Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and eight Democrat cosponsors have introduced the “Firearm Risk Protection Act” (H.R. 1369) into Congress, the first bill that would require liability insurance of gun buyers nationwide.
She was joined in sponsoring the bill by Reps. James Moran of Virginia and Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington, D.C.
The proposal was introduced into the House Judiciary Committee.
The law would require gun buyers to have liability insurance coverage before being allowed to purchase a weapon and imposes a fine of $10,000 if an owner is found not to have the required coverage; service members and law enforcement officers are exempt from this insurance requirement.
Attempts to pass similar legislation requiring liability insurance in several states have failed.
“We have a long history of requiring insurance for high-risk products – and no one disputes that guns are dangerous,” Maloney said in a statement. “While many individual states are debating this issue now, it makes more sense for Congress to establish a national requirement to allow the insurance markets to begin to price the risks involved consistently nationwide.”
Although the bill would require gun owners to have “a qualified liability insurance policy,” obtaining such coverage could be nearly impossible as few companies offer that type of product.
“Legislatures can mandate, but can’t compel insurers to sell it,” said Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute when asked recently by IFAwebnews.com if the insurance industry was prepared to offer firearm liability insurance.
Currently, guns are only insured as property in most cases, but bodily and property injury due to accidental discharge may be covered under a traditional homeowners policy, akin to slip and fall incidents.
According to Hartwig, most insurance companies understand the low probability of such an event and do not even ask prospective policyholders if they own a gun.
The National Rifle Association currently endorses an “excess personal liability” plan with up to $250,000 in coverage, administered by Lockton Affinity. A “self-defense” rider is also available, covering NRA members involved in an act of self-defense.
The six other co-sponsors of Maloney’s bill are Keith Ellison (Minn.), Michael Capuano (Mass.), Bobby Rush (Ill.), Nikki Tsongas (Mass.), Stephen Lynch (Mass.) and Earl Blumenauer (Ore.).
Maloney is also the lead sponsor of “straw-purchase” legislation, H.R. 452, “The Gun Trafficking Prevention Act of 2013,” cosponsored by Reps. Scott Rigell (R-Va.) and Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.). The proposal would make buying a gun on behalf of someone else who is prohibited by federal or state law from possessing one a crime, subject to a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Organizers or managers of firearms trafficking networks would be subject to an additional five years in prison.
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