Mayor's Gun Control Proposal Would Disparately Harm Black Gun Owners

Photo Courtesy of the National Shooting Sports Foundation

This isn’t the first time that San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has proposed requiring gun owners in the city to carry liability insurance or face fines for non-compliance, but this time around the mayor is hoping that the city council will be more receptive to the idea, even if it leads to a legal battle.

Liccardo is using the recent shooting at a San Jose railway yard as the impetus for his proposed insurance mandate, even though it’s absurd to think that his plan would have prevented the attack or any other violent crime committed inside the city limits.

“Mayors don’t have the luxury of offering prayers and platitudes,” he said. “People expect concrete actions.”

To that end, Liccardo said, he hoped the San Jose City Council would approve, by the end of the year, a first-in-the-nation requirement that gun owners in the city insure their weapons or pay fees to keep them. The idea, he explained, is that guns are contributing to a public health crisis — and it’s expensive.

Liccardo said that requiring drivers to carry auto insurance has helped cut down on fatalities from car crashes, so having the private insurance industry get involved would help incentivize responsible gun ownership and defray the cost of gun violence to taxpayers, who pay for emergency and law enforcement services.

That’s an asinine argument on a couple of different levels. First, there’s actually evidence that automobile insurance actually increases traffic fatalities, so Liccardo is wrong to suggest that auto insurance mandates have had a positive effect on traffic safety.

It’s also silly to think that requiring all gun owners to carry liability insurance would incentivize “responsible gun ownership”, given that individuals who violate the state’s draconian gun control laws already face the possibility of jail time. Why would the prospect of a fine have more of a deterrent effect than a prison sentence?

Besides, the vast majority of crimes in which guns are used don’t involve legal gun owners in the first place. Does Liccardo truly believe that people who obtain their guns on the black market are going to try to get liability insurance, or that insurers would underwrite such a policy?

Of course not. This isn’t about defraying the cost of “gun violence.” It’s about increasing the cost of exercising your Second Amendment rights.

Liccardo told the New York Times that he’s well aware that if his mandatory gun insurance does get approved by the city council, the new law will “require a vigorous legal defense,” which is another way of saying “this is probably unconstitutional but we’re gonna take a shot and hope the courts don’t strike this down.” Of course Liccardo and the city of San Jose can count on gun control groups to offer up their services free of charge to defend any insurance mandate, so the mayor doesn’t have any skin in his gun control games. If he wins, he gets to make it more expensive and onerous to exercise a fundamental civil right, and if he loses he can always blame the nefarious “gun lobby” and activist judges for his failure.

Since there’s no financial incentive for Liccardo to back off his demand for mandatory insurance for gun owners, how about the social and political cost of his idea? After all, given the fact that Liccardo is comparing auto insurance to gun insurance, he’s surely aware of the fact that racial minorities pay much higher rates to insure their cars than White people do.

  • Drivers in predominantly Black ZIP codes pay 60% more in premiums than in equally dense, mostly white urban neighborhoods.
  • Drivers in minority communities in rural areas pay 24% more than in white rural ZIP codes.
  • Major companies like Progressive and Farmer’s Insurance charge those living in predominantly Black ZIP codes 92% more for premiums. Other insurers with similar practices include Allstate (56%), State Farm (62%), and Geico (52%).
  • In metro areas like New York, Baltimore, Detroit, Washington D.C., Orlando, and Boston, the premiums are 50% higher for predominantly Black ZIP codes.

According to one study, the disparity actually gets worse for higher-income minorities.

For example, the average premium for upper-middle-income Black neighborhoods is 194% higher. That’s $2,113 for an upper-middle-class Black driver compared to $717 for an upper-middle-class white driver.

Similarly, those living in predominantly minority neighborhoods should also expect to pay more to ensure their legally-owned guns than those living in mostly White neighborhoods. Whether Sam Liccardo realizes it or not, his idea to mandate insurance for gun owners isn’t a progressive policy, but one that would make the crafters of Jim Crow-era laws targeting Black Americans nod in approval.

So thanks, Mayor Liccardo. Not for trying to price people out of exercising a constitutional right, but for once again demonstrating the racism inherent in the gun control ideology.