D.C. considering gun liability insurance requirement

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Local,DC,Eric P. Newcomer,Mary Cheh,Gun Control,Firearms

A D.C. Councilwoman has introduced legislation that could make the District the nation's first jurisdiction to require gun owners to buy liability insurance.

Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh held a hearing Thursday on her legislation, which she believes would make gun owners more cautious about how they handle their firearms. And, she said, she wants to "provide a source of compensation for people who are injured by guns."

Gun owners at the hearing spoke out against the measure, which they felt would interfere with their Second Amendment right to bear arms, Cheh said.

The Gray administration opposes the legislation as it stands.

"The Administration is committed to the Second Amendment rights of our residents and protecting the safety of everyone in the District. However, the Executive is not convinced that there is currently a persuasive argument to support the need for insurance for firearms in the home," according to the written testimony of Chester A. McPherson, deputy commissioner of the Department of Insurance, Securities, and Banking.

Cheh said the legislation, which she expects won't be considered by the Council until the fall, is still evolving.

"If we come up with something that we think is reasonable, we'll show them that, yes, we have an argument," she said.

Right now, some homeowners' insurance plans cover gun accidents.

"We want the insurance to follow the gun and not be limited to the premises of the gun," she said.

Given that there are only about 2,000 guns registered in the District, there are some concerns that the pool of insurance buyers would not be large enough to defray the cost.

A number of states, including Massachusetts, New York and Oregon, have considered creating gun liability insurance requirements, but none has made it law.

"Nobody's done it yet. Therefore, we have a lot of questions about proceeding in this way. 'Is there insurance available? What should it cost? What would it cover?' " Cheh said. "Part of introducing a bill in an area where you're not just copying everybody else is to find out whether it's a good idea."

enewcomer@washingtonexaminer.com

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