San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is leaving office in early 2023, but he’ll be leaving behind a legacy that includes passage of one of the dumbest gun control measures in the state of California; a requirement that all legal gun owners in the city obtain a liability insurance policy and pay an annual fee for the privilege of exercising their constitutionally-protected right to keep and bear arms.
In an op-ed at the New York Times, Liccardo claims that the new ordinances will have an impact… though his explanation about how these measures will curtain violent crime, suicides, or accidents involving firearms doesn’t make much sense.
Our gun insurance mandate will address an often overlooked aspect of gun harm: unintentional shootings, which kill nearly 500 Americans annually and send about 26,000 others to emergency rooms, many of them children. Insurance companies can use premiums to encourage safer behavior by providing gun-owning policyholders with financial incentives to take gun-safety classes, store their firearms in a gun safe and install a chamber-load indicator or trigger lock. These steps could save many lives in a nation where 4.6 million children live in a home where a gun is kept loaded and unlocked.
Most gun-owning residents can comply with the insurance mandate with little or no additional cost under standard homeowners’ and renters’ policies. As more jurisdictions adopt an insurance requirement — legislators in New Jersey and California have recently proposed them — we expect that the insurance industry will become increasingly invested in reducing gun-related harm. Premiums will reflect the risks of gun ownership and will adjust accordingly, in the same way that auto insurers offer “good driver” discounts or how they incentivized the installation of anti-lock brakes and airbags in the past.
First off, whether or not existing homeowners or renter’s insurance would cover the type of liability that Liccardo is talking about is very much in dispute. What we do know is that lower-income Americans tend to pay higher premiums for their auto insurance, and there’s every reason to believe that the mayor’s plan will also disproportionately impact those San Jose residents living paycheck-to-paycheck or below the poverty line. The insurance mandate is already constitutionally suspect, but enforcement is also likely to fall hardest on lower-income citizens who are legal gun owners while leaving the criminals who prey on their communities untouched.
Liccardo also touts the annual fee that the city will impose on all legal gun owners next year, with the money collected going to a third-party organization that’s supposed to disperse those funds to violence prevention groups; something Liccardo predicts will “provide a better chance to get help to troubled adults and teenagers before they pick up their guns.”
I’m all in favor of violence prevention strategies that don’t revolve around criminalizing a constitutional right, but if San Jose wants to fund those groups then the money raised should come from all city residents, not just those who own a firearm for self-defense. As it stands, both the insurance mandate and the annual fee imposed by the city of San Jose are more punitive in nature than preventative, and they’re both aimed at financially punishing those who would dare to exercise their Second Amendment rights inside the city limits.
Imagine for a moment that Liccardo and the San Jose City Council had imposed mandatory liability insurance and an annual fee for all users of social media in the city, with an eye towards reducing online “hate speech” or even clearly illegal activity like child pornography or solicitation. How well do you think would go over, both in a court of law and the court of public opinion? Why should the same imposition on our Second Amendment rights be any different, especially since Liccardo makes it explicitly clear he doesn’t think much about our right to armed self-defense in the first place.
Until Congress and the courts arrive at a politically and constitutionally viable approach to sensibly restricting gun ownership, we must make gun ownership safer. There is no inevitability to gun-related death, injury and suffering — unless, through our inaction, we allow there to be so.
Here’s a clue for Liccardo: there’s no way to “sensibly” violate the constitutionally-protected rights of we the people. Either you respect them or you don’t, and in the case of Liccardo v. lawful gun owners, there’s no doubt where Sam Liccardo and his allies in the anti-gun movement stand.