Taking a nod from the city of San Jose, a California lawmaker on Thursday introduced a bill that would require gun owners to obtain liability insurance for the negligent or accidental use of their firearms.
If enacted, Senate Bill 505, introduced by state Sen. Nancy Skinner, (D-Berkeley), would make California the first state in the nation to adopt such legislation.
Before Thursday, the Senate Bill 505 was a drastically different bill seeking to regulate employee paycheck withholdings. Through California’s controversial gut-and-amend process, it now regulates firearms.
“Guns kill more people than cars,” Skinner said. “Yet gun owners are not required to carry liability insurance like car owners must. Why should taxpayers, survivors, families, employers, and communities bear the $280 billion annual cost of gun violence? It’s time for gun owners to shoulder their fair share.”
Under the proposal, gun insurance in California would be similar to car insurance. Gun owners would be held civilly liable for property damage, injury, or death resulting from the use of their firearms. They would also have to obtain liability insurance that covers losses or damages resulting from negligent or accidental use of their firearm, including property, damage, injury or death and keep proof of their insurance with their gun.
The hope is that gun ownership would become more expensive because of the extra insurance people would have to pay and require more safety features if people want to get a lower bill, according to Skinner’s team.
“When a gun owner calls their insurer to say, ‘Look, I need liability insurance now,’ the insurer is going to say, ‘Where do you keep your guns,’” Skinner said. The more questions the gun owner can answer proving to the insurance company that the gun is being kept safely will mean a lower insurance rate.
“That’s just going to increase safety and lessen gun violence,” Skinner said.
If Skinner’s bill passes, it will also surely be contested.
In January, the National Association for Gun Rights and gun owner Mark Sikes sued San Jose in federal court after City Council members voted to approve the ordinance believed to be the first measure of its kind in the United States.
“The law is unconstitutional,” Harmeet Dhillon, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, said at the time. “The law compels people to purchase insurance that doesn’t necessarily exist and that demonstrates that this law is not a good faith attempt to do anything other than ban or burden the lawful possession of guns.”
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