San Jose Invites Lawsuit With New Insurance Mandate, Fees For Gun Owners

(AP Photo/AJ Mast, File)

Imagine you want to buy a gun while you live in San Jose, but in addition to all the hoops the federal government requires, you also have to deal with laws laid down by the state of California. That’s bad enough, but what if you were required to buy insurance and pay the city a fee for simply owning a gun on top of everything else?

Oh, but there’s nothing to worry about, now is there? There’s no way San Jose would be that stupid, right? Especially not on top of something that would amount to a poll tax, right?

Huh.

It seems they are that stupid.

Weeks after a gunman shot and killed nine people at a VTA rail yard, the San Jose City Council is taking steps it hopes will help reduce gun violence and the costs to taxpayers.

It voted Tuesday to establish a yet-to-be-determined gun owner fee to help cover the cost of gunshot-related police and ambulance response and medical treatment.

The Pacific Institute on Research and Evaluation says the cost of gun violence in San Jose is $442 million annually.

The council also approved requiring gun owners to purchase liability insurance.

Mayor Sam Liccardo says he knows the new rules won’t stop mass shootings but he believes safety rules will save lives.

“We live in a country with 4.6 million children who live in a home where guns aren’t locked. There’s a lot we can do to be safer,” he said.

So, a few problems with this measure.

First, charging someone a fee in order to exercise a constitutionally protected right is akin to a poll tax, something the Supreme Court has struck down repeatedly. A prime example is that Georgia’s initial voter ID requirement was shot down not because it was wrong to ask for ID, but because the state charged for the ID. The courts ruled that was akin to a poll tax, so Georgia had to start issuing picture IDs for free to avoid that.

And that was an incidental charge for something that also turned out to be required to exercise a right.

Charging gun owners a fee to exercise that right is beyond ridiculous.

Yet San Jose doubled down on the stupid and is going to require people to buy liability insurance for their guns. The problem? The kind of insurance they’re talking about doesn’t exist for regular gun owners.

There’s self-defense liability insurance that covers the cost of one’s legal defense should they be charged over a self-defense shooting–a kind of insurance anti-gunners absolutely oppose with every fiber of their being–and there’s liability insurance for gun stores. However, I can’t find a single policy available to law-abiding citizens that covers their personal weapons.

And why would there be?

Insurance doesn’t cover criminal acts, which is what Liccardo is trying to do. If someone has this insurance then later commits a mass shooting, I’m quite sure the insurance isn’t going to pay anything. That’s because you can’t get insurance to cover your own criminal acts. That’s not how insurance works.

Not will it cover the illegal acts carried out by another party with an insured firearm. There’s no way they’re going to be interested in covering a gun that’s been stolen from their policyholder. If it wasn’t stolen, then they’ll decide the policyholder is culpable and won’t pay.

At best, all that such insurance will cover is accidental shootings.

However, such accidental shootings represent a tiny fraction of the overall number of shootings each and every year. It’s really a non-issue from a statistical point of view, especially when you’re looking at violent crime.

But for people in San Jose, that doesn’t matter all that much. What they’re looking at is a law that seeks to make it far more expensive to even consider owning a gun, which is going to disproportionally impact poor gun owners in the city, many of which are minorities.

The saving grace is that I just don’t see this law surviving legal challenge. If it ends up before the Supreme Court, expect to see this measure overturned with extreme prejudice.

As it should be.