The Illinois House of Representatives soundly defeated an amendment to gun control legislation that would have required $1 million in mandatory liability insurance for firearms owners licensed to carry their weapons.
The amendment, sponsored by Democrat Rep. Ken Dunkin, was defeated in a 74-34 vote. Illinois is among several states considering similar measures this legislative session to further regulate firearms in the wake of the elementary school shootings last fall in Newtown, Conn.
The amendment stated that any person with a handgun carry license must have $1 million in liability insurance specifically covering any damages resulting from negligent or willful acts involving the use of the firearm while it is owned by that person. In cases where firearms are lost or stolen, a person is still deemed the owner until reporting loss or theft to law enforcement in the owners home jurisdiction, the bill said. Those refusing to pick up the $1 million in insurance would have their handgun carry licenses revoked and firearm owners identification card seized by the state police. Attempts to gain comment from Dunkin were unsuccessful.
Those opposing the amendments during floor debate argued that the language threatened gun owners rights and some even raised questions about whether insurers could write such policies, said Steve Brown, press secretary for Democrat House Speaker Michael Madigan. Its been a pretty sharply divided debate, Brown said.
Despite the amendments defeat, Brown anticipates similar efforts in the future.
In some cases, lowering the mandatory insurance amount is seen as possibly helping the possible passage of mandatory gun liability legislation. For instance, New York legislation would require any person in the state who owns a firearm to buy and maintain $1 million of insurance covering damages resulting from negligent or willful acts involving the use of the firearm, although the insurance coverage amount is expected to be reduced to as low as $250,000 in order to aid passage.
The $250,000 figure is important, since it matches the maximum level the National Rifle Association offers in personal liability policies to those who hunt or who train and participate in competitions. The city of Washington, D.C. is considering its own legislation that would require firearms owners to buy $250,000 in liability insurance.
Officials with the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America offered no comment on the Illinois bill. Previously, David Snyder, PCI's vice president of international policy, said mandatory gun liability insurance bills are well-meant, but hard to implement in the desired fashion. Officials at the American Insurance Association commenting on the D.C. bill said the city's bill and others like it would force insurers to create a new type of insurance that would not be viable in the market. AIA also opposes any bill that would force insurers to provide coverage for criminal acts involving weapons instead of accidents.