life or your country’s freedom would ever depend on your right and ability to go on a Sunday drive.
What’s more, Maloney’s suggestion that auto insurance somehow caused “auto fatalities to decline by 25 percent” is absurd on its face. The reason motor vehicle deaths have declined is almost entirely because of safer roads, safer vehicles and safer drivers—not because of insurance mandates.
So why are politicians pushing these schemes? Well, one of Maloney’s biggest campaign cash cows has been—you guessed it—the insurance industry.
According to OpenSecrets.org data, insurance-industry PACs and individuals rank third on Maloney’s list of donors, and they’ve risen from fourth place in 2012 to third place today. Indeed, those insurance-industry donors gave Maloney’s campaign committee nearly $90,000 in 2013-14.
You know, it’s bad enough that politicians like President Barack Obama and Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton suck up to the financial industry—banking and insurance—and push policies that benefit that industry while collecting millions of dollars from those same moneyed interests.
But when politicians trade financial support from the insurance industry in exchange for policy support for the insurance industry, while claiming to be looking out for “the little guy”—with policies that disproportionately harm those who need protection the most—that goes beyond mercenary to malicious.
Yet that’s exactly what these gun-owner insurance mandates do. Think about it.
If you’re a homeowner, chances are you already have quite a bit of liability coverage as part of your homeowner’s policy. But if you’re living hand-to-mouth, likely in rented housing, possibly in a more dangerous neighborhood, you may not have liability insurance. And you’re probably less able to afford liability insurance.
Which means that requiring gun owners to maintain expensive insurance would harm the urban poor and minorities most of all.
In that sense, these insurance mandates aren’t so much different from the idea that only those who own property can be free. It’s also not much different from the poll taxes that blocked the poor from voting.
Since when do civil rights depend on how much money you make?
As an opinion piece in the congressional newspaper The Hill put it last summer:
“If there’s anything anyone has heard from a liberal in the last six years, it’s that insurance costs disproportionately harm the poor. That’s what the never-ending Obamacare debate has been about. Maybe Maloney hasn’t noticed the disparity since she represents the richest congressional district in the entire U.S., where per-capita income is $75,479. But most liberals understand the truth that having to purchase gun liability insurance won’t mean a thing to rich people. For the poor, however, it will effectively end their Second Amendment right.”
As NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris W. Cox said, “The Second Amendment is a God-given right that belongs to every law-abiding American, no matter their tax bracket, their zip code or street address.”
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