----: State Farm Insurance & Guns
Hunter? Shooter? Who Is Your Good Neighbor? State Farm Begins Dumping
Gary Atkinson is a good neighbor, even though his nearest neighbor lives
hundreds of feet away. He makes his home in rural Chapin, South Carolina
on thirteen hilly, mostly wooded acres, along with his wife Lisa, sons Tom
and Yates, two horses, three yard dogs, and "too many cats to count" as
puts it. "Somebody's got to take in the homeless animals" he explains.
"If not, well.." His voice trails off. No need to describe the fate of
stray animals in a sparsely populated area.
Gary's job in heavy equipment sales brought him from Illinois to South
Carolina in 1985. He promptly fell in love with the area, and bought
acreage 25 miles and a culture away from the state capitol in Columbia.
Gary and Lisa bought a second, adjoining parcel in 1988, and began
building their dream house in 1990. "We moved into the house in 1992"
Gary says with a laugh, "but we never stopped building. A barn.
Outbuildings. A pool. A pond. There's always something going on at our
place". When the time came for Gary to change jobs, he stayed in South
Gary admits his rural homestead isn't as rural as it once was. Fifteen
families now live along his dead-end country road, and more are
discovering this long-forgotten corner of Richland County every year.
But it remains a
close-knit community, where everybody knows everybody else. The kids play
together, the adults are good friends, and the entire neighborhood gets
together several times a year for a massive "block party".
But being a good neighbor involves more than holding block parties and
swimming in each other's pools. It involves being there when people have
need. For example, Lisa prepares meals for shut-ins, and Gary uses his
tractor and chain saw to help around the neighborhood. Sometimes he
cuts grass for people who can't do it themselves. When Mike, their
neighbor across the street, broke his back in a fall from a deer stand,
Gary built special rails on Mike's front steps so that Mike could get in
and out of his house. And when there was a loud explosion in the woods
behind another neighbor's house, she immediately called Gary and asked
him to investigate. Gary found a tree had fallen across a power line in a
right-of-way, and started a fire. He fought the fire himself while others
summoned help. By the time the trained firefighters arrived, Gary had
brought the blaze under control. The firefighters' main job was to put out
the still-burning utility pole. That's the kind of "good neighbor" Gary is.
For 34 years Gary bought his insurance from State Farm, a company that
claims its a good neighbor. His father got him started with car insurance
when Gary was 16. Gary later bought homeowners insurance from State Farm,
and eventually added an umbrella policy to protect the assets he had
accumulated. Gary was happy with State Farm. And State Farm should
have been happy with Gary, because he has an excellent claims record.
True, his car was broken into several years ago. Hurricane Hugo
blew down a tree. And a pipe burst, causing damage in his basement. Not
bad, for 34 years of State Farm coverage.
Gary's rosy relationship with State Farm came to a screeching halt a few
months ago, when he casually mentioned to the local State Farm office that
he had been shooting in a ravine back in the woods behind his house. The
local agent, who he regarded as a friend, didn't like that, and questioned
Gary closely. Shooting? With guns? He answered all of her questions, and
even took her through the woods to the ravine so she could see the area
for herself. She wasn't happy. Neither was the home office. State Farm
promptly cancelled Gary's coverage for what the company called "the
operation of the shooting range on your property".
Hunting and recreational shooting are a way of life in rural South
Carolina, and in much of the rest of America. Gary has enjoyed these
activities since he was seven years old, when his father started him
with a .22 bolt action rifle. (It's a tradition Gary hopes to pass on to
his own sons.) Still, Gary tried to appease State Farm by offering to limit
his shooting. Would they ever let him shoot on his own property, or did
the company insist on a total ban? "Maybe once in a Blue Moon" the agent
told him. "What about hunters going through my woods?" Gary asked.
"It's just too dangerous" she replied.
Gary next offered to protect State Farm from any liability for his
shooting. The ravine was on a parcel of land separate from the house, so
what if they just insured the parcel with the house? No deal. Gary went
out and bought a million dollar liability policy from an NRA-endorsed
underwriter to cover his shooting activities. Would State Farm
be willing to exclude all shooting activities from his homeowners
policy? Still no deal.
So, what did State Farm want from him? Gary asked State Farm's agent to
point out the fine print in his policy, or to show him something in
writing, so that he could keep the company happy. She conceded there
was no fine print, nothing in the policy, and nothing in writing anywhere.
But the company regards shooting activities as a "factor of increased
risk" she told him, and as reason for terminating his coverage.
The company would never be happy.
State Farm's agent also tried to stop Gary from shooting by claiming all
of the other national insurance companies had similar "no shooting" rules,
so Gary shouldn't bother to shop around. But Gary did shop around, and he
quickly learned that many companies were more than happy to insure safe
Gary now has all the insurance coverage he wants. From companies that are
happy to have his business. At prices lower than he was paying State Farm.
Gary still shoots in the ravine behind his house. And he's still a good
neighbor. But he's really, really disappointed with State Farm. "This
never was about risk" Gary concludes. "Its about guns. State Farm just
doesn't want me shooting. Ever."
ACTION - GrassRoots South Carolina, http://www.scfirearms.org urges all
policy holders with State Farm to contact State Farm and voice complaints
regarding their decision to cancel policies based on discrimination of
lawful use of firearms when there is no statistics to show increased risk.
Voice your protests and concerns directly to them or else find yourself
facing increased guidelines in the future - like possible non-coverage of
firearms owners. To contact State Farm call (309) 766-2311. Members
of the media may call (309) 766-7550.
Further contact information is:
Mr. Edward Rust, President State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.
One State Farm Plaza
Bloomington IL 61710-0001
Gary's Former State Farm Agent is:
120 Columbia Avenue
Chapin, SC 29036-9420
Phone: (803) 345-3135
Fax: (803) 345-6700
Online, you may contact State Farm at:
Gary may be contacted for further information including the termination
letter from State Farm (with reason sited) as well as a detailed events
write-up describing how State Farm handled this case start to finish.
Contact Gary at: email@example.com
GrassRoots South Carolina has placed the above article with photo's of
Gary's range as well as the story as told by Gary at:
Permission to reprint or forward this is granted as long as the
abovearticle is maintained as written with no changes.
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Uncivilization and its Discontents
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Created: October 13, 2000
Last Updated: October 13, 2000
Last Updated: May 20, 2002