A fairly new type of insurance allows Saskatchewan gun owners to defend themselves and their property with a firearm without the fear of being crippled by legal fees if charges are laid against them.
An apparent spike in rural crime in the province has farmers speaking out about protecting their property, and the fact guns could be a contributing factor in doing that. However, there is a fear using a firearm for that purpose will only result in harm being inflicted upon themselves.
“We’ve had so many instances of firearms owners being almost financially ruined by charges that’ve been levied against them by police that had no idea of what the Firearms Act was really about,” explained Tony Bernardo, Executive Director of the Canadian Shooting Sports Association (CSSA).
Bernardo said for about three years now firearm legal defense insurance has been available.
According to Bernardo, insurance companies created a policy that covers up to $500,000 in legal defenses if someone is charged with a firearms crime.
The policy covers, among other things, defense from prosecution if someone is charged with an offence stemming from the use, storage, display, transportation, or handling of a firearm. The policy also covers cases where a firearm is used in self defense, and the cost of retaining a lawyer.
The program covers up to $150,000 per claim up to an annual max of $500,000. It also offers unlimited legal advise over the phone, which can be about any subject.
This type of insurance costs around $95 per year, but if the customer is a member of the CSSA they get a $10 per year discount.
Thousands of people have the insurance, although the exact number is not known.
Bernardo claims there have been cases where charges have been dropped once the crown discovers the defendant has firearm legal defence insurance.
“The crowns are using the process as the punishment, and they’ll go forward with charges they know are frivolous charges or incorrect charges in order to weigh a punishment on this person because they can’t get a conviction, so they’ll punish you financially.”
Bernardo added this insurance acts as a safety blanket for gun owners.