SACRAMENTO, CA – California is seeking to become the first state in the US to require liability insurance for gun owners.
“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.”
Proud to introduce new legislation today that would require gun owners to obtain liability insurance. If enacted, #SB505 would make CA the first state in the nation to adopt such legislation. https://t.co/2tdNYYzYFz
— Nancy Skinner (@NancySkinnerCA) June 16, 2022
First, the comparison by Skinner is apples and zebras.
While she is technically correct, the application does not necessarily correlate.
According to the CDC, more than 32,000 people die in auto-related accidents each year. Gun related deaths are at 48,000. However, nearly 55%, or almost 26,000 of those are used in suicides.
The same is not held true of vehicle deaths. To further illustrate the inadequacy of her comparison, no one sees their insurance premiums go up when a neighbor sits in their garage with the engine running and dies of carbon monoxide poisoning.
But that is exactly what would happen if this law were passed.
Gun owners would continue to be forced to pay more and more money to maintain their right to keep and bear arms in a state that already has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation.
What the California law wants to do is hold law-abiding gun owners financially responsible for suicidal and/or criminally negligent individuals.
Skinner sponsored and introduced the bill last week as state lawmakers seized the opportunity to strike restrictive regulations on gun owners in the wake of tragic shootings in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas.
The push at the state level comes on the heels of a San Jose city ordinance passed earlier this year which requires that gun owners maintain liability insurance.
According to the Sacramento Bee:
“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.”
While the bill will still have the state assembly and Gavin Newsom to make it into law, those to hurdles do not really seem like actual hurdles to many on the gun owner’s side.
All parties in power in California state legislation have been eager to enact stricter gun control requirements.
“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.”
But to many, this isn’t as simple as taxpayer dollars and who has to foot the bill for gun violence.
Kirk Evans is the president of U.S. LawShield, an organization whom many of our readers are familiar. Many of us are clients.
“It’s just part of a movement nationwide to incrementally try to make life harder for gun owners,” Evans said. “There are local and statewide changes being promoted all across the country, and once this gets enacted, the next infringement seems that much easier for the gun control advocates.”
The National Association for Gun Rights agrees with the sentiment behind what Evans said. They are suing the City of San Jose in an attempt to keep the ordinance they passed from going into effect on July 25th.
They are arguing that the required insurance is nothing more than a tax on Constitutional rights, similar to a what has been referred to in the past as “free-speech tax.”
“What if they charged protestors $50 to exercise their right of free speech, or required them to have liability insurance?” Evans asked. “Nobody would ever go for taxing the right of free speech. But they picked the one right they didn’t like.”
Evans also pointed to the common-sense aspects of the proposed legislation.
One, insurance does not cover intentional criminal acts.
“The insurance they are requiring is liability insurance, which in California and most states will not cover an intentional criminal act in the first place. So, even though this is a proposed response to mass shootings, this would have no impact whatsoever on deterring the criminal. And insurance wouldn’t have covered it in the first place.”
Second, the criminal element that illegally possesses firearms will not abide the requirement. So, in the event that a felon, illegally possessing a gun, fires at someone, misses and hits an innocent bystander, killing them, whose insurance does their family file a claim against?
To this point, Evans said:
“California cities and the state itself should be focusing on arresting criminals and keeping them in jail. Empowering legally armed citizens; not punishing them.”
The Houston-based U.S. LawShield has more than 700,000 members across the country, offering their services in all but 4 states. They are not a gun-owner insurance policy, at least not in the way that auto insurance companies work. They are a legal defense network for law-abiding Americans that find themselves having to use their gun in self-defense or defense of others.
From their website, the say that their:
“Independent Program Attorneys will represent you in any legal proceeding – criminal or civil – should you ever need to use a firearm or other legal weapon to protect yourself, your life, or your property. Legal defense will be provided for all police investigations, pretrial proceedings, and both criminal and civil trials.
Your membership delivers benefits to you anytime – and especially in an emergency – with no caps on the time we spend on your case, no limits on our expenses representing you, and no deductibles or co-payments out of your pocket.”
This is not the type of “insurance” that the Skinner’s amendment to SB505 would require.
