D.C. Council Holds Hearing on Gun Owner Insurance Proposal

May 17, 2013

The Council of the District of Columbia held a public hearing Thursday that weighed in on a recent proposal to require liability insurance for all gun owners in Washington, D.C.

The bill 20-170, “Firearm Insurance Amendment Act of 2013,” was first introduced by D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) in March, as a way to compensate gunshot victims for injuries and help promote firearm safety.

The bill proposes that anyone in the District who owns a firearm should be required to maintain liability insurance in an amount of no less than $250,000 and it also proposes that the policy cover “any damages resulting from negligent acts, or willful acts that are not undertaken in self-defense, involving the use of the insured firearm while it is owned by the policyholder.”

The Thursday’s hearing before the Committee on Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs drew approximately 100 attendees. More than a dozen people testified at the hearing, according to Councilmember Cheh’s office.

“All views of the issue were represented. We had gun control advocates. We had citizens organizations. We had insurance companies. So, a wide range of views were presented,” according to Councilmember Cheh’s office.

Chester McPherson, deputy commissioner of the D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking, were among those who testified at the hearing. He observed that several other states have offered similar bills mandating insurance coverage for firearm owners but that so far, none have been enacted.

“Among these states include California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Maryland. However, to date, none of the bills have been enacted,” McPherson said. “Consequently, there is little experience — that is, there is no data — for either carriers or regulators to analyze and evaluate the underwriting and claims experience for this type of coverage.”

McPherson also suggested at the hearing that the Mayor Vincent Gray and his administration would not support the proposed legislation. “The Administration is committed to the Second Amendment rights of our residents and protecting the safety of everyone in the District,” he said. “However, the Executive is not convinced that there is currently a persuasive argument to support the need for insurance for firearms in the home.”

McPherson noted that if the bill were to be enacted, the D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking would be responsible for approving the policy forms that spell out the coverage for the firearms, and the premium rates which determine how much will be paid for the insurance coverage.

But, he said, the Department has not identified any plans that would provide the coverage contemplated by the bill. “However, most homeowners’ policies cover injuries sustained as a result of negligence or the accidental discharge of a firearm. In this regard, homeowners’ coverage, like virtually all property and casualty insurance, do not cover the intentional or criminal acts of the insured.”

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