Washington, D.C. already has some of the strictest gun-control laws in the country, but the city council is considering a bill that would require prospective gun owners to purchase a $250,000 liability insurance policy.
The proposed bill, B20-170, would mandate insurance coverage for negligent and intentional acts in which a gun is used in cases other than self-defense. Even those who already own gun licenses would be required to purchase the liability insurance within 30 days of the effective date of the bill.
The bill states that its purpose is to compensate victims of gun violence through the money raised from the licensing mandate, but critics have scrutinized the measure for possibly inflicting heavy costs upon gun owners.
It is not yet clear how much a $250,000 liability insurance policy would cost, but if it is significant, it could serve as a barrier against purchasing firearms. Democratic Councilmember Mary Cheh, who introduced the bill, told WTTF-TV that she is willing to negotiate with critics about the cost.
“I don’t mean it to be a centrifuge as a ban,” she said. “I want it to really be insurance.”
She also added that guns “are instrumentalities that, if mishandled or allow others access or mishandling, can cause great harm,” thereby emphasizing the need for insurance to compensate victims.
But there is also a gap in the proposed bill: if crimes are committed using an illegal weapon, victims would not receive any sort of compensation, since those who buy guns illegally would not have mandated insurance.
The council committee heard testimonies on the need for such insurance on Thursday, but D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray’s administration does not currently support the bill. In a written testimony to the DC Council, the deputy insurance commissioner wrote that the mayor “is not convinced that there is currently a persuasive argument to support the need for insurance for firearms in the home.”
Three gun owners and two insurance-industry representatives testified against the bill during the10 a.m.hearing, while the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence testified in favor of the proposal, the Associated Press reports.
A number of other states are considering similar measures to the bill proposed by Cheh, but no such law has yet been passed in the US.
Meanwhile, the state of Maryland has this week entered the ranks of states with the most restrictive gun laws. Gov. Martin O’Malley on Thursday signed a bill that will ban 45 assault rifles and restrict ammunition magazines to 10 rounds. The legislation also requires Americans who buy handguns to be fingerprinted.