New legal challenge to San Jose gun insurance mandate, annual fee

Waldrebell / Pixabay

The law hasn’t even taken effect, but the lawsuits are starting to pile up.

The National Association of Gun Rights was first out of the gate in terms of litigation against San Jose’s mandated insurance and annual fees for gun owners, but on Wednesday a coalition of organizations dedicated to fighting unfair taxes launched a lawsuit of their own against the city.

Now, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, along with the Silicon Valley Public Accountability Foundation, the Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association and residents James Barry and George Arrington are following suit. The fiscal oversight organizations filed their lawsuit in Santa Clara County Superior Court last week.

While the legal challenge from the National Association for Gun Rights argues that the law infringes on the constitutional right to bear arms — along with a slew of other complaints about the city not proving it will prevent gun violence — the taxpayer groups are taking aim at the city’s fee requirement.

The law is expected to take effect in August, and when it does, gun-owning residents will be required to pay a $25 to $35 fee on top of purchasing insurance. A nonprofit organization, which is in the process of being set up, will manage and distribute the funds to suicide-prevention programs, fire-arm safety training and gender-based violence services, according to the ordinance.

While the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association usually isn’t embattled in debates over gun rights, Tim Bittle, the group’s director of legal affairs, said they step in “anytime government tells citizens they have to part with their money.”

“Our interest is not in the right to own guns,” Bittle said. “But we’re very concerned about the potential precedent that could be set by this unusual requirement that gun owners pay a fee to a private nonprofit organization, which then has control of how the revenue of the fee gets spent.”

Both of San Jose’s new ordinances are screwy, but the annual fee that must be paid to a private, third-party non-profit that will distribute those funds without any city oversight is bizarre on a couple of different levels. The lawsuit argues, correctly in my opinion, that the “fee” is in actuality a tax imposed on a certain class of citizens, and that under the California constitution it needs approval by 2/3rds of voters.

But the lawsuit also alleges that even if voters did approve the annual tax, it still amounts to an unconstitutional infringement of the First Amendment rights of gun owners by forcing them to subsidize a non-profit and its anti-gun messaging against their will.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, who’s staked his political future on these asinine ordinances, responded to the new lawsuit by telling the Mercury News that “no good deed goes unlitigated.” The problem for Liccardo is that even progressives and some gun control advocates are starting to wake up to the fact that the mayor’s big idea doesn’t target violent criminals and won’t do anything to reduce violent crime. Even among “influential” San Jose residents support for Liccardo’s gun ordinances is pretty anemic, and by the time the new ordinances take effect in August, I doubt many beyond the mayor himself are going to view these measures as a “good deed.” Instead, they should see this for what it is; a shameless and illegal attempt to target the First and Second Amendment rights of gun owners in order to boost Liccardo’s political fortunes.