Folks keep finding flaws with San Jose's new gun laws

(AP Photo/Yakima Herald-Republic, TJ Mullinax, File)

San Jose’s new insurance mandates and Second Amendment tax on gun owners won’t take effect until the summer, but with the first lawsuits already filed 2A activists are already speaking out about the many issues with the legislation. Over at the Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal, attorney and Second Amendment expert Amy Swearer has laid out eight problems with the new gun control ordinances, but even that isn’t an exhaustive list.

Swearer kicks off her list with the enforceability (or lack thereof)  of the new laws, which as she notes will be nearly impossible. Personally, I would have led with the item that came in sixth place in her column; the unconstitutionality of the mandates.

San Jose refers to the new fee imposed on gun owners as a “Gun Harm Reduction Fee,” but it’s nothing less than an unconstitutional tax on the exercise of an enumerated right.

The Supreme Court has struck down similar laws, reasoning that “a state may not impose a charge for the enjoyment of a right granted by the federal Constitution.”

This is precisely what San Jose’s fee does—require gun owners to pay an annual sum of money to exercise their Second Amendment rights inside the city.

Forget about enforceability or the lack of insurance for those who even attempt to comply with the law. The fundamental problem with both of these new ordinances is that they infringe on a constitutionally protected right. And while Swearer is right about each and every one of the issues she raises (which also include placing blame on gun owners for the actions of violent criminals and ignoring evidence-based strategies to reduce violent crime without targeting lawful gun owners), she didn’t bring up one of intended consequences of San Jose’s new laws: gun confiscation.

As Tate Fegley, a Postdoctoral Associate at the Center for Governance and Markets at the University of Pittsburgh and Research Fellow at the Independent Institute writes, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has been pretty up front about the fact that he’s hoping his new ordinances will lead to guns being taken away. Here’s the mayor speaking about what he hopes to see once the laws are being enforced.

Skeptics will say that criminals won’t comply. They’re right; yet that’s an important feature of these proposals, not a defect. These ordinances create a legal mandate that provides police with a lawful means for seizing guns from non-law-abiding, dangerous people.

The response to every officer’s call for domestic violence in my city, for example, includes the question, “do you have any guns in the home?” If that gun owner lacks proof of payment or insurance, the police can seize the gun.

Fegley points out that a lot of gun control activists have been comparing San Jose’s new requirements to things like car insurance mandates, which is off-base for a number of reasons, starting with the fact that individuals cited for driving without car insurance generally don’t have their vehicle seized as a result. Can you imagine the howls of protest on the left if law enforcement could permanently take possession of someone’s car simply for driving without proof of insurance?

Yet that’s precisely what Sam Liccardo and the San Jose politicians who almost unanimously approved these orders (there was one lone city council member who voted against the insurance mandate, and just three opposed to the mandatory fee that must be paid to a third party non-profit in exchange for the “privilege” of keeping a gun in the home) are calling for when it comes to lawfully purchased and possessed firearms.

There’s a reason why San Jose’s new ordinances have “first-in-the-nation” status. They’re truly terrible ideas that even most progressives and bleeding-heart liberals would have opposed until recently. Nobody really believes these laws are going to reduce violent crime or meaningfully fund anti-violence programs (something that should be funded by the general public to begin with, not simply gun owners). I don’t even think they’re going to drastically reduce gun ownership, though I suspect that compliance with the law (if enforcement isn’t stayed by the courts before it goes into effect) is going to be negligible. More than anything, these ordinances are designed to simply harass gun owners, and it will be the working class and lower-income residents of San Jose who will bear the brunt of that harassment.

Not that Liccardo cares about that. In fact, I’d argue that for the mayor, it’s another feature and not a bug within the ordinances. Here’s hoping the courts see these new laws for what they really are: a case of “garbage in, garbage out” that’s added to the trash heap of unconstitutional abuses of authority.