Should California gun owners be forced to buy liability insurance?
Sacramento Bee (CA)
California could become the first state in the country to require gun owners to be insured against the negligent or accidental use of their firearms under legislation introduced Thursday.
“Guns kill more people than cars,” Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) said in a statement. “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.”
Skinner introduced legislation Thursday morning as an amendment to SB-505, an unrelated bill which will be gutted. The announcement follows a string of gun violence measures that the Legislature has treated with special urgency last month’s school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
If the bill passes, it will require gun owners to carry coverage for losses from death, injury, property damage and other incidents. Owners would have to keep written evidence of their policy where the gun is stored, and to carry it when transporting the firearm. They would be considered civilly liable for negligent or accidental use.
The San Jose City Council in January approved an ordinance requiring firearm owners to obtain liability insurance and pay an annual fee, which would go toward gun violence prevention efforts. At the time, the proposal was championed by municipal lawmakers as the first of its kind.
If SB-505 became law, it will certainly face opposition from gun owner groups and the firearms industry. In San Jose, the National Association for Gun Rights sued the city in federal court. A lawyer representing the plaintiffs called the ordinance “unconstitutional.” The plaintiffs argue against taxing constitutional rights, and have compared the proposal to “a free speech tax.” The lawsuit is ongoing, and the ordinance is still currently set to become law on July 25.
Before facing potential legal retaliation, the proposal will have to clear the state Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom. But both have been quite eager to give the green-light to gun control bills. While Congress has largely struggled to pass even modest gun control legislation, Newsom reiterated this week that California “has led the nation” in gun law reforms.
“Since the 1990s, our laws have prevented countless shootings and saved hundreds of lives,” Newsom said in a statement. “California isn’t waiting for Congress to act to protect our kids from needless gun violence.”
According to Robert Gammon, a spokesperson for Skinner, the full text of SB 505 will be publicly available on the Legislature’s website tonight.