Bills Banning Insurers From Discriminating Against Gun Owners Close To Floor Votes

Feb 19, 2014

Bills aimed at enhancing the penalties if an insurer discriminates against a gun owner are moving through both chambers of the Florida Legislature. But, some are raising concerns about the reasoning behind the measure, saying there’s not enough evidence to support it.

There’s already a law that bans insurers from denying coverage to or asking for higher premiums from someone who owns a gun. The Office of Insurance Regulation is responsible for enforcing those laws, but Fort Walton Beach Republican Representative Matt Gaetz says that’s not enough. His bill allows gun owners to bring their grievances to court, and he says he’s aware of a couple cases where it might have applied.

But, Coconut Creek Democratic Representative Jim Waldman wondered why the bill was needed, because analysis done by the committee’s legislative staff found very few such cases—a contrast to Gaetz’s position.

“The fact is the OIR only has one instance that’s ever been brought to their attention. So, we can talk all we want anecdotally about what discrimination there is, but we don’t’ have any evidence of it,” said Waldman.

But, Gaetz countered by noting cases were still popping up.

“It would be a difficult thing to do to explain to Richard Page that there’s not a need for the bill. He was cancelled as recently as January 15, 2014, and that’s an additional circumstance that’s not noted in the staff analysis. And, I think we need to acknowledge that there are things happening in Florida that we have not entirely included in every staff analysis in every bill,” said Gaetz.

The National Rifle Association’s Marion Hammer took the argument a step further, citing a Jacksonville case.

“The local agent encouraged an insurer to get a separate rider, so that his firearms would be covered. And, after purchasing that rider, the home company sent him a letter that said, ‘upon normal review of our policies, we found that you own firearms and have cancelled your policy.’ So, there is discrimination. There is a need. And, how many people have to be discriminated against before you take action to stop it,” asked Hammer.

She also brought up a series of questions that popped up on the Citizens Property Insurance website, regarding the gun ownership of Florida residents. But, according to a recent News Service of Florida article, a Citizens spokesman says that is no longer part of their survey.

The bill was also expanded to include discrimination based on ammunition, not just firearms.

The measure passed the House Civil Justice Subcommittee 8-2 Wednesday, with two of the three Democrats present opposed to the bill. Like its Senate companion, it has one more stop before a floor vote.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.