Coverage for Gun Owners? Not a Good Idea Say Insurers

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Own a gun, get insurance. Some lawmakers say it’s a good idea. Most U.S. insurance executives say not so fast.
In 2010, the NRA estimated there were nearly 300 million privately owned firearms in the U.S., including about 100 million handguns. The number of firearms rises over four million annually. That’s a lot or potential insurance policies. But insurers are taking a hands-off approach to underwriting coverage, insisting that mandatory gun insurance laws would encourage irresponsible behavior.
The American Insurance Association noted that mandating gun owner liability insurance would be not only be impractical but could fail to stem gun violence. A statement released by the AIA pointed out that such laws could have the opposite of its intended effect, leading to reckless actions by gun owners who would no longer have their own assets, property or income at stake.

A proposed gun-control bill in Massachusetts would levy a fine on gun owners who fail to purchase coverage. California is considering a measure that would require gun insurance. Lawmakers in both states said that insurers would not be held liable for damages arising out of criminal acts.
“I’m really looking at people who are injured as a result of somebody’s negligence in the way that they store a gun or the way that they handle a gun,” explained Massachusetts Democratic State Representative David Linsky, who authored the gun liability insurance provision. Linsky said the measure would treat gun owners like car owners. Auto insurance financially rewards good drivers with lower premiums and penalizes reckless drivers with higher premiums.
Gun control advocates maintain that gun liability premiums would be reduced for responsible gun owners who store their weapons safely, use gun trigger locks or modify them so they can be fired only by the gun owner. Such laws might also reduce accidental shootings and suicides. “The idea is to encourage people to handle their guns more safely and store them more safely,” said Linsky. 
The Massachusetts Insurance Federation opposes any type of mandatory insurance, saying that it often results in heavy government regulation of their business, including price controls and mandatory product offerings. “If people are required by statute to have this coverage, then we would be mandated to provide it,” said Frank O’Brien, vice president of state government relations at the Property Casualty Insurers Association.
U.S. insurers are also wary of a government attempt to regulate guns through them. “Why should insurance companies be the deterrent for ownership of guns?” asks James Harrington, president of the Massachusetts Insurance Federation. “If government wants to do something to deter ownership of guns, let government do it.”
Insurance executives selling liability products may find themselves in the middle of a heated issue. Either way, it might be prudent to stay informed and be prepared for gun insurance mandates that may be coming down the road.


Image courtesy of Victor Habbick/

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