Florida bill would penalize insurance companies for discriminating against gun owners

Rep. Matt Gaetz's HB255 would allow gun owners to sue insurance companies over discriminatory practices in Florida. (Photo credit: Myfloridahouse.org)

Rep. Matt Gaetz’s HB255 would allow gun owners to sue insurance companies over discriminatory practices in Florida. (Photo credit: Myfloridahouse.org)

A Florida bill, HB255, introduced by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-D4) would allow citizens to sue insurance companies over discriminatory practices directed at those who exercise their right to keep and bear arms.

In its language, it aims to make insurance companies in the state responsible if they raise rates or refuse policies to residents because they own firearms.

Currently this type of discrimination is already policed by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. But this new bill, which was introduced in November, would allow individuals to sue the companies directly if they feel they are victimized.

“It just gives greater access to courts,” Rep. Gaetz said to the Jacksonville Daily Record.

It would make it unlawful to for insurance companies to “charge an unfairly discriminatory rate in this state based on the lawful use, possession, or ownership of a firearm by the insurance applicant, insured, or a household member of the applicant or insured.”

Yet despite its sensible language, some lawmakers oppose the bill.

“If an insurance company wants to exclude assault-type weapons, it seems to me that it is good to exclude if they desire to,” said Rep. Kevin Rader (D-D81). “Certainly I know on animal exclusions they exclude Doberman Pinschers and Rottweilers.”

Rep. Kevin Rader equates the practice to insurance companies discriminating against pet owners who have Doberman pinschers and Rottweiler’s. (Photo credit: Myfloridahouse.org)

Rep. Kevin Rader, opponent of HB 255 (Photo credit: Myfloridahouse.org)

Still, many groups see such discrimination as an affront to the Second Amendment.

When asked for comment on the issue, Lawrence G. Keane, senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, told Guns.com:

“We would strongly oppose any effort by insurance companies to discriminate against the lawful exercise of a fundamental civil liberty protected by the Second Amendment. One can easily imagine the loud protest if carriers charged different premiums based on what you read or watched.”

Marion Hammer, former president of—and current lobbyist for—the National Rifle Association in Florida spoke with Guns.com at length about HB255.

“Discrimination is alive and well and is addressed in this bill,” said Hammer.

“It’s a very simple issue when insurance companies start questioning policy holders about firearms that they may or may not own,” she continued. “You can be sure that it’s for the purpose of some kind of screening that leads to discrimination.”

She then posed the question of whether insurance companies are being as straightforward as they maintain they are about their current polices.

“If an insurance company says, we don’t need this bill because they are not discriminating against customers, then why are they fighting against something they say they don’t do anyway?” Hammer asked.

HB255 still has to make it past both the House Regulatory Affairs Committee and Civil Justice Subcommittee before it can be voted on. A similar measure in the state Senate, SB424 is also making  headway.