A proposal to require gun owners to buy liability insurance — such as that required of car owners — drew opposition at a two-hour hearing at the State Capitol Wednesday.

House Bill 6656 proposes that gun owners in Connecticut purchase the insurance to cover accidents or acts of violence carried out with their weapons.

The thought behind the bill is to treat guns like automobiles, where the insurance industry provides a mechanism to evaluate risk, and a force to promote safety innovations.

But it was evident at a public hearing before the legislature’s insurance committee that not everyone agrees. Dan Vining of Guilford called the notion a de facto tax on the right to bear arms.

“While I recognize that the government has the power to tax, we should not tax a right protected by both the federal and state constitutions. We do not allow poll taxes to restrict the right to vote, or liability insurance requirements to restrict the right to free speech and peaceful assembly.

“I am blessed with a good job and would be able to afford this insurance,” Vining said. “Many lawful firearm owners with less income probably would not.”

Insurers were no more enthusiastic. Susan Giacolone from the Insurance Association of Connecticut said gun accidents are already covered by homeowners’ insurance, and the industry isn’t about to cover criminal acts.

“Mandating insurance for gun ownership actually ignores the fundamental purpose of insurance. And that is to provide coverage for fortuitous or accidental events. We do not and will not provide coverage for intentional acts, criminal acts or willful acts.”

The National Rifle Association is currently the only player in this space — it offers gun owners a policy to cover their expenses if they’re sued after an act of self defense. The group that represents gun manufacturers, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, did concede that requiring insurance might drive safety-related changes, but that wasn’t something they welcomed.

Jake McGuigan, a spokesman for the foundation, said, “Our concern from the industry is that if there was an insurance offering, by insurance companies, that they would be forcing mandates, forcing certain safety standards on individuals, and telling individuals what firearms they were supposed to own.”

A vote on the bill is expected in the future.

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