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WARNING: Guns at Risk

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Homeowners Policies Can Leave Your Protection Unprotected

To protect themselves from unnecessary risks and hazards, gun owners know they should keep their firearms in a locked safe, hold the necessary and current license, and wear eye and ear protection when shooting. But what about protecting the firearms themselves? By relying on a standard homeowner’s policy, gun owners run the risk of losing.

Aim Higher

Most standard homeowners’ policies include a $2,500 limit for loss or theft of firearms and related equipment. According to Bill Gatewood, Corporate Vice President and Director, Personal Insurance, at Burns & Wilcox, that is rarely enough to cover even a small firearms collection.

To protect a collection of two or more firearms, Gatewood recommends retail brokers and agents suggest a personal articles floater (PAF) as a supplement to clients’ homeowners’ coverage. “An avid sportsman or hunter might own $8,000-$10,000 worth of firearms and a collection could be worth tens of thousands of dollars. The value of those possessions greatly exceeds their policy limit.”

Know Your Value

There are a number of factors that affect firearms value, namely make, model and condition. Rarity, historical significance, history of ownership and market condition can also influence value. But Gatewood warns retail brokers and agents not to make assumptions. Holding onto your grandpa’s rifle does not automatically make it a collectable or an antique. Retail brokers and agents should work with a licensed firearms dealer or consult the Blue Book of Gun Values to determine the value of the inventory.

“Just because a gun is old, doesn’t make it valuable. My dad and I restored a shotgun together when I was eight years old, and I wouldn’t sell it for anything, but it’s probably only worth $150,” Gatewood said.

Detailed Record

Low homeowners policy limits on firearms puts gun owners at risk, as well as exclusions and restrictions. “Water damage and earthquakes are excluded causes of loss in most home policies, which means if your client’s gun collection is damaged by an excluded condition, covered repair won’t be an option,” says Gatewood. “However, all possible causes of loss can either be purchased or are automatically included on a personal articles floater,” he added.

From mysterious disappearance to dropping, a PAF policy has broader coverage than a typical homeowners policy. “Dropping a gun can cause serious damage to the gun and to its value,” advised Gatewood. “Repairing a scratched stock or refinishing a damaged barrel can get expensive, but a PAF provides this coverage with no deductible.”

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An avid sportsman or hunter might own $8,000-$10,000 worth of firearms and a collection could be worth tens of thousands of dollars. The value of those possessions greatly exceeds their policy limit.

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- Bill Gatewood,

Corporate Senior Vice President
National Personal Insurance Practice Leader

Collectors do not always have updated inventories of their guns and firearms accessories. Retail brokers and agents can help clients create a proper inventory that includes the make and model of each firearm, including serial numbers. Appraisals and receipts also help document the value and existence of the collection.

“The stronger the documentation, the easier the claims process will be,” says Gatewood. “I suggest having digital photos of each gun to document the overall condition.” Do not stop until the inventory includes related equipment such as high powered scopes and holsters.

When clients are ready to purchase a personal articles floater to protect their firearms, Gatewood recommends using the opportunity to discuss the value of including antiques, jewelry and other valuables on the policy. With appropriate coverage, clients will no longer worry if their guns are at risk and can get back to worrying about improving accuracy at the gun range.

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