While California already has the most restrictive gun control laws in the nation, Mayor Sam Liccardo of San Jose is using the shooting at a rail yard this week that left nearly a dozen people killed to urge local lawmakers to impose a number of new gun control ordinances, including a mandate that all gun owners in the city carry liability insurance policies in order to legally possess firearms.
Liccardo originally proposed his idea back in 2019, arguing at the time that, just as those who drive a car are required to have insurance, those who own a gun should face the same mandate.
“A mayor doesn’t have the luxury of just offering ‘thoughts and prayers’ — we have to solve problems,” Liccardo said in a statement. “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.”
According to Liccardo’s plan, sworn law enforcement officers would be excluded from carrying insurance. The insurance would cover accidental discharge of the gun, as well as intentional acts of third parties who steal, borrow or acquire the gun. It wouldn’t cover the policyholder’s misconduct.
Liccardo also suggested citywide polling to gauge support for a sales tax on firearm and ammunition sales to fund gun safety classes and provide assistance to victims, in addition to creating cash rewards for those who report unlawfully-obtained weapons. The mayor also wants to evaluate a program that allows parents to enable the police to search and seize weapons in their homes in exchange for not prosecuting their child or dependent.
In addition to the mandatory insurance requirement, which would disproportionately impact lower-income legal gun owners and have virtually no effect on violent criminals, Liccardo wants the San Jose city council to move forward on a number of other local ordinances aimed at those who lawfully possess firearms.
Liccardo told San José Spotlight Thursday that he soon intends to roll out measures that his office worked on for the last year-and-a-half with a team of health and safety experts regarding gun violence. He said his office is still working with state and federal authorities to get gun violence data to support his proposals and that he will present data to the San Jose City Council within the next month.
Liccardo also said the city is close—within the next two weeks—to approving a law mandating city gun shops to video record all firearm purchases, a proposal he first introduced in February 2019. The effort was stalled in the city attorney’s office because of the pandemic.
The law aims to prevent straw purchases—buying a firearm and passing it off to another person prohibited from owning a gun—a practice banned under state law. He added that he will introduce a series of other measures in coming weeks, including a measure to mandate firearm safes for gun owners.
“There’s no magic law that’s going to stop these massacres in our country,” Liccardo said about gun violence. “But until we change the fundamental equation that we have as many guns as people, this is going to be a tragic, horrific reality in cities throughout the country.”
It’s not just that there’s no magic law that will stop these kinds of attacks, it’s that none of the gun control measures that Liccardo and his anti-gun allies are proposing would stop the criminal misuse of firearms. Yet the mayor and other Bay Area Democrats continue to insist that if you don’t support their anti-gun agenda, you must be okay with mass shootings.
“When we talk about measures like mandating insurance, it doesn’t prevent people from owning a gun, but it could prevent someone who shouldn’t own a gun from possessing a gun,” Assemblymember Ash Kalra told San José Spotlight. “We have to do more to ban assault rifles and other extremely dangerous weapons from the community. Those who have issues with that, tell the nine victims’ families what they think we should do to protect our community.”
Well, I think we should take steps that actually protect the community, for one thing. California already has a ban on so-called assault weapons, and the killer in San Jose used handguns to take the lives of innocents. Instead of focusing on trying to create new criminal offenses out of the right to keep and bear arms, lawmakers like Liccardo and Kalra could reject the soft-on-crime approach taken by prosecutors like San Francisco’s Chesa Boudin. The state of California is also woefully short on mental health options for those in crisis, with fewer than 7,000 inpatient psychiatric beds available for a population of almost 40-million people.
In 2019, the California Hospital Association released a report on the sorry state of psychiatric care in the state, noting that there was one in-patient bed for every 5,834 people. The national average is one bed for every 4,383 people, but the report points out that “experts estimate a need for a minimum of 1 public psychiatric bed for every 2000 people for hospitalization for individuals with serious psychiatric disorders.”
In other words, the state only has about 33% of the hospital beds it needs to adequately treat the severely mentally ill. The vast majority of those needing acute care will never attempt to take the lives of innocent human beings, of course, but then again, the vast majority of legal gun owners will never commit a violent crime either, and that hasn’t stopped lawmakers in California from declaring that gun ownership itself is the real enemy.
So here are my recommendations for Ash Kalra: get serious about incarcerating violent offenders instead of trying to reduce the penalties for using a gun in the commission of a violent crime. Address the mental health crisis instead of allowing untreated mental illness to flourish. Adopt a “shall-issue” policy for concealed carry licenses to ensure that responsible gun owners can exercise their right of self-defense. Those three steps would do far more to protect the community than mandating liability insurance for gun owners or adding more gun control laws at the local, state, or federal level.