California would be the first state to require gun owners to buy liability insurance to cover the negligent or accidental use of their firearms, if lawmakers approve a measure announced last Thursday.
“Guns kill more people than cars. Yet gun owners are not required to carry liability insurance like car owners must,” Democratic state Sen. Nancy Skinner said in a statement.
She said the costs of gun violence shouldn’t be borne by taxpayers, survivors, families, employers and communities: “It’s time for gun owners to shoulder their fair share.”
The state of New York is considering a similar requirement in the wake of numerous recent mass shootings and a rise in gun violence.
In January, the Silicon Valley city of San Jose approved what’s believed to be the first such insurance requirement in the United States.
No insurance company will cover the misuse of a firearm, predicted Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California.
He said such requirements are an illegal infringement on gun owners’ constitutional rights.
“We don’t believe you can put precursors on the exercising of a constitutional right,” Paredes said. “By requiring somebody to get insurance in order to exercise their right to keep and bear arms, that ceases to make it a right.”
Skinner is amending an existing bill on another topic to allow gun owners to be held civilly liable if their firearms are used to cause property damage, injury or death.
The bill would also require gun owners to have insurance that covers losses or damages from the negligent or accidental use of their firearm. And they would have to keep proof of insurance with their firearm and show it to police if they are stopped for some reason.
Paredes had similar objections to a second bill that also would affect gun owners’ costs, this one by imposing an excise tax on firearms and ammunition.
The bill would impose an excise tax equal to 10 percent of the sales price of a handgun and 11 percent of the sales price of a long gun, ammunition or parts to build firearms.
Democratic Assemblyman Marc Levine estimated his bill would bring in more than $118 million annually that would go toward gun violence prevention programs.
Because it would impose a tax, Levine’s bill would require approval by two-thirds majorities in the legislature. His similar measure last year fell four votes short of the 54 it needed in the 80-member Assembly.
The bills are among numerous firearms measures being considered by California lawmakers this year, including one that would make it easier to sue gun-makers and another that would allow private citizens to sue those who traffic in illegal weapons.