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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Gun insurance proposal sees renewed debate

The wave of mass shootings that has gripped the nation has some considering whether to require gun owners to buy liability insurance.

Among those skeptical of the approach is an Austin lawyer who acknowledges the problem but questions a solution posed by one member of Congress.

“There wouldn’t be much impact, but for the people who are saved, it would have a huge impact,” said Mark Kincaid, a partner with George Brothers Kincaid & Horton LLP in Austin.

Kincaid and other legal professionals find themselves discussing the idea after U.S. Rep Carolyn Maloney (D-New York) introduced proposed legislation in May. What she called the Firearm Risk Protection Act would require gun buyers to have liability insurance. Those skipping the requirement would face a $10,000 fine, though law enforcement officers and military service members would be exempt from the requirement.

Fueling the idea are the mass shootings that have made Sandy Hook Elementary School and Columbine High School, among others, buzzwords for senseless killings. The Oct. 1 mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, reignited the debate.

Maloney’s proposal might prevent some individuals from owning guns, Kincaid argues, but it would not prevent them from obtaining guns from family members, as was the case in the Sandy Hook and Roseburg incidents, among others.

“Also, a purchaser could drop the insurance once the gun is bought, a strategy used by plenty of car buyers,” Kincaid said.

Maloney referred to automobile insurance in advocating her proposal.

“We require insurance to own a car, but no such requirement exists for guns. The results are clear: car fatalities have declined by 25 percent in the last decade, but gun fatalities continue to rise,” Maloney said in a statement.

She argued that the reason for fewer auto-related deaths in the past decade is insurance companies incentivizing drivers to take precautions that reduce accidents such as avoiding speeding and keeping their vehicles better-maintained.

But gun rights advocates oppose the idea, saying it infringes on Americans’ Second Amendment rights. Earlier this year, National Rifle Association spokeswoman Jennifer Baker said that most gun deaths in the country stem from criminal intent, not accidents, as is the case with automobile fatalities.

As for Maloney’s bill, it was sent to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee and subsequently referred to the subcommittee on crime, terrorism, homeland security and investigations, where it remains.

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