The New York Times reports:
Lawmakers in at least half a dozen states, including California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania, have proposed legislation this year that would require gun owners to buy liability insurance — much as car owners are required to buy. Doing so would give a financial incentive for safe behavior, they hope, as people with less dangerous weapons or safety locks could qualify for lower rates.
“I believe that if we get the private sector and insurance companies involved in gun safety, we can help prevent a number of gun tragedies every year,” said David P. Linsky, a Democratic state representative in Massachusetts who wants to require gun owners to buy insurance. He believes it will encourage more responsible behavior and therefore reduce accidental shootings. “Insurance companies are very good at evaluating risk factors and setting their premiums appropriately,” he added.
Groups representing gun owners oppose efforts to make insurance mandatory, arguing that law-abiding people should not be forced to buy insurance to exercise their constitutional right to bear arms. But some groups, including the National Rifle Association, endorse voluntary liability policies for their members. And as several states pass laws making it easier for people to carry concealed weapons and use them for self-defense, some gun groups are now selling policies to cover some of the legal costs stemming from self-defense shootings.
The United States Concealed Carry Association recently began selling what it calls Self-Defense Shield. “If you’re forced to justifiably use your gun in self-defense,” its Web site says, “Self-Defense Shield will help pay for your expert pro-2nd Amendment lawyer by reimbursing your legal-defense expenses following your acquittal — an ingenious system critical to the arsenal of any responsibly armed citizen.”
Premiums for such insurance range from around $200 to $300 per year; in general, the coverage is narrowly written and excludes cases where a gun is used to commit a crime.
Some specialized underwriters are reviewing what their policies cover when it comes to shootings, and weighing whether they should offer new types of coverage for gun owners. And as more states pass laws allowing people to bring guns to public venues — including restaurants, bars, churches and the parking lots of their workplaces — some business groups have expressed concerns that they could be held liable for shootings on their properties, which could drive up their insurance costs.