New Hampshire: How Mandatory Liability Insurance Will Affect Gun Owners

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posted on February 5, 2016
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Introduction of a radical anti-gun measure that would require New Hampshire gun owners to be covered by a liability insurance policy is part of a disturbing widespread pattern designed to limit private firearm ownership—without, of course, affecting violent criminals in any way.

The New Hampshire measure—House Bill 1368, sponsored by Democrat state Rep. Katherine Rogers—would require the seller, purchaser and owner of a firearm to be covered by a liability insurance policy. This misguided proposal is clearly an unconstitutional condition and is without merit or precedent in law.Clearly, firearm liability insurance will have no effect on the criminal misuse of firearms …

As NRA-ILA pointed out in a recent alert, proponents of this legislation are arguing that in much of the country, individuals are required by law to insure their automobiles. However, it’s important to note that mandated auto insurance is a precondition that relates to the privilege of driving on public roads, not of automobile ownership. Not to mention the fact that the right to keep and bear arms is constitutionally protected under the Second Amendment.

Fact is, many, if not most, insurers do not even provide firearm-specific liability insurance coverage. Many insurance companies even exclude coverage for claims arising from firearm ownership.

Under the mandated insurance law, gun owners could be liable for any criminal act involving the insured firearm, even if it was reported lost or stolen. In addition, the unreasonable fines of up to $10,000 imposed on those who fail to purchase mandated liability insurance could be financially crippling. 

Disturbingly, such proposals are also under consideration in New York, Hawaii, Los Angeles and even the U.S. Congress.

In New York, Assistant Assembly Speaker Felix Ortiz from Brooklyn has introduced a measure requiring at least $250,000 in liability insurance for gun owners. When he proposed similar legislation in 2013, he originally sought $1 million in coverage.

Meanwhile in Hawaii, Democrat state Sen. Josh Green is sponsoring a similar bill, and also relying on the car insurance analogy to justify his attack on law-abiding gun owners. His statement to Hawaii News Now, “I don’t want to take people’s guns away from them, but …” is a classic gun-banner’s sleight of hand that almost always means, “I do want to take people’s guns away from them.”Fact is, many, if not most, insurers do not even provide firearm-specific liability insurance coverage. Many insurance companies even exclude coverage for claims arising from firearm ownership.

Green’s measure, SB 3032, would require those purchasing a gun to first obtain liability insurance, then provide proof of insurance and an “administrative fee” to the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. The administrative fees charged for the ownership and possession of firearms would become part of a “firearms insurance special fund,” and would be used for firearms safety programs and mental health services.

Some municipalities are even using the insurance scheme to pounce on law-abiding gun owners. Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas is pushing similar requirements on the already heavily-put-upon gun owners in his jurisdiction.

The attack is also underway at the federal level, with doggedly anti-gun U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., proposing legislation that would force all gun owners to buy liability insurance or pay a $10,000 fine. This measure would also impose a form of firearm registration, as the insurance records could easily be accessed via subpoena by the government.  

But Maloney might have an even more cynical reason for the legislation—campaign donations. Since the leaking of her proposed bill, it has been revealed that one of Maloney’s biggest financial backers is the insurance industry. Data provided by OpenSecrets.org shows that PACs and individuals in the insurance industry rank third on Maloney’s donor list (up from fourth in 2012), providing Maloney’s campaign committee with nearly $90,000 for 2013-14. 

Clearly, firearm liability insurance will have no effect on the criminal misuse of firearms: Why would someone who was going to break the law against armed robbery or murder even think about complying with an insurance requirement? There’s no doubt, however, that it would be costly and inconvenient to law-abiding gun owners—likely what those proposing such measure had in mind in the first place.

“Clearly, firearm liability insurance will have no effect on the criminal misuse of firearms; however, it will have onerous effects for law-abiding gun owners,” NRA-ILA said in a recent legislative alert. “Law-abiding gun owners should not have to pay to exercise their constitutional rights, and individuals lacking financial resources should not be forced to decide between defending their families and putting food on the table.”

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