CNN questions impact of San Jose insurance requirement

(AP Photo/John Locher, File)

The mayor of San Jose is pretty pleased with himself right about now. After all, his city is the first city anywhere in the United States that requires gun owners to have insurance.


Of course, we’ve covered this insurance requirement extensively in the past. I’ve also argued that it wouldn’t really accomplish all that much.

No one should be overly shocked that I’m taking issue with this measure. However, I’m surprised to see even CNN questioning whether it will do anything.

San Jose’s city council this winter passed an ordinance requiring most of the California city’s gun owners to carry liability insurance for accidental shootings — a first in the nation.

It might seem to herald big change for those gun owners and in coverage. But the effects may be more limited than you’d first expect.

The new measure, which follows deadly mass shootings in and near the Silicon Valley city, aims to incentivize safer behavior, the mayor’s office says, arguing insurers could offer lower premiums to gun owners who take safety measures, like using gun safes and installing trigger locks.

Yet many people already are covered; the coverage may be less than you’d anticipate; and the prospects of discounts may be slim or far off, insurance experts say.

CNN goes on to note that the coverage required will only cover a third party being injured due to an accident, not the policyholder or a family member who resides there.

While one expert they spoke to argued that it could extend away from their home so long as the gun is carried lawfully, there’s a lot that’s still not covered.

For example, intentional acts of criminal use of a firearm. Nor will it cover the acts of a third party in possession of a stolen gun, which accounts for most acts of so-called gun violence.


Additionally, CNN notes that San Jose’s law doesn’t require any particular level of coverage, so for the rare instances payouts are warranted, they may not be all that much.

In other words, San Jose’s law isn’t really going to accomplish all that much.

That also includes the incentives that San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo swore were coming down the line. The story reports that those are years from becoming a thing, if they ever actually get adopted.

Liccardo’s office has likened this to car insurance policies using “risk-adjusted premiums to reward good driving and incentivize use of airbags and other safety features.” The mayor hopes a similar approach can limit risks of gun accidents.

But except for a very limited circumstance, these incentives aren’t in play for gun owners — and don’t seem to be on the horizon.

“The requirement in a particular city that (gun owners) provide evidence of a coverage, in my mind, wouldn’t in and of itself lead to insurers saying we need to start rating based on this or adjust our premiums on this,” said Hoyt, the University of Georgia professor.

Why? To start with, gun owners don’t need to reveal they own a gun for gunfire accidents to be covered under the liability section of a homeowners or renters policy, experts said.

“If there’s not a (prior) disclosure of a gun,” that doesn’t create a problem for claims, said Collins, the APCIA vice president.



See, the problem is that accidental shootings aren’t incredibly common. For example, in a nation of almost 330 million people, only 492 die by accidental shooting each year on average, though, in fairness, they do seem to account for 37 percent of all shootings. Even so, how many of those accidental shootings occur in households covered by homeowners’ policies?

It’s likely not that many.

So because this isn’t a huge issue insurance companies deal with, it’s unlikely they’ll be tripping over themselves to change how they do business. Especially since San Jose is the only city in the nation with such a law.

Even if it’s adopted by every anti-gun city in the nation, though, without some kind of drastic increase in accidental shootings by people covered by such policies–even with a mandate, don’t expect that to happen–there’s not going to be a reason for there to be those changes by the companies.

Without those changes, there are not going to be any incentives. Yet another matter Liccardo blew it on, isn’t it?

Join the conversation as a VIP Member