The advocacy group has a new product aimed at protecting gun owners from the legal costs of shooting someone.
In March 2012, Joe Balistreri was visiting his parents in Foster City, a suburban community on the San Francisco Bay. Early in the morning, he heard the front doorknob rattle, followed by a commotion around the side of the house. Someone had jumped the gate. Balistreri woke his father and asked for a gun. In the dark, he confronted a tall stranger who had entered the house through an unlocked garage door. Balistreri fired three rounds, one of which hit the intruder, Patrick O’Neil, high in the chest, between the clavicles.
But O’Neil didn’t die. He survived his injuries and sued Balistreri, who spent thousands defending himself in court. By O’Neil’s account, he wasn’t trying to rob anyone—his friends had left him asleep and intoxicated that night in a car they parked nearby. When he woke, he entered the wrong home. Balistreri, meanwhile, has become something of a cautionary tale among gun-rights advocates, after a local CBS affiliate ran a segment about his online campaign to raise $85,000 to cover his legal fees. Even though he won a favorable outcome in court, Balistreri remained saddled with debts four years later.
Enter the National Rifle Association. Stories like Balistreri’s have motivated some gun owners to purchase insurance policies that could cushion their financial burden in the event that they shoot someone. Such policies have been available for years, but last month the NRA announced a new insurance product, Carry Guard, which they marketed to their millions of members online and at their annual meeting in Atlanta. The idea of firearms liability insurance has been previously championed by gun safety advocates on the left, who envisioned insurance as an instrument of public safety that could encourage safer guns and safer behavior. As implemented by the NRA, though, firearms liability insurance has a different function—to insulate gun owners from the expense and other possible consequences of a shooting.