A New Law Would Force Gun Owners to Buy Liability Insurance

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posted on January 27, 2022
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Anthony Quintano courtesy Flickr

The city of San José, Calif., just voted to force gun owners to buy liability insurance and to pay annual fees that would be directed to a nonprofit set up to distribute the money.

“Tonight San José became the first city in the United States to enact an ordinance to require gun owners to purchase liability insurance, and to invest funds generated from fees paid by gun owners into evidence-based initiatives to reduce gun violence and gun harm,” says a press release from San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

Technically, the ordinance does not go into effect until 180 days after it is officially adopted, which requires one more vote.

Liccardo continued in his press release by thanking a long list of gun-control groups for helping craft this legislation.

This mandate works off the belief that America’s legal gun owners, or at least their guns, are causing criminal violence. It thereby treats the Second Amendment as a liability for society. This is how gun-control groups, and the politicians who support them, spin this issue, but any fact-based reading of crime statistics shows this to be a dishonest approach to law, and a disingenuous way to treat America’s 100-million-plus legal gun owners.

Legal gun owners, after all, rarely commit crimes, though a lot of data does show that armed citizens stop and prevent many crimes. The criminal element in our society, who typically use illegally obtained firearms, are where the problem lies.

This mandate is also an onerous government burden on a constitutional right.

It is not even based on a sound understanding of liability insurance, which almost always exempts criminal acts from coverage. Published work on liability insurance is very clear that “general liability insurance policies exclude coverage for intentional injuries.” Even New York state’s insurance regulatory body is clear about this: “Generally, intentional criminal acts are excluded from liability insurance coverage.” Insurance covers accidents, not intentional acts.

In fact, criminal acts are usually committed by people who are not carrying liability insurance of any kind. Many are mentally ill. “Voices” telling them to commit mass murder probably aren’t also telling them to buy insurance. The ordinary murderers, who are actually a real cost to our society, are also unlikely to be insured—imagine if San José had instead opted to require gangs to buy liability insurance!

Also, many homeowners policies already cover non-criminal firearms injuries. When my wife and I first received California concealed weapons licenses (yes, we had some political pull, which still amazes me), I called up my homeowners insurer to see how much I would have to pay extra for a “rider” on my policy. My agent’s response: “That’s already covered.” An intentional criminal act, of course, would not be covered.

So what is the purpose of this law? It is an attempt to increase costs and the burden for law-abiding gun owners. It was written by people who know nothing about insurance, but who are instead gun-control activists.

It is bad law that will be challenged in court. No judge should allow this burden on a constitutional right to stand.

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