State News
February 10, 2016

Lawmakers discuss requiring gun owners to register with insurance companies

By Michael Bielawski, Vermont Watchdog

A bill introduced recently at the State House would require gun owners to report their weapons to homeowner’s insurance companies.

The bill, H.709, is currently in the House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development, and it’s only in “short form.” This means it’s relatively simple and vague: “This bill proposes to require an insurer that writes homeowner’s insurance policies to require a policyholder to disclose to the company whether the homeowner or member of his or her household possesses a gun that is stored on the insured property.”

State Rep. Thomas Stevens, D-Waterbury, one of the bill’s two sponsors, views the proposed legislation as a way to let the private sector regulate guns.

“I believe it can be a free market answer to an important gun safety issue—let the insurance companies and banks decide what risks they need to consider when making mortgages and homeowner’s insurance. Insurance companies ask lots of questions to determine that already.”

Stevens’ bill is one of many gun control initiatives beginning to flood the State House. Others include municipal gun laws proposed for Burlington, as well background check legislation, which failed last year.

“Anyone who says or thinks that this is not a backdoor registration scheme is either lying or deluded,” said Eddie Garcia, founder of the Vermont Citizens Defense League, in response to the most recent gun control effort.

If the bill were to include a requirement for liability insurance, Vermont wouldn’t be the first state to have such a proposition. New York State Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, D-Brooklyn, proposed last year to require $250,000 liability insurance for gun owners. At the federal level, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., introduced legislation last June to require gun owners to have liability insurance.

Bob DePino, vice president of Gun Owners of Vermont, doesn’t like the notion of gun owners paying for what he says should be a right.

“You will now have to pay insurance to exercise your constitutional rights. That’s kind of like a poll tax,” DePino said. “If they can’t ban the guns and they can’t ban the ammunition, then they are going to make it so hard, so expensive, so tedious and time consuming to own a gun that people are just going to give up the guns.”

Stevens explained why the bill is in short form.

“Sometimes we file such short forms to put an idea into conversation,” he said. “They rarely become law, or discussed beyond an introduction. If they are taken up for further consideration, it will be up to the Committee of Jurisdiction to move it along and determine the details.”

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