If passed, gun owners would:
- Be held civilly liable for property damage, injury, or death resulting from the use of their firearms
- 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
- Have to obtain proof of gun insurance, keep that proof with their firearm, and produce it when asked by a peace officer during the course of a lawful detainment.
What the bill does not mention is what kind of rates that the insurance providers would be able to apply to that type of policy.
It also does not state if a policy covers all legally owned guns for a single rate, or, like car insurance, is there a single premium for each gun owned, and if the rates vary by type of gun, caliber, etc.
What the bill appears to aim to do is to force gun owners to decide if legally owning guns under the new legislation financially possible.
Law Enforcement Today will continue to follow this story as well as the lawsuit against the city of San Jose. We will provide updates as they become available.
For more on the San Jose ordinance passed in January, we invite you to
What Constitution? California city to require gun owners to carry insurance and pay annual fee
SAN JOSE, CA – In a direct challenge to the Second Amendment, San Jose voted Tuesday night to become the first authority in the country to require gun owners to carry liability insurance and pay an annual fee.
The city council of San Jose, Calif., has approved an ordinance requiring gun owners to insure their firearms and pay an annual fee, in what appears to be the first measure of its kind in the U.S. https://t.co/Qk94V3Nepb
— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) January 27, 2022
Members of the San Jose City Council voted overwhelmingly in favor of a gun-ownership ordinance Tuesday night.
If the measure is passed again after a second reading next month, as expected, the fees imposed on the roughly 50,000 gun-owning households in the city of more than one million residents could take effect in August.
Mayor Sam Liccardo (D) said Monday at a news conference:
“Certainly, the Second Amendment protects every citizen’s right to own a gun. It does not require taxpayers to subsidize that right.’
After passage of the first vote, the mayor praised the ordinance:
“Tonight, San Jose became the first city in the United States to enact an ordinance to require gun owners to purchase liability insurance, and to invest funds generated from fees paid by gun owners into evidence-based initiatives to reduce gun violence and gun harm.
“Thank you to my council colleagues who continue to show their commitment to reducing gun violence and its devastation in our community.”
A city will force gun owners to have liability insurance in an effort to incentivize safety https://t.co/OQAFKJUC0w
— Jeffrey Levin 🇺🇦 (@jilevin) January 26, 2022
The mayor estimated that San Jose residents incur about $442 million in gun-related costs each year, and compared the plan to car insurance mandates, which he credits with significantly reducing deaths resulting from automobile crashes.
Under the new ordinance, gun owners would be required to pay a $25 annual fee for the right to bear arms. The fee would be directed to a nonprofit set up to distribute funds to gun crime prevention and gun violence victims.
City officials say the annual “harm reduction fee” will go toward the cost of nonprofits that would help run programs to reduce gun violence, as well as to provide gun safety training, mental health counseling and addiction treatment.
In addition to requiring a fee to exercise their constitutional rights, gun owners would be required to carry liability insurance to cover any harm caused by the firearm.
San Jose passes first U.S. law requiring gun owners to get liability insurance and pay annual fee https://t.co/JAAiZWRTcy
— CBS News (@CBSNews) January 26, 2022
The mayor said:
“We’re the urban center of Silicon Valley. And the spirit of Silicon Valley recognizes the importance and imperative of innovation when confronted with daunting challenges.”
Billy Rosen, managing director for state policy and government affairs at Everytown for Gun Safety, which advocates stricter gun control laws, told The New York Times:
“It’s certainly not unheard-of to have reoccurring fees associated with gun ownership and possession. But the specific mechanics of this may be unique.
“We’ll be eagerly following to see how this plays out.”
The National Association for Gun Rights and San Jose gunowner Mark Sikes filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday night arguing that the ordinance is unconstitutional and violates both state and city laws.
Outrageous. Next thing some "socialist" will try to force people to pay an annual registration fee and have liability insurance for their cars…..https://t.co/azILbEomcC
— Richard W. Painter (@RWPUSA) January 25, 2022
At a press conference Wednesday, the president of the association, Dudley Brown, said the lawsuit would be successful in stopping the unconstitutional legislation:
“We filed this immediately because we wanted to make it very clear that there are ramifications to passing America’s most insane gun control.
