California insurance bill aims to hold gun owners financially responsible for negligence

State lawmakers are considering a bill that would require gun owners to carry insurance, just as you would for your car or home. The insurance would cover the negligent or accidental discharge of a gun when someone is injured or killed.   

Senate Bill 8 is actually modeled after a law implemented in San Jose just this month. Senator Nancy Skinner says they want individuals, not taxpayers, to be held financially responsible when their firearm is used to harm someone, even if it's unintentional. 

"Guns are about the only thing that you can have ownership of, that you know can harm someone, yet there’s no insurance requirement," said Sen. Nancy Skinner, who represents CA Senate District 9.

Senate Bill 8, introduced by Senator Catherine Blakespear and co-sponsored by Oakland’s Nancy Skinner last month, is now in committee. If passed, Skinner hopes the bill will bring more financial responsibility directly to gun owners when someone is harmed by a gun. 

"There’s an accident for example. Maybe you didn’t even cause the accident, it was somebody else, but it’s your gun. Well what is the ability for the person who is harmed in that accident to cover any of their costs as a result of that accident? If that person dies, then you can have a household lose an income earner or lose the main bread winner," Skinner said. 

According to Gun Violence Archive, 31 people were shot and killed in California mass shootings in January alone. But Legal analyst Steve Clark says the proposed insurance law would not cover shootings like those in Half Moon Bay or Monterey Park and may be an unnecessary expense for California’s gun owners. 

"Analogizing gun insurance to car insurance is somewhat of a red herring because if you drove your car into a crowd of people, that would not be covered by insurance because it’s an intentional criminal act. What you could do is put a tax on firearms and designate a certain portion of that tax for victims of violent crimes involving firearms," Clark said.  

SEE ALSO: San Jose gun owners will need liability insurance in 2023

Senate Bill 8 would also require gun owners to have proof they legally own the gun and keep that proof with them. If asked by law enforcement, the gun owner would need to provide proof of insurance. 

"Criminals are not likely to buy gun insurance, and so putting the onus on the lawful gun owner to pay for all the ills associated with firearms, is being considered unfair," Clark said. 

Gun Violence Archive says so far this month, there have been 128 accidental shootings in the United States, including 32 people who lost their lives.