WA gun owners would have to carry gun liability insurance under proposed bill


Gun owners in Washington state would have to have liability insurance for their firearms under proposed legislation heard in the Senate Law and Justice Committee Monday. Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, is sponsoring the legislation with the support of nine Democratic Senators.

“This bill will require gun owners who live in Washington and own or possess a firearm to carry gun liability insurance to cover the losses or damages resulting from any accidental use of a firearm,” Kuderer said during testimony.

The senator said gun deaths and injuries cost $169 million in taxpayer money annually, including costs related to accidental shootings.

“By setting this requirement, Washington attempts to reduce the risk and subsequent cost of hardships of gun accidents,” Kuderer said. “This bill achieves these goals and reallocates costs without compromising any Second Amendment rights. This is true because this requirement does not regulate, limit or control the manner or method in which people may keep or bear arms. Instead, it simply says you must have liability insurance.”

Kuderer said that the bill is an “economic requirement that provides financial incentive for responsible arms carrying” and said that she believes the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen “complements the argument for enacting liability insurance for gun owners.”

Despite concerns about the bill potentially creating a gun registry of sorts, Kuderer said that there would be no individual identifying information kept with the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner. More than 1,110 people signed in to the hearing in opposition to the bill, while 776 people signed in support of the proposal.

Yakima County Commissioner Amanda McKinney said she strongly opposes the bill.

“There is currently no major insurance carrier — regional, national or otherwise — who offers this insurance coverage for gun liability specifically,” McKinney said.

McKinney quoted earlier testimony from a bill proponent who said that “people who own guns must be financially responsible.” She noted that the attitude was a “common theme” in the Legislature.

“If you don’t have a behavior that we agree with, then we’ll fine you, put a tax on you, and charge you until that behavior meets the one that we expect,” McKinney said.

McKinney said her community has many individuals who are impoverished, and that it is a majority minority community.

“This is yet one more way that Olympia has seen fit to put a cost at simply existing,” she said. “And in this case, putting a cost to exercise their constitutional right to simply protect themselves.”

In her rural community, she said, there are residents who don’t have mortgages, and therefore are not required to pay for homeowner’s insurance. The bill would require those people to get homeowner’s insurance, which would add an expense for those already on a fixed income. Meanwhile, Bryon Welch, deputy commissioner with the Office of the Insurance Commissioner, said the agency supports the measure because the commissioner “believes very strongly in responsible gun ownership and in the safe storage of firearms.”

Welch said there are many different personal insurance products that will provide liability coverage for the accidental discharge of firearms. He also said that it is “very common for standard homeowner policies to contain third-party liability coverage for claims associated with accidental or unintentional firearm discharge.” Unless it is excluded from homeowner’s insurance, most homeowners are protected by their insurance for accidental or unintentional discharge, Welch said.

The proposal is scheduled for executive session Tuesday. If passed from executive session, the bill will then head to the House debate floor for a vote.