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Insurers reluctant to mix into gun debate

Wed, 23 Jan 2013 15:52:10 CST
By: Charlie Schlenker

The head of the nation's largest home and auto insurance company says gun competence could be a factor in setting insurance rates. State Farm CEO Ed Rust Jr. responded to questions by a Consumer Reports journalist saying gun ownership could be among a multitude of things considered among risk factors which help determine the cost of homeowner rates. But, Rust and State Farm spokesman Jeff McCollum are not eager to engage on the gun issue.

"Any debate that's on the side, that really is a matter for our politicians, our regulators, our departments of insurance to figure out the regulation around that and then the insurers will follow those regulations."

Some scholars have suggested insurers offer discounts for use of gun safety devices such as locks and gun vaults. But, Bob Hartwig of the Insurance Information Institute says carriers are not set up to test whether homeowners actually buy the devices.

"Not only would that be difficult, it would be difficult to ascertain whether they were using them or not. That's very different from something like airbags. The airbags are in the car."

Hartwig says there has been discussion in some states, particularly Massachusetts, of requiring mandatory liability insurance for guns, but that has not turned into even tentative legislation. Hartwig says the insurance industry now treats guns as another item of personal property to insure, and because of the prevalence of gun ownership, does not view such weapons as a particular risk factor.

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