Gun laws are always changing. As a responsible gunowner, it helps to stay informed about changes that may impact you now or in the future. Most recently, lawmakers passed some new laws and considered others, including proposals requiring gun liability insurance.
Here’s what to know, how gunowners may be affected, and how you can obtain gun liability insurance.
Recent Gun Bills That Became Law
In 2022, a number of new gun bills became law. At the federal level, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was signed into law last June. This legislation is significant and involves a number of changes to federal gun laws. The government says the law is intended to fund new crisis intervention programs and expand background checks. It’s a law that will likely have an impact on both ordinary gunowners and firearm industry businesses.
At the state level, legislators have also been busy. Eleven states passed a total of 21 new gun laws in 2022. These states include California, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. The new state bills address a wide range of issues, from closing a background check loophole in Oregon to regulating firearm product marketing in California. The 2022 laws come on the heels of a number of other new gun law changes instituted in 2021.
Proposed Gun Liability Insurance Bills
Lawmakers are also at work on a new type of legislation dealing with gun insurance. If such bills were to become law in the future, gunowners may be required to obtain special insurance coverage. Supporters say the idea is similar to laws requiring owners of automobiles to obtain car insurance.
Several states have recently considered such legislation. Last year, a Minnesota State Senate bill was introduced that would have required the handgun owners to obtain “liability insurance specifically covering any damages resulting from any negligent or willful acts involving the carrying of a firearm.”
The bill also made the issuance of a carry permit dependent on proof of insurance. The bill has since been referred to the State Senate’s Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee for further review.
New York and Massachusetts
This year, both New York and Massachusetts introduced similar bills. The New York State Senate bill would require “owners of firearms to obtain liability insurance in an amount not less than one million dollars.” It is currently before the State Senate’s Insurance Committee.
Meanwhile, the Massachusetts State House of Representatives bill would make not having insurance a crime, punishable “by a fine of not less than five hundred nor more than five thousand dollars or by imprisonment for not more than one year in a house of correction, or both such fine and imprisonment.” It’s currently being reviewed by the Massachusetts House’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.
These types of measures have gone the furthest toward becoming law in California. Last year, the City of San Jose attempted to pass a local ordinance designed to require residents to have a liability insurance policy for their firearms. Besides obtaining insurance coverage, San Jose also wanted residents to submit a form and pay a fee of $25. However, the measure quickly ended up in court.
In January 2023, the city implemented part of the new law on an honor system. Local gun owners are supposed to print out and complete a two-page form on the municipal website and keep it with the firearm at all times. However, the city has not collected any proof of insurance from gun owners, implemented the planned fee or issued any citations for violations. Multiple lawsuits have been brought against the measure.
Additionally, the California State Senate introduced its own version of a statewide gun insurance bill earlier this year, though it, too, is still being reviewed by lawmakers.
What Is Gunowner Liability Insurance?
While a number of lawmakers around the country are considering requiring gunowner liability insurance, the concept itself may be less familiar to some gunowners. In general, liability insurance is a type of coverage designed to protect you if a third party is injured or their property is damaged, and they blame you for the incident.
Gunowner liability insurance offers this type of protection for gunowners in certain circumstances where a firearm unintentionally causes that personal injury or property damage. Importantly, gunowner liability policies cover incidents that are accidental. Intentional and illegal actions are not covered by these kinds of policies.
Examples of circumstances when a gunowner would be covered for an incident might include a firearm discharging during cleaning, or a firearm being stolen and used in a crime after the lawful owner forgot to lock their gun safe.
Gunowner liability coverage is available from several sources. In some cases, a homeowners or renters insurance policy may provide liability coverage that would apply in cases where a firearm is involved. However, policy terms and conditions can differ. Some policies may only offer limited coverage, or may exclude coverage when a firearm is involved. In other cases, insurance carriers may interpret the use of a firearm as an intentional act and subsequently would not provide the needed liability coverage.
In cases where a gunowner either wants to have coverage or is required to by a law or ordinance, there are options beyond relying on the limited protection available through homeowners and renters insurance. A standalone policy developed just for gunowners can offer a better fit when it comes to coverage and provide you with better peace of mind.
Personal Firearm Liability Coverage from Lockton Affinity Outdoor
As a lawful gunowner, you can obtain Personal Firearm Liability Insurance from Lockton Affinity Outdoor to help protect yourself from the risks associated with gun ownership. Because even with all the steps you take to be safe and responsible, there is still a risk that something could happen.
With Personal Firearm Liability, you receive coverage to protect against four key risks:
- Hunting and Shooting Accidents: Should an incident occur while you are hunting or participating in shooting sports, you’re protected against the costs associated with a claim for injuries or property damages.
- Accidental Discharge Incidents: An accidental discharge can occur when a firearm suffers a mechanical malfunction, when it is dropped, when it is cleaned and more. Coverage protects against the costs associated with an accidental discharge claim.
- Lost or Stolen Firearm Incidents: Even if you store your firearms securely and lend them carefully, you can be held legally responsible for what is done with a firearm after it is lost, lent or stolen. Coverage protects against the costs associated with these claims.
- Lawful Personal Defense Incidents: Should you ever need to lawfully use a legally possessed firearm to defend yourself with reasonable use of force, coverage can protect against the costs associated with a claim. Coverage for criminal defense costs is on a reimbursement basis, once all charges are dropped, or you are acquitted of all charges, up to applicable policy limits. Civil defense costs and civil suit damages are also covered.
Gun insurance remains an area of interest for lawmakers around the country. Whether to meet requirements or for your own peace of mind, you may decide to obtain gun liability insurance coverage, either now or in the future.
If you would like more information about our Personal Firearm Liability coverage, visit Lockton Affinity Outdoor or call (844) 401-9444 to speak to our insurance experts.
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