San Jose Mayor Doubles Down On 2A "Poll Tax"

Mayor Sam Liccardo held a press conference on Tuesday calling on the San Jose City Council to impose a new fee and mandatory insurance requirements on legal gun owners, making his plan to impose the 2A equivalent of a “poll tax” the centerpiece of a 10-point plan to restrict the rights of lawful gun owners and the number of legal gun owners themselves.

On today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co we take a look at Liccardo’s plan, what it would mean for gun owners in San Jose, and why the mayor is on the wrong side of history with his proposals.

“What we are proposing are initiatives that have not been tried before in recognition that what has been tried and implemented hasn’t done enough,” Liccardo said in an interview Monday. “People may believe that gun violence is unpredictable and irrational, but in fact, it is a result of the system that we have created and it will continue to be that result until we change that system.”

Liccardo acknowledged his plan won’t “magically stop” mass shootings but says it at least should reduce the harm caused by firearms in the city.

He wants the city by September to adopt an ordinance requiring gun owners in San Jose to pay an annual fee and carry insurance to cover unintentional firearms-related deaths, injuries or property damage. The insurance could not legally cover intentional harm caused by a gun owner, he acknowledged. The city has yet to determine the annual fee, which would be used to cover emergency responses to shootings, medical care and related services, but Liccardo said it would be “modest.”

Those who don’t pay up could have their weapons seized or be fined, although police won’t be actively looking for violations and instead will enforce the law when checking on gun-related incidents or responding to weapons calls.

Liccardo’s idea is awful on several different levels, starting with the fact that the Supreme Court has already declared that the state charging someone a fee before they can exercise a right is unconstitutional, so I suspect that even in California, its going to be tough to find a judge that will uphold the mayor’s proposed ordinance, and I’m optimistic that if it gets that far SCOTUS would be keen to take up a challenge to Liccardo’s dumb idea.

Beyond the legal absurdity, however, there are other fundamental problems with what Liccardo’s proposing. As he reluctantly acknowledged, no insurance policy is going to cover acts of intentional violence, which is the issue that the mayor is supposedly trying to address. Criminals also aren’t going to take out insurance policies on their illegally-owned guns, which means that lawful and responsible gun owners are the ones who are the intended target of Liccardo’s ordinance.

Liccardo claims he wants to “change the system,” but that’s a lie. The “system” in California is already designed to crack down on legal gun ownership, even as Assembly Democrats debate reducing the prison sentences for those who use guns to commit violent crimes. If Liccardo really wanted to change California’s system, he’d be demanding the introduction of shall-issue concealed carry licenses and a repeal of non-violent, possessory crimes like the state’s ban on “assault weapons,” magazines that can hold more than ten rounds, and purchasing ammunition online or out-of-state. The mayor isn’t trying to change the system, he’s trying to add another layer of restrictions on top of the failed system in place.

The mayor’s plan wouldn’t prevent one single violent crime, but it would make exercising the right to keep and bear arms too expensive for many residents. As I pointed out a couple of days ago, Liccardo’s made a big point of comparing mandatory insurance for gun owners to car insurance mandates, even though studies have shown that Black drivers pay more for their auto policies than White drivers.

  • 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.

Does Liccardo really think those same disparities wouldn’t occur when insurance companies start underwriting policies for gun owner liability? Who do you think would pay more for liability insurance on their legally-owned firearm; a 25-year old Black woman or a 60-year old White man? How about a 40-year old Black man or a 30-year old White woman? What about a 22-year old Black man or a 22-year old White woman?

Those living in high-crime neighborhoods would also be expected to pay more, which would impose further burdens on lower-income city residents, including older residents on a fixed income.

Mayor Liccardo is proudly touting a mandatory insurance plan that would violate Supreme Court precedent and the Constitution by imposing a fee on the exercise of a fundamental right, disproportionately harm minorities and lower-income residents, and (by his own admission) wouldn’t cover or mitigate the criminal acts of violence that Liccardo claims are his real target.

You don’t have to be a gun owner or Second Amendment supporter to see the inherent issues in Liccardo’s demands. Heck, the most ardent progressives in San Jose should be among the plans most vociferous opponents given the unequal outcomes, both in terms of financial penalties and potential gun confiscations, that would result if the mayor gets his wish. Liccardo may be aiming for a safer city, but his Jim Crow-style solution that would fall heaviest on minorities and poor residents is no answer to San Jose’s problems with violent criminals.