San Jose, CA – San Jose gun owners will soon be required to invest in liability insurance and to pay annual fees on their Second Amendment rights.
City lawmakers voted Tuesday to approve the gun owner insurance mandate, making San Jose “the first city, state, or jurisdiction in the nation” to adopt such a law, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo boasted in a press release later that night.
“Tonight San José became the first city in the United States to enact an ordinance to require gun owners to purchase liability insurance, and to invest funds generated from fees paid by gun owners into evidence-based initiatives to reduce gun violence and gun harm,” Liccardo declared.
The mayor said he worked “tirelessly” with legal partners and community advocates to “craft a constitutionally compliant path to mitigate the unnecessary suffering from gun harm in our community.”
He praised the City Council for continuing to show their “commitment to reducing gun violence and its devastation.”
“I look forward to supporting the efforts of others to replicate these initiatives across the nation,” Liccardo added.
The mayor said San Jose taxpayers incur approximately $442 million in gun-related costs annually, CNN reported.
“Certainly, the Second Amendment protects every citizen’s right to own a gun. It does not require taxpayers to subsidize that right,” he declared.
Requiring law-abiding gun owners to have liability insurance would encourage them to install trigger locks, utilize gun safes, and to take firearms safety classes, Liccardo told CBS News.
Such policies would help cover damages or loss resulting from “accidental” use of the weapons, he said.
Firearm owners would be liable for damages or losses involving a lost or stolen gun unless they report the loss or theft to police.
It’s nor clear how authorities would determine if gun owners lost their guns after the law was enacted, or if they lost them in a boating accident (sponsored link) prior to the law.
Liccardo said gun owners who don’t purchase liability insurance will not face criminal charges and will not have their firearms seized, CBS News reported.
In addition to purchasing the policy through their renter’s or homeowner’s insurance, gun owners will also be required to pay an annual fee of approximately $25.
An undetermined nonprofit organization will be tasked with collecting those fees, which will then be doled out to various community groups, CBS News reported.
Critics argued against the measure in an hours-long debate ahead of Tuesday’s vote.
“You cannot tax a constitutional right. This does nothing to reduce crime,” one speaker told the council.
The law change does nothing to address the issue of criminals obtaining weapons illegally or firearms being purchased without background checks, CBS News reported.
Liccardo acknowledged that the mandate “won’t stop mass shootings and keep bad people from committing violent crimes,” but he argued it will help curb suicides, domestic violence homicides, and accidental shootings.
Critics vowed to sue the city and warned that the ensuing legal battle would be expensive and lengthy for the municipality, CBS News reported.
“Vote ‘no’ on this ridiculous law that’ll get shot down in the courts before you waste more of San Jose’s money,” one opponent said.
Gun Owners of California Executive Director Sam Paredes told the city council the law is “totally unconstitutional in any configuration,” CBS News reported.
Liccardo was unconcerned about lawsuits, and said he has received offers from attorneys willing to defend the city pro bono.
Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action (MDA), vowed that the new law “will save lives,” according to Liccardo’s press release.
“Once again, San José has taken initiative to be a leader in the gun violence prevention movement,” MDA San Jose Volunteer Leader Rachel Michelson chimed in. “This ordinance is an innovative approach to address the costs of gun violence and incentivize safer practices that can help prevent firearm deaths and injuries. Other cities should follow San José’s lead and prioritize safer cities.”
Students Demand Action Volunteer Leader Ewan Plummer touted the new law as a “victory for gun safety” and praised San Jose for “leading the charge against gun violence.”
The bill is subject to one last reading in February before it officially becomes law, Reuters reported.
It is expected to go into effect in August.
The city was hit with its first lawsuit less than 24 hours after Tuesday’s vote, KGO reported.
“We promised them that if they pass this, we were going to see them in court,” National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR) President Dudley Brown said. “And last night, we did just that. We sued them.”
The lawsuit described the law change as “absolutely preposterous” and said it “places an undue burden on law-abiding gun owners,” The Washington Post reported.
NAGR attorney Harmeet Dhillon reiterated that the city’s law does nothing to stop criminals.
“It’s going to be the law-abiding citizens who actually deter crime by having weapons in their homes, who are going to be the ones who bear the burden of this unconstitutional ordinance,” Dhillon told KGO.
“The city of San Jose is forcing citizens exercising a constitutional right to bear arms, particularly in their homes (and are) taxing that and giving the tax money to nonprofits to then use it for speech that we all know is going to be used to criticize that very constitutional right,” the attorney added. “That is a violation of the First Amendment.”
Tamarah Prevost, an attorney representing the city pro bono, pushed back against Dhillon’s claims about the law potentially violating citizens’ First Amendment rights, KGO reported.
“The ordinance specifies that the money will not be used for litigation or lobbying related activities used by the nonprofit organization,” Provost said.
Liccardo acknowledged more lawsuits are anticipated, but said he believes the city will prevail.
“I’m confident that we’re going to emerge from this litigation with an ordinance that survives constitutional scrutiny,” the mayor told KGO.