CBS News stumps for mandatory insurance for gun owners

CBS News stumps for mandatory insurance for gun owners
(AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane)

The gun control lobby’s push to mandate liability insurance on all gun owners isn’t going well for them, but that’s not stopping anti-gun outfits and their allies in the media from stumping for the proposal. The latest example comes from CBS News, which recently ran a piece promoting the policies enacted by the San Jose city council and the New Jersey legislature.


In its report, CBS News never expresses any criticism or doubt about the effectiveness of the proposed mandate, though reporter Cara Tabachnick does at least half-heartedly acknowledge the legal scrutiny the mandate has faced.

The idea has been floated for years, and it may seem straightforward enough: if gun owners were required to purchase liability insurance, proponents argue, they would have to follow safe practices to limit their financial and legal risk, thus reducing incidents of gun violence.

But as New Jersey and the city of San Jose, California, have found, actually implementing the idea can be quite difficult.

A recently enacted gun control law in New Jersey that among other things required gun carriers to purchase mandatory liability insurance was scheduled to go into effect on July 1, until it was blocked by U.S. District Judge Renée Marie Bumb. 

Bumb, citing the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision on gun carry permits, ruled that parts of the law went too far and infringed on the right to bear arms. “The insurance mandate does regulate who can carry firearms in public,” she wrote, explaining how the state was overreaching its constitutional authority, thus dealing a blow to the measure.

CBS News spoke to gun control activists and law professors who are all on board with the mandate, but gave scant attention to opponents beyond noting the legal arguments against the provision. The thrust of the network’s coverage is basically that this is a good idea being thwarted by those rascally Second Amendment activists, though buried in paragraph 25 of the CBS News report we learn that the insurance industry itself has opposed these efforts for years.


Jon Schnautz, assistant vice president of state affairs for the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, a trade association representing insurance companies, told CBS News that he did not “see a role our industry can play” in underwriting gun policies. In a 2013 brief, NAMIC counsel wrote: “From the start, the issue has been more of a public relations phenomenon than an earnest policy debate.”

Schnautz said aside from some negligence or accidental acts, a vast majority of firearms-related injuries are intentional, and that falls outside of the scope of insurance coverage. Similar to not covering a house that was burnt down by arson, insurance wouldn’t be able to cover firearm murders or suicides.

Not to mention the discriminatory effects that these mandates would likely have on residents in high-crime neighborhoods, or on minority gun owners. Back in 2015 CBS News covered a study from the Consumer Federation of America that found good drivers in ZIP codes that were home to more black Americans were paying almost $400 more per year than good drivers in majority white ZIP codes.

The CFA looked at the premium disparity in a variety of different community types, finding that by far the biggest difference was in upper-middle-income areas. Upper-middle-class drivers in mainly African-American communities were quoted premiums an average of 194 percent higher — $2,113 a year compared to $717 annually — than those in predominantly white upper-middle-class areas, the CFA found.


It’s not hard to imagine a similar effect if these liability insurance mandates for gun owners ever took effect, and gun owners in lower-income areas would almost certainly face higher premiums compared to middle-and-upper-class neighborhoods. CBS News never even bothered to look at that angle, preferring instead to advance the narrative that the gun lobby is standing in the way of a “reasonable” measure that could save lives.

The NRA filed a lawsuit with its affiliate Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs against the New Jersey legislation which “requires gun owners to acquire insurance that does not appear to exist in the state.”

And when the San Jose ordinance passed the NRA published a news statement saying; “Taxing lawful ownership and requiring insurance will do nothing to reduce gun violence, which is often committed by repeat criminals who will not be paying the fees or obtaining insurance.”

An NRA spokeswoman told CBS News that “our position should be pretty clear.”

But [law professor Peter] Kochenburger says the time has come to change the direction of the debate. “Insurers and insurance need to be seen as allies in combating this continuing American tragedy.”

Criminals aren’t going to comply with any insurance mandate, and the liability policies that Kochenburger and gun control groups like Brady want to put in place wouldn’t cover criminal acts in the first place. As Jon Schnautz aptly described it, this is about public relations, not public safety, and the net result of these mandates would be fewer legal gun owners able to exercise their fundamental right to self-defense; a tragic outcome that would make this country a more dangerous place for all.


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