California city becomes first in nation to force gun owners to carry liability insurance

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Gun owners in San Jose, CA, will be the first in the United States to be required to pay a fee and carry liability insurance, thanks to a new law approved Tuesday.

Under the ordinance, which must still be approved at its final reading before taking effect in August, gun owners would be charged an annual $25 fee. The money collected would be directed by a nonprofit, which would distribute the funds to victims of gun violence and to aid efforts in gun crime prevention, according to CNN. Owners would also be required to purchase liability insurance to cover any damage their gun may cause.

Failure to comply would result in fines and, potentially, the impoundment of their firearms “subject to a due process hearing,” according to the ordinance.

At a news conference held Monday, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo estimated that residents of his city incur approximately $442 million in gun violence-related costs each year. “Certainly the Second Amendment protects every citizen’s right to own a gun. It does not require taxpayers to subsidize that right,” Liccardo said.

Following a mass shooting at a public transit rail yard that left eight victims dead, the San Jose’s city council voted unanimously to draft the ordinance, said the mayor’s communications director, Rachel Davis, in a press release issued Monday.

“Cities have learned too well that we cannot wait for Congress to act to protect our residents from gun violence and harm; we must step up,” said Liccardo. “The two components of this initiative — requiring liability insurance and the investment of gun fees into violence-reduction programs — utilize long-established public health approaches to reducing harm in other contexts.”

The mayor believes the cost of liability insurance could be reduced with measures similar to those offered by auto insurance providers.

“We have seen how insurance has reduced auto fatalities over several decades, for example, by incentivizing safer driving and the purchase of cars equipped with airbags and antilock brakes,” Liccardo explained. “Similarly, gun liability insurance available today on the market can adjust premiums to encourage gun owners to use gun safes, install trigger-locks, and take gun safety classes.”

Tuesday’s vote came only after hours of debate and public commentary, CNN noted.

Critics of the ordinance argue it unfairly punishes responsible gun owners, while failing to address the root causes of gun violence.

“You cannot tax a Constitutional right,” said one speaker, who claimed the focus should instead be on hiring more police, enforcing laws already in place, and properly funding mental health services.

Proponents of the legislation felt the measure was an obvious step towards protecting the community that should have been taken sooner.

Exemptions will be made for those in law enforcement, those who hold concealed-carry permits, and those who would be financially burdened by the fee, the mayor does expect to receive some pushback.

In a statement given to CNN prior to the vote, Dudley Brown, president of the National Association for Gun Rights and executive director of the National Foundation for Gun Rights, had this to say: “We’ve opposed this ordinance every step of the way, and we will see this through to the end.”

“If the San Jose City Council actually votes to impose this ridiculous tax on the Constitutional right to gun ownership, our message is clear and simple,” he added. “See you in court.”

According to the network, the National Foundation for Gun Rights sent a cease-and-desist letter to Mayor Liccardo and the council’s 10 members in July vowing to file suit as soon as the ordinance is passed.

Melissa Fine


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