After reading this page, visit Gary's FAQ where you'll find copies of Gary's Letter of Cancellation and answers to the questions Gary is receiving.

Hunter? Shooter? Who Is The Good Neighbor?

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 Gary 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 Range - Notice Safety Measures 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 Carolina.

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 a 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 canceled 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 shooters.

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 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 are 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 Fire and Casualty Company call 309.766.7554 or visit

Further contact information:
Mr. Edward Rust, President
State Farm Fire and Casualty Company
One State Farm Plaza
Bloomington IL 61710-0001
Gary's Former State Farm Agent:
Renee Wilder
120 Columbia Avenue
Chapin, SC 29036-9420
Phone: (803) 345-3135
Fax: (803) 345-6700

Gary at His Home Range 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. There's no hidden agenda here. Gary's letter of cancellation is available for concerned policyholders who believe they may also be at risk for non-coverage by State Farm. Gary's is a private range, not commercial, and not open to the public. Gary was in compliance with all local, county, and state laws regarding shooting ranges and the use of his property. You can Email Gary but first visit Gary's FAQ where you'll find copies of Gary's Letter of Cancellation and answers to the questions Gary is receiving.

5/4/02 - Gary Atkinson Interview on LiveFire with Larry Pratt

5/02 - State Farm & Prudential Don't Like Guns by Larry Pratt

State Farm: Snake Killer
Click here to read another State Farm Story

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Before Coming Clean with Gun Owners?

GrassRoots South Carolina
P.O. Box 2446
Lexington, SC 29071

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