Costly Gun Insurance Law Hits Maryland Owners Hard

A controversial gun control plan, recently proposed by Democrats in the Maryland House, is currently making waves throughout Maryland. If this legislation passes, gun owners will have to buy liability insurance to carry their firearms in public. Gun advocates are calling the bill a concentrated attack on Maryland citizens’ Second Amendment rights, while gun control supporters are welcoming the bill.

Introduction of Proposed Legislation

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Delegate Terri Hill (D-Howard County) introduced the legislation, which states that gun owners will need a liability insurance policy of $300,000 minimum. 

The proposed legislation states, “A person may not wear or carry a firearm unless the person has obtained and is covered by liability insurance.” 

Insurance Coverage Requirements

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This insurance must pay out claims for death, physical harm, or property damage caused by using or storing a gun, and it must also cover interest and charges up to $300,000 for damages.

Delegate Hill’s Defense

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Delegate Hill defended the bill, stating it is “another effort at common sense gun legislation.” 

Origin of the Legislation

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She told Fox News that the measure came from a constituent’s idea that gun owners ought to be held partially accountable for injuries caused by their weapons.

Exceptions to the Insurance Requirement

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The bill does provide exceptions – members of the military and federal law enforcement officers are exempt, as well as cases where the gun wasn’t loaded. 

Exclusion of Law Enforcement

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Controversially, local and state law enforcement officials are not excluded from the legislation’s insurance requirements.

Criticism From Delegate Nawrocki

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A critic of the bill delegate, Ryan Nawrocki (R-Baltimore County), expressed doubts about the bill, asserting that it places an “unconstitutional burden on citizens to own a firearm.”

Potential Impact on Law Enforcement

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While the bill faces criticism from certain sectors for its potential infringement on the rights of gun owners, criminal defense experts see an opportunity for increased accountability, especially among law enforcement officers. 

Enhancing Accountability

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One defense attorney explained to Fox Baltimore that the legislation “aims to enhance accountability among police officers, particularly addressing the disproportionate impact of their misuse of deadly force on the black community.”

He explained that the bill holds the power to render officers uninsurable for repeated violations related to the misuse of deadly force.

Uncertainty Regarding Insurance Claims

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However, it is still unclear how this processing of private insurance claims for firearm incidents will work. 

Insurance Policy Considerations

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The Maryland Insurance Commission has stressed that coverage is contingent upon the specific text of each policy, taking into account the type of liability coverage, exclusions, and incident circumstances.

Insurance Policy Coverage

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In Maryland, the majority of insurance policies exclude coverage for actions that the insurers consider to be deliberate or illegal. 

Duty to Retreat

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It is also illegal in Maryland to use lethal force when you have the option to flee an attack or dangerous situation. This legal principle is known as the “duty to retreat.”

Background on Previous Gun Legislation

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This move by Maryland legislators follows a November court ruling that struck down an almost ten-year-long law that required handgun qualification licensing (HQL) for any firearms purchases.

New gun owners were required to finish a firearms safety training course, submit fingerprints for a background check, and fill out an application form for the HQL.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the existing HQL regulation, claiming it placed an “undue burden” on citizens’ constitutional rights. 

Response to Court Ruling

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Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown’s office has recently requested a rehearing of the case.

Acknowledging the Oversight

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In response to inquiries about the absence of exemptions for local and state law enforcement in the current bill, Terri Hill acknowledged the oversight and promised to make corrections.

Delegate Cheryl Pasteur, the bill’s co-sponsor, clarified that “the exception is in the bill” and any other ambiguities will be corrected before the hearing.

Advocacy From Anti-gun Organizations

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Action on gun violence is currently an incredibly pressing issue for Maryland residents. Last week, two anti-gun organizations – Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action – flocked to Annapolis in significant numbers. 

A Call for Gun Violence Prevention Measures

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These advocates called for measures to stop gun violence, particularly near schools, and want to push for the expansion of laws aimed at enhancing gun safety and preventing gun violence.

Support From Governor Wes Moore

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Maryland Governor Wes Moore is a big supporter of the organizations. Speaking at the rally, Moore stated, “We are going to pass legislation to make sure you are protected, to make sure you are supported, and to make sure your family members are remembered.”

Current State of the Debate

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As Maryland grapples with the implications of this proposed legislation, the battle between gun rights and public safety continues to shape the conversation around responsible firearm ownership.

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