San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo thinks you should be required to buy liability insurance for your firearms.
This was the mayor’s response to the Gilroy shooting. A shooting where a maniac smuggled a firearm into a gun-free zone despite all the laws prohibiting him from doing so gets met with still more restrictions being proposed. We’re used to that, of course, but what we’re not used to is someone saying we should have to have liability insurance for our guns.
In an op-ed in the Washington Post, Liccardo writes why he thinks we should be required to have insurance.
Mayors who experience such suffering in their communities after senseless gun violence do not have the luxury of waiting for Congress to act, as lawmakers offer their “thoughts and prayers.” Cities demand problem-solving over posturing. So this month, I proposed an oft-considered but as-yet-never-implemented idea: require every gun owner in the 10th-largest city in the United States to buy liability insurance.
Every U.S. state mandates that automobile drivers buy liability insurance; we should require no less of gun owners. Cars and guns have exacted a similarly grim human toll, each causing about 40,000 deaths in 2017. If San Jose’s gun owners can’t get liability insurance, they can comply with the mandate by paying a fee to compensate taxpayers for the “gun violence subsidy” borne by the public.
That is, for decades, taxpayers have subsidized gun ownership and the harms that accompany it. Direct costs of gun violence to California taxpayers — for ambulances, cops and emergency rooms — exceeded $1.4 billion last year, according to one study. While the Second Amendment protects a right to bear arms, it does not require taxpayers to subsidize the exercise of that right. Courts routinely uphold the imposition of reasonable, nonobstructive fees or taxes on constitutionally protected activities, such as forming a tax-exempt nonprofit, selling a newspaper and purchasing a gun.
Of course, those taxpayers are still going to have to subsidize those things. Liability insurance won’t cover criminals. You’re out of your mind if you think the drug dealer on the corner who bought his gun from a buddy who is also a convicted felon is going to get liability insurance. It’s not going to happen. They’re also not going to pay any fee to the government.
However, Liccardo starts by using bogus statistics to make his case. Those 40,000 deaths that represent the “grim human toll?” Two-thirds of those are suicides, people who take their own life. Guess what no liability insurance is likely to cover? Ever?
Let’s be clear, Liccardo’s proposal will do precisely one thing and one thing only. It’ll make it more expensive than ever to own a firearm in his city.
For the wealthy, of course, that’s not a huge barrier. It’s a pain in the rear they shouldn’t have to deal with, but it’s a speed bump for them and little more. For the poor, though, it’s something else. For them, it might as well be the Berlin Wall. It’s not something to get around easily.
None of that even touches on how enforceable this kind of law would be. It’s one of those things that will be widely ignored and not just by the criminal elements. After all, if I have a hunting rifle or shotgun, why should I report it to the government so I can be required to pay more money?
Now, in fairness to Liccardo, he does seem to acknowledge that criminals won’t pay for insurance. However, that’s about the only salient point he makes on that topic.
Of course, “the crooks” won’t pay a fee or buy insurance; only law-abiding gun owners would. An insurance requirement at the point of sale, if purchased locally, would make it harder for some guns to get into the wrong hands. Regardless of where the gun is purchased, all San Jose residents would face an insurance requirement for merely possessing a gun — just as they would a car. The insurance thereby provides an additional tool for law enforcement against crooks. A prospective burglar casing a home or a criminal standing watch on a street corner may avoid arrest due to lack of demonstrable criminality. Yet if a constitutionally compliant pat-down search revealed possession of an uninsured gun, the suspect would face the consequences of an uninsured motorist, including a fine, misdemeanor conviction and seizure of the gun.
First, an insurance requirement would do absolutely nothing to make it harder for a gun to get into “the wrong hands.” Unless, of course, by “wrong hands” he means the poor, law-abiding people who seek firearms to protect themselves from the criminal element all around them who can’t flee to the suburbs. Those are the only people who will be prevented from buying a gun under this plan. The only ones.
The rest of this paragraph, and the idea itself, reflects someone who doesn’t seem to understand much of anything about criminals, criminality, constitutionally-protected rights, or anything else to do with firearms.
Yet this is a man who people in San Jose think should help make laws for them.
To make matters worse, this idea will get exported regardless of whether San Jose adopts it or not. We’ll be battling this weapons-grade stupid for eons to come.
My hope, though, is that the people of San Jose don’t get stuck with this kind of dumb. I mean the law, not Liccardo. They elected him, so they’re stuck with him.