“Frankly, we didn’t have enough paper to print all of the problems with this ordinance.”
The city plans to use the nonprofit to send out letters to registered gun owners who live in San Jose asking them to pay the annual fee. Once a payment is made, the nonprofit will send the gunowner a form with their proof of payment and a space on the form to fill out their insurance information.
Gun owners will be required to carry or store a copy of the paperwork with their firearm, according to the mayor. Police officers would be tasked with enforcement and would ask for proof of insurance, as they do with car insurance during traffic stops.
Police officers and low-income residents facing financial hardships will receive exemptions.
Critics of the plan say the ordinance violates the United States Constitution and punishes law-abiding citizens while having no effect on unlawful possession and use of firearms. Resident Cindy Fulk said:
“This movement attacking our Second Amendment (rights) arises when a mass shooting occurs, but San Jose had been unable to protect its citizens from these maddening criminals and is instead going after middle-class, law-abiding gun owners.
“Holding 55,000 gunowners responsible for the city’s failure to protect us is shameful.”
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Report: 9th Circuit Court rules that shut downs of gun stores and firing ranges violated Second Amendment rights
January 21, 2022
VENTURA COUNTY, CA – On Thursday, January 20th, the Ninth Circuit federal appeals court ruled that the coronavirus lockdowns of gun stores in Ventura County, California violated constitutional rights.
The case was appealed to the Ninth Circuit after the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California rejected a claim that Ventura’s County coronavirus orders closing gun stores, ammo shops, and gun ranges violated Second Amendment rights.
— Reuters (@Reuters) January 21, 2022
A three-judge panel that included Judges Lawrence Vandyke and Andrew Kleinfeld, reversed the lower court. Vandyke and Kleinfeld wrote:
“Ultimately, the issue boils down to the County’s designation of ‘essential’ versus ‘non-essential’ businesses and activities. While courts should afford some measure of deference to local policy determinations, ‘the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table’ Heller, 554 U.S.”
“When a government completely bans all acquisition of firearms and ammunition by closing gun shops, ammunition shops, and firing ranges, it’s one of those off-limits policy choices squarely contemplated by Heller. See id. at 630. The Orders cannot satisfy strict scrutiny.”
The judges also noted:
“Not only did Appellees fail to provide any evidence or explanation suggesting that gun shops, ammunition shops, and firing ranges posed a greater risk of spreading COVID-19 than other businesses and activities deemed ‘essential,’ but they also failed to provide any evidence that they considered less restrictive alternatives for the general public.”
The Associated Press (AP) reported that Vandyke also wrote that the Second Amendment “means nothing if the government can prohibit all persons from acquiring any firearm or ammunition.” He added, “But that’s what happened in this case.”
He wrote that because buyers can obtain guns only by personally going to gun stores in California, Ventura County’s 48-day closure of gun shows, ammunition shops, and firing ranges “wholly prevented law-abiding citizens in the County from realizing their right to keep and bear arms.”
Michael Jean, director of the National Rifle Association’s office of Litigation Counsel, said that the court’s decision holds that governments “cannot use a crisis to trample on the Constitutional rights of citizens.” His office sued in the Los Angeles County case and in the Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, and San Mateo counties over their restrictions in Northern California.
Ventura County spokeswoman Ashley Bautista said in an email:
“Ventura County believes this case was correctly decided at the District Court level and is disappointed with the three-judge panel’s decision.”
She added that officials are reviewing the decision and “evaluating options and next steps.”
— WFMZ-TV 69News (@69News) January 20, 2022
Judge Ryan Nelson was the panel’s dissenting voice. The case is McDougall v. County of Ventura, No. 20-562220 in the U.S. Court of Appeals in the Ninth Circuit.
Firearms Policy Coalition vice president of programs Adam Kraut said in a statement that the cases resulted “when authoritarian governments used COVID as an excuse to attack Second Amendment rights.” He said that the Ninth Circuit opinions “confirm our claims that the COVID closures of gun stores and firing ranges violated the Second Amendment rights of Californians.”
Reportedly, similar restrictions were imposed in 10 other states, including Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, and Virginia.
Three gun-owner rights groups and several individuals and businesses had sought to overturn the lower court rulings in California.
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