San Jose approves Second Amendment "sin tax," insurance mandate

Photo by Tony Avelar/Invision for LeEco/AP Images

As we anticipated earlier this week, the San Jose, California City Council has signed off on new ordinances requiring gun owners to carry liability insurance as well as pay an annual fee to the city. The vote on Tuesday evening wasn’t close, despite warnings from gun owners and Second Amendment organizations that the new ordinances are clearly unconstitutional and will soon face legal challenges.

For mayor Sam Liccardo and many of the city council members, the legal challenges are the point. I don’t think any elected official in San Jose truly believes these ordinances are going to curtail illegal gun possession. Instead, they’re trying to make it more costly and legally dangerous for residents to lawfully exercise their Second Amendment rights.

Proponents like Mayor Sam Liccardo acknowledged that the two-pronged ordinance will not affect residents who unlawfully own guns. However, they argue that it will incentivize safer gun ownership, reduce the public cost of gun violence and provide resources and services for residents who are most affected by the use of guns — those who own a firearm or live in a home or are in a relationship with someone who does.

“The point is we can reduce a lot of harm and tragedy and pain, even if we’re not going to magically make a gun fall out of the hands of the crook,” Liccardo said.

The council’s decision came more than two years after Liccardo first unveiled his proposal for the ordinance, and after hearing from nearly 100 speakers on both sides of the debate during Tuesday night’s meeting. While supporters saw the ordinance as an “innovative, nonburdensome way to reduce gun violence,” opponents called it “financial and bureaucratic harassment” and a policy that “taxes law-abiding citizens” while “distracting the city from going after criminals.”

Just a few hours after the city council approved these ordinances, San Jose police were called out to the scene of a triple stabbing. Think Mayor Liccardo is going to require all owners of sharp pointy knives to also carry insurance and pay a fee to the city for the “privilege” of owning a blade?

Yeah, me neither. Again, these ordinances have nothing to do with reducing violent crime. And if this was really about improving public safety, then why single out legal gun owners to pay for programs that are designed to benefit the public at large?

The new ordinance, which is set to take effect in August, requires that all San Jose residents who own a gun obtain a homeowner’s, renter’s or gun liability insurance policy that specifically covers losses or damages resulting from negligent or accidental use of their firearm.

Additionally, gun owners will be asked to pay an annual fee of between $25-$35 to a nonprofit organization that will be established to manage the funds and distribute them to groups who will offer various services to residents who own a firearm or live with someone who does. Those services will include suicide prevention programs, gender-based violence services, mental health and addiction services, and firearm safety training, according to the city’s ordinance.

So legal gun owners are going to have to pay a fee to help fund mental health and addiction services? Why not charge everyone who shops at a pharmacy the same fee? In fact, why not just impose a city-wide tax to fund these programs if they’re truly that valuable?

The answer is that it’s not about these programs. This is about the city trying to prove it has the power and authority to single out gun ownership as a second-class right, and to jail those who don’t bend the knee. In fact, the city council and Mayor Liccardo went out of their way to craft loopholes allowing the powerful and connected to avoid having to comply.

“There’s a lot more to gun violence than mass shootings and homicides, and that’s one of the things that gets lost,” said councilmember David Cohen. “… A large number of incidents are things that happen in the home and what we’re focused on here is to try and reinforce responsible gun ownership.”

Under the city’s vision for the ordinance, the nonprofit will send out letters through the Department of Justice database to registered gun owners who live in San Jose asking them to pay the annual fee. Once a payment is made, the nonprofit will send the gunowner a form with their proof of payment and a space on the form 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.

Residents who are 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 facing financial hardships.

San Jose is located in Santa Clara County, which is one of the more restrictive counties in the state when it comes to issuing concealed carry permits… at least for those not willing or able to cough up thousands of dollars in cash and goods in order to help improve their odds of approval. The sheriff and several of her top deputies have been indicted in the concealed carry bribery scandal, and yet the officials in San Jose just created a carve out for the chosen few who possess a carry permit in the city, along with other protected classes like law enforcement and “low-income residents”.

We’ll be talking more about these new requirements and the lawsuits that are sure to follow on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co with Mark Walters, the host of Armed Armerican Radio. In fact, by the time we chat the first civil complaints may have been filed in federal court, and hopefully the courts will step in and grant an injunction blocking enforcement of these 2A taxes before the ordinances take effect in August. If not, I expect widespread non-compliance on the part of San Jose’s legal gun owners… at least those that choose to continue living in a city that holds our Second Amendment rights (and those who exercise them) in such contempt.