San Jose's anti-gun stunt is off to a slow start

Townhall Media

The editors of the San Jose Mercury News are starting to realize what gun owners have known for months now: the city’s mandated insurance requirement and annual fee for most gun owners isn’t a serious attempt to fight crime, but a political stunt meant to generate headlines for the anti-gun politicians who put the ordinances in place.


On today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co we’re breaking down a new op-ed from the Mercury Newsisn’t the panacea for violent crime and the editors’ belated realization that the insurance requirement and mandatory fee that former mayor Sam Liccardo and the San Jose City Council claimed it would be.

It was touted as a novel way to hold gun owners accountable.
San Jose’s gun liability insurance requirement — the first-of-its-kind in America and upheld by a federal court judge last week — will make the city safer from the firearm-related violence that has wreaked havoc across the nation, its proponents assert.
But nearly eight months after the ordinance went into effect on Jan. 1, not a single resident has been cited for not having the insurance, according to the city manager’s office, raising questions about the law’s effectiveness.
Liccardo says that the law hasn’t been enforced while a court challenge was underway, but now that a federal judge has upheld the insurance requirement, speciously comparing it to 19th century surety laws, the San Jose police will be enforcing the law. But neither Liccardo nor a police spokesperson can or will detail what, exactly, that enforcement will look like.
The city does not have access to the state’s gun registry, meaning it cannot contact gun owners to ensure that they are in compliance. Instead, the city is trying to boost cooperation through digital advertising, point-of-sale materials at gun retailers and letters to 2,400 local insurance agents.
Under the city ordinance, firearm owners must have homeowner’s, renter’s or gun liability insurance and ensure that it covers any losses or damages resulting from the accidental use of their weapon. A form proving that the owner has the insurance must be kept with the firearm at all times. In October, the San Jose City Council approved a measure penalizing gun owners up to $1,000 for not following the insurance requirement.
“It was a stunt,” said Kostas Moros, a Los Angeles-based attorney who advocates for the Second Amendment, about the city’s law. “This was never about making measured policy that the city could enforce in a tailored, responsible way. This was about making the news. They may still enforce this, but I think it really is going to be enforced when someone is in trouble for something else.”
What else are they going to do? Go door-to-door demanding gun owners turn over their insurance cards? I suppose that’s a possibility if San Jose does gain access to the state’s gun registry data, but even if the city decides on such a totalitarian measure of enforcement they’re liable to be knocking on the wrong doors in many cases, given the exemptions that the city has put in place. Lower-income residents as well as current and former law enforcement officers are exempt from the insurance requirement, as are concealed carry licensees, and while the SJPD may be able to determine who’s a legal gun owner or a holder of a valid CHL, in order to prove someone’s not exempt they’d have to peer into financial records, tax returns, and employment history. That’s an awful lot of police work for what amounts to a civil offense punishable by a $1,000 fine, not to mention the fact that the only people targeted would be those legal gun owners who aren’t driving crime in the city.
The figures reported by the city also present a challenge for another key part of the law: a yearly fee paid out by firearm owners to a nonprofit that helps combat gun-related violence. San Jose’s roughly 55,000 gun owners were expected to contribute over $1 million to the group — but 17 months after the council approved the measure, it has yet to be formally set up. That part of the city’s law is also in limbo because U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman in her Thursday ruling allowed the two plaintiffs suing the city to challenge the fee requirement through an amended complaint on First Amendment grounds.
When asked how the city was expected to raise over $1 million for the nonprofit if it currently has zero data on who is following the law, the city manager’s spokesperson Kristen Van Kley said it will communicate the fee requirement with a similar outreach approach used for the insurance rule.
And will likely get the same result; few, if any, gun owners voluntarily forking over their hard-earned money in exchange for permission to exercise a fundamental civil right, and no real way of enforcing the law, at least on a proactive basis. As Moros says, the only real way to enforce these laws is after the fact; tacking on the fine to any more serious criminal charges a suspect might be facing.
The Mercury News editors clearly don’t want to go so far as to call these ordinances a waste of time and taxpayer money or a political stunt, but that’s exactly what they are, as well a flagrantly unconstitutional attempt to chill the exercise of our Second Amendment rights.

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