A bill recently introduced in the New York State Assembly would require all gun owners in the state of New York to buy at least $1 million in liability insurance to cover potential damages caused by their guns.
Should Democratic Assemblyman Felix Ortiz's Assembly Bill A03908, become state law, all current New York gun owners would have 30 days to purchase the required liability insurance or face confiscation of the their guns. Future gun buyers would be required to produce proof of insurance at the time of the sale.
"Any person in this state who shall own a firearm shall, prior to such ownership, obtain and continuously maintain a policy of liability insurance in an amount not less than one million dollars specifically covering any damages resulting from any negligent or willful acts involving the use of such firearm while it is owned by such person," states Ortiz's bill. "Failure to maintain such insurance shall result in the immediate revocation of such owner's registration, license and any other privilege to own such firearm."
The bill also states that in the event a gun is stolen or lost, the owner is legally responsible for all damages resulting from the use of that gun until the theft or loss is reported to police.
Supporters of the bill contend that like driving a car, gun ownership should require liability insurance. However, opponents point out that while driving a car is, in fact, a "privilege," gun ownership is a constitutionally ensured "right of the people," which "shall not be infringed."
Opponents also bristle at the bill's stipulation that gun owners would be held responsible for damages caused by "willful" use of their guns. "Willful" use of the gun, they contend, could be construed to include acts of self-defense, thus actually allowing felons to sue for damages.
Estimates of the costs of a $1 million gun owner liability insurance policy in the media have ranged from a few hundred dollars to as much as $2,000 per year.
In the real world, the National Rifle Association (NRA) currently offers its members personal liability plus self-defense insurance policies providing coverage of up to $250,000 for $254 per year. At that rate, a policy providing the $1 million worth coverage required by Assemblyman Ortiz's bill could cost slightly over $1,000 per year.