Compulsory gun insurance bill moves forward in state House

"[This is to stop owners] wanting to or even legally being able to obtain and own firearms," claims critic

Compulsory gun insurance bill moves forward in state House

Insurance News

By Ryan Smith

A bill that would require liability insurance for all firearms is moving forward in the Colorado state legislature.

The legislation, House Bill 24-1270, would require gun owners in the state to maintain “a liability insurance policy that covers losses or damages to a person, other than the policyholder, who is injured on the insured property as a result of any accidental or unintentional discharge of the firearm.”

The bill passed out of the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee on Thursday with a 6-5 vote, according to a report by local news affiliate Denver7.

Under the bill, victims of accidental shootings could file a claim against the policyholder of the gun. The bill’s sponsors said that in the event a person is shot with a stolen gun, the policyholder would be protected from any potential claims as long as the gun had previously been reported as stolen.

“What we’re really trying to do is make sure that we are just taking responsible gun ownership and adding one more protection,” Democratic state Rep. Iman Jodeh, one of the bill’s sponsors, told Denver7. “People own guns – we do not want to infringe on that right. But what we want to do is make sure they are protecting themselves even more. And so by having this insurance, we are upholding their belief that they should own guns, they have the right to own guns, and that they can be and should be responsible gun owners.”

Jodeh said this type of insurance is already offered through homeowners and renters insurance policies. She told Denver7 that she’s seen firearm liability policies from independent insurers that total about $50 per year, so the insurance should not be a significant financial burden on gun owners.

However, the bill’s opponents say that many gun owners would likely flout the law and that unintentional shootings are rare.

“I think this is a long, large-scale plan of all this stuff coming together in one way or another to keep firearm owners from wanting to or even legally being able to obtain and own firearms,” Republican state Rep. Ryan Armogast told Denver7. “WHen we’re talking about unintentional deaths of firearms, that’s not going to be happening on a level of law-abiding citizens … those are a drive-by shooting or any kind of gang violence or something like that, where people are spraying ammunition at each other and somebody gets unintentionally struck by a bullet.”

According to the National Safety Council, the chance of dying in an intentional gun assault is one in 208, but only one in 7,944 accidental discharges result in a death.

Legal hurdles

The bill may face tough legal sledding if it is passed. Last year, a New Jersey gun control law that would have required gun owners to carry liability insurance was blocked by a federal judge before it could go into effect, according to a CBS News report.

US District Judge Renée Marie Bumb ruled that the insurance requirement infringed on the constitutional right to bear arms.

“The insurance mandate does regulate who can carry firearms in public,” Bumb wrote in her ruling.

However, a 2022 ordinance in San Jose, Calif., which required gun owners to purchase liability insurance was upheld last year in federal court, with US District Court Judge Beth Freeman dismissing all claims challenging the constitutionality of the insurance requirement. The San Jose ordinance also required gun owners to pay a $25 fee, which Freeman likewise upheld.

Insurance as a deterrent

Proponents of mandatory firearm liability insurance say that it would encourage gun owners to avoid risky decisions and follow gun safety practices in order to avoid having their premiums hiked or losing coverage altogether, CBS News reported.

“Insurance companies can’t tell us to do anything, but what they can do is to make decisions about whether they are going to insure us,” Peter Kochenberger, visiting law professor at the Southern University Law Center, told CBS News last year.

The idea of an insurance mandate has floated around for years, but began to gain a foothold following the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, in which a lone gunman killed 26 people, including 20 children, at a Connecticut elementary school.

Gun advocates push back

However, gun rights advocates have staunchly opposed an insurance mandate, saying it would unconstitutionally regulate who can carry firearms.

“Taxing lawful ownership and requiring insurance will do nothing to reduce gun violence, which is often committed by repeat criminals who will not be paying the fees or obtaining insurance,” the National Rifle Association said when the San Jose ordinance passed in 2022.

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