San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo made a final push Monday to make San Jose the first city in the USA to have mandatory gun ownership fees and liability insurance, via a City Council vote on Tuesday.
According to the proposed legislation, all San Jose residents who own at least one gun would need to pay a $25 annual fee. Gun insurance would also need to be purchased, with coverage extending to losses or damages coming from accidental firearm discharge, intentional acts of third parties who use the weapon, and any other negligent use. Policyholder misconduct would not be covered by the insurance, with law enforcement members being exempted from carrying insurance.
The annual fee, which is estimated to amount to around $1.3 million a year, would go to an as-of-yet unnamed non-profit organization aimed at preventing gun violence, giving support to families and victims of gun violence, suicide prevention, and other similar services.
Liccardo first introduced the legislation in 2019, following the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting in July of 2019. Intended as a way to reduce gun violence and increase accountability of shooters, Liccardo compared it to other state and local taxes, such as people paying high taxes for cigarettes or liquor.
“A mayor doesn’t have the luxury of just offering ‘thoughts and prayers’ — we have to solve problems,” said Liccardo in 2019. “While this is far from a complete solution, it is something we can do to reduce the harms of firearms, without waiting for Congress to take action.”
Over the next several years, Liccardo has routinely brought up a new version of the firearm legislation, only for it to fizzle out then brought back up following big changes to the legislation or another shooting happening nearby, such as the VTA Light Rail Yard shooting last year in San Jose. This led to the latest push of his legislation, which now goes up for a vote Tuesday in the City Council.
“We cannot wait for Congress to act to protect our residents,” noted Mayor Liccardo at a news conference on Monday. “More than 200 San Joseans every single year suffered death or serious injury as a result of firearms, and we must do whatever we can within our power to prevent another family from experiencing yet another devastating loss.”
I'm joined by VM @chappiejones, CM @D4SanJose, @NDSolutions & @momsdemand before Council votes to mitigate gun violence in our community by enacting two requirements for gun owners: the purchase of liability insurance & investments in violence prevention. https://t.co/N29rBvW2cf
— Sam Liccardo (@sliccardo) January 24, 2022
Liccardo’s firearm legislation comes to a vote
Unlike previous iterations of the past, Liccardo’s latest version has brought in the support of Vice Mayor Chappie Jones, gun control organizations, and many members of the City Council.
However, despite Liccardo’s strong push and the high level of support, citizens in favor of gun rights, as well as some lawmakers, have come out in opposition to the plan and threaten to derail his legislation.
Some, such as Councilwoman Dev Davis, has said that gun owners should not be punished with fees and needing to buy insurance, with the focus instead going to those who own illegal ghost guns, reducing gang violence, and putting more gun safety programs into effect.
“We should not be punishing legal gun owners because they are the easiest target to regulate,” said Davis earlier this month. “We should be pursuing prosecution and jail time for anyone in possession of ghost guns that circumvent regulation.”
Gun organizations have taken a more hardline approach, explaining that this program would only serve to hurt legal gun owners and not criminals, with legal action likely if this is approved on Tuesday.
“This thing Liccardo wants passed, you know who it’s primarily going to affect, right?” asked Justin Smalls, a leader of a local hunting group in San Jose. “Legal gun owners. A lot of people here have a gun for home protection, to hunt with, or a variety of other legal reasons. And who has to pay that fee and the insurance? The people owning them legally. Those who own them illegally need to do nothing, so all that is really happening is extra special costs to us and the city getting a lot in their coffers.”
“There’s talk of lawsuits too. Any time a city or state tries to pull something like this, the courts are slammed with lawsuits, and if the City Council makes the mistake of passing this, it will happen again. It, when it comes down to it, infringes on Second Amendment rights.”
The vote is expected to take place on Tuesday during the City Council meeting.