In an Effort to Curb Gun Violence, Massachusetts Bill Could Require Gun Owners to Purchase Liability Insurance

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, House Docket, No. 2678, A Reduce Act to Gun Violence and to Protect the Citizens of the Commonwealth.

 

In an effort to curb gun violence in reaction to the Sandy Hook shootings, a Massachusetts state representative proposed a bill which would require all gun owners to maintain liability insurance. The bill was proposed on Friday, January 18, 2013, by Democratic state representative David Linsky. It would require that anyone in possession of a firearm, rifle or shotgun be able to show proof of liability insurance.

The proposed legislation requiring liability insurance is part of a larger bill put in place in an attempt to reduce gun violence entitled: “An Act to Reduce Gun Violence and to Protect the Citizens of the Commonwealth.” The legislation calls for the punishment of every person who owns a firearm, rifle, or shotgun without a liability policy, bond or deposit. The punishment amounts to a fine of no less than five hundred and not more than five thousand dollars or by imprisonment for not more than one year, or both fine and imprisonment. The legislation calls on the commissioner of insurance to promulgate regulations for the terms of the liability insurance policies.

The proposed legislation would require gun insurance in a way that would make owning a gun similar to owning an automobile. It could prove lucrative for insurance companies if such legislation were passed. Opponents of the legislation claim that this proposed legislation could put gun ownership out of reach for many because the policies would be too expensive. The legislation is not applicable to “a person who possesses a firearm, rifle, or shotgun on a temporary basis while on the premises of a licensed gun club.”

It is difficult to say whether the insurance would provide coverage for injuries caused by guns. It is likely that for most claims of gun violence, insurers would utilize the intentional or expected injury exclusions to avoid coverage. In cases of accidental injuries and fatalities due to firearms, liability insurers would likely owe coverage.

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