San Jose set to pull the trigger on mandatory insurance, fees for gun owners

AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane

The San Jose City Council will likely give final approval on Tuesday evening to new ordinances requiring legal gun owners to purchase liability insurance and pay the city an annual fee in order to keep a gun in their home, with the first lawsuits challenging the ordinances likely to be filed on Wednesday morning.

Mayor Sam Liccardo first proposed the new infringements on the right to keep and bear arms last summer, after a disgruntled employee of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority shot and killed nine co-workers before taking his own life, but for months the city has been quiet about the specifics of the mayor’s proposal. With the final vote set to take place during the city council’s Tuesday night meeting, the San Jose Mercury News reports that Liccardo’s proposals have been “substantially revised,” though not nearly enough to satisfy the concerns of gun owners.

Under the proposed ordinance, all San Jose residents who own a firearm must maintain a homeowner’s, renter’s or gun liability insurance policy that specifically covers losses or damages resulting from “any negligent or accidental use of the firearm.”

In addition, San Jose gun owners will be asked to pay an annual fee of between $25-$35 to a nonprofit organization that will be created to manage the funds and use them to provide a broad range of services to residents who own a firearm or live in a household with someone that does. Those services might include suicide prevention programs, domestic violence services, mental health and addiction services, and firearm safety training, according to the city’s ordinance.

The organization, which would be a new nonprofit launched for this sole purpose, is being created by a wide group of representatives that include health care executive Reymundo Espinoza, Stanford professor Dr. Julie Parsonnet and nonprofit leaders like Esther Peralez-Dieckmann, executive director of NextDoor Solutions to Domestic Violence.

“By bringing together all those different perspectives, we get to look at this from a public health standpoint and in the end, make our community safer,” said Peralez-Dieckmann. “Whether you’re pro-guns or anti-guns, no one can argue that we have substantial injury in our community and substantial issues that need to be addressed.”

The nonprofit will use records provided by the Department of Justice to send letters to all gun owners in San Jose asking them to pay the annual fee and then give them a form that will show proof of payment and allow them to fill out their insurance information. Gun owners will be required to carry or store a copy of the paperwork with their firearm, according to the mayor.

Those who fail to adhere to the city’s new rules could face temporary forfeiture of their firearm or in certain situations, a civil fine. San Jose Police Chief Anthony Mata said previously that officers will not be seeking out offenders but if they come across a firearm during their normal course of duty, they’ll ask the owner for proof of payment and insurance.

Individuals exempted from the ordinance include sworn, active reserve or retired police officers, people who have a license to carry a concealed weapon, and low-income residents who are exempt from paying court fees because of their financial state.

After reading over the language of the new ordinances, I’m convinced that Liccardo and the city council members are fully aware that what they’re doing violates the rights of gun owners in the city, but they A) don’t care and B) expect the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to rubber stamp any restriction they put in place. Still, these ordinances go so far that even the most anti-gun appellate court in the land might be hard pressed to find the legal justification to keep them in place.

Not only are the requirements themselves patently unconstitutional, but the loopholes contained within seem designed to ensure that a disproportionate burden falls on the backs of average, ordinary citizens who keep a firearm in their home for self-defense. If you’re one of the chosen few to possess a concealed carry license in Santa Clara County (where, by the way, the local sheriff’s office has been accused of engaging in a pay-for-play bribery scheme involving the issuing of concealed carry licenses), you don’t need to show proof of insurance or pay a Second Amendment sin tax. Law enforcement gets a pass too, as do low-income residents. And of course those who don’t legally own their guns (in other words, the vast majority of those responsible for violent crime in the city) aren’t expected to pay up either, though they’re not formally exempted by the ordinances.

Let’s also not ignore the fact that, under this proposal, gun owners would be required to pay money to a non-profit in order to exercise their 2A rights. Now, I don’t think it would be any better if the money were paid directly to the city of San Jose, but I’m having a very hard time figuring out why officials think they have the authority to require gun owners to fork over cash to a third-party organization. If they can require that, why couldn’t they require gun owners to pay $35 a year to Moms Demand Action or another gun control group?

I’d call this an example of virtue signaling on the part of San Jose politicians, but there’s nothing virtuous about treating a fundamental civil right as if its a privilege to be doled out by the government. No, this is authoritarian-signaling; a sign that the vast majority of the left is actively trying to destroy your right of armed self-defense even while they work to swiftly return violent offenders to the streets. And while I wish the outcome of Tuesday’s vote was in doubt, I think the biggest question at the moment is which Second Amendment organization (or organizations) will be the first to file suit and challenge these unconstitutional infringements in federal court.