A gun control debate is raging across the country after several high profile shootings in recent months. (Getty Images)

California legislation would require gun owners to buy liability insurance

Legislation introduced by Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D- Los Angeles) in California would require gun owners to purchase liability insurance to cover any damages that may be caused by the weapon.

“I believe the true cost of purchasing a gun is not reflected in the price,” Gomez told NBC Latino. “How do you reflect the true cost? It’s not about just buying the gun and the bullets but the societal costs if there is an accident.”

If passed, Gomez hopes insurance would encourage gun owners to be safer and reduce their costs if they have a trigger lock, safe box or took classes on gun safety.

But opponents of the legislation say it’s yet another effort to introduce government regulation on guns when none is needed and view it as a violation of the right to bear arms.

“First off, we do not believe that you can require citizens to purchase insurance to exercise a constitutional right,” says Sam Paredes, executive director of the Gun Owners of California. “That’s a major hurdle they’re going to have to overcome and one of the reasons why this kind of law hasn’t passed.”

Paredes, 56, also said the law would discriminate against low-income individuals.

“It’s the height of discrimination,” he says. “Low-income residents who live in high crime areas know they need arms and this is going to price them out of the ability to own whatever guns they choose.” Paredes says crime has continued to go down in the U.S. and in California for well over a decade, proving that law-abiding citizens are responsible.

But Gomez points to gun laws as the reason why the state is safer. “California has been a leading state in passing gun control laws to increase the safety of gun ownership; to be able to track who owns guns and where they go,” he says.

The assemblyman says he is currently speaking with insurance companies to see if the proposed legislation would work as a stand alone insurance or if it would be an add-on to homeowner’s insurance. “People are asked if they have a fire alarm and locks on their doors but they’re never asked, ‘Do you own a gun? How do you store it?'”

According to an analysis of Gallup Polls from 2007 to 2012 released on February 1,Hispanics in particular show below-average gun ownership” at 18 percent. But Paredes says he saw that data and found it odd. “They said the Hispanic community in general does not own firearms, but I know of no Hispanics who do not own a gun.” Paredes added that he has been a gun owner for most of his adult life and successfully used his firearm in the protection of his home against a home intruder, which he doesn’t “wish on anyone.”

He said politicians like Gomez and Philip Y Ting (D – San Francisco) who co-sponsored the legislation are “just looking for 15 minutes of fame” and said increased funding for databases which can find individuals who have been legally adjudicated as having psychological issues, is important in helping to stop shootings. “As long as the government focuses on gun control issues and not on issues that allow people to go from normal to monsters over night, we will continue to have massacres,” Paredes says. “Criminals and crazy people will never comply.”

Asked about whether his legislation would infringe upon second amendment rights as Paredes states, Gomez says he will work to lessen these concerns but also remains steadfast that liability insurance is an important step in the gun control debate.

“The opposition says any requirement is an infringement — there are rights but not without restrictions,” he says.

“You have freedom of speech but can’t yell ‘Fire!’ in a crowded place. There are limits and that’s a debate this country is having now.”

RELATED: Recent shootings prompt Latinos to debate gun control

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