A law without any way to enforce it might as well not exist. If I banned ice cream but provided no mechanism for enforcing the law, people would just keep eating ice cream. Which means San Jose is in a really tough spot.
You see, while San Jose has talked a very big game about their proposed gun control measures, there’s one thing they still haven’t figured out. They haven’t figured out enforcement.
San Jose lawmakers proposed first-in-the-nation gun measures in June, mandating that gun owners carry insurance and pay into a public fund to cover gun violence costs. But enforcing the measures might be more difficult than the city anticipates.
“The devil is in the details. Sure, gun violence is a very serious problem for the community and that’s true in San Jose as it is everywhere else,” said Philip Cook, a professor emeritus of public policy at Duke University and co-author of Gun Violence: The Real Costs, a book about the economic impacts of gun violence. “But insurance is not likely to affect much of it.”
Cook says most home insurance companies cover some of the damage that guns already do, such as when a gun accidentally discharges. Things that aren’t covered include deliberate misuses of guns, such as suicide by gun or homicides, which account for 97% of all gun deaths, according to 2017 numbers from the Pew Research Center.
And no one is going to cover an intentional act such as a homicide or suicide. Especially since most of the firearms used for homicides are stolen firearms in the first place. Why would an insurance company pay for the misuse of a gun that was stolen from the policyholder months earlier?
Honestly, this is beyond stupid. The thing is, it looks like San Jose knows this.
Though the council approved exploring the gun control measures in June, the city attorney’s office still has to come back with an ordinance that is defensible amid legal challenges that gun rights groups promise to raise.
The measures are part of sweeping gun control reforms proposed by Mayor Sam Liccardo. He first introduced the idea of gun owner insurance in 2019 after the Gilroy Garlic Festival mass shooting. The pandemic shelved plans last year, but Liccardo revived his gun control measures in June just weeks after a mass shooting at a VTA rail yard killed nine VTA workers.
According to the proposed rules, the city will set up a portal where gun owners must submit their fees and upload proof of insurance. Owners who fail to comply will be charged with a civil offense, with the possibility of a fine and confiscation of their guns by the police. Certain people, such as retired or reserve police officers and holders of concealed weapon permits, will be exempt from the requirement.
Lawmakers have repeatedly stressed fees and insurance will not significantly burden gun owners, and that fee waivers for low-income residents will be available. But they have yet to figure out just how much insurance and annual fees will be.
Of course, the problem is that while some gun owners can handle these fees and the insurance without issue, not all of them can. That’s why poll taxes are unconstitutional. It keeps poorer Americans from exercising their right to vote.
In the same vein, requiring fees and an insurance policy will keep any number of San Jose citizens from being able to exercise their right to keep and bear arms. That makes it a significant burden on gun owners and the Second Amendment equivalent to a poll tax.
But then again, it isn’t like San Jose lawmakers really want law-abiding citizens to be able to have guns anyway. They just can’t ban them outright.