Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st District), at a Jan. 13 Cook County board meeting, proposed an ordinance that would require gun owners to carry liability insurance coverage in order to purchase firearms. Fines for those who violate the proposed ordinance range between $2,500 and $5,000.
“The reason we introduced this is because we’re trying to do everything we can to have a major impact on gun violence,” Boykin said in a recent interview. “This horrific gun violence is destroying our community. Last year in Chicago, 488 people were killed and 2,986 were shot. This year alone, 140 people have been shot, and 25 people killed. So I’m going to try to do everything I can.”
Boykin said his county level proposal has some resonance in Washington D.C. with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-New York) having introduced a similar regulation; however, he conceded that Maloney’s proposal likely won’t gain any traction.
“I don’t think anything will happen in Washington because of the Republican Congress, but Cook County can pass it. We’ve got a Democratic board,” said Boykin, before touting the passage of previous gun control-related ordinances he introduced, such as an ammunition tax.
That measure, Boykin said, could bring in an estimated $250,000 in revenue during its first full year of implementation and about $500,000 each year afterward. The ammunition tax takes effect this June.
“The purchase of every firearm in Cook County should be like a car,” Boykin said. “For the first time in 60 years, deaths from guns have eclipsed auto accidents. We’ve made cars safer, but we’ve done nothing to make guns safer. You can’t purchase a car without having liability insurance. Why should you be able to do so when you buy a gun?”
Boykin said he received significant pushback from the National Rifle Association when he introduced the ammunition tax and anticipates a similar reaction from various pro-gun organizations.
Richard Pearson, president of the Illinois State Rifle Association, said his organization will lobby against Boykin’s liability insurance proposal but anticipates that it may pass the board anyway.
“We’ll mobilize, but it’s rare that we’re able to stop such an ordinance [in Democratic Cook County],” he said, adding that he believes the law is impractical and misplaced.
“I don’t know any company that would offer that kind of insurance,” said Pearson. “There’s homeowners’ insurance or umbrella policies, but what they’re looking for [liability insurance for gun owners] isn’t available.”
“What they’re really doing is they want someone to cover all these gang shootings and the last time I looked, gangs didn’t carry insurance,” he said. “They don’t attack gangs with this legislation, they attack law-abiding gun owners. The problem is that Cook County doesn’t prosecute the people who own guns illegally. Most of them are able to plea-bargain their gun charges away. They let the suspects go and they don’t really prosecute those people who really commit gun crimes.”
“I think we have to try everything we can,” Boykin said. “I am not going to stop trying just because somebody might say this isn’t going to have an impact. I believe it will.”