Last week, San Jose passed a first in the nation bill that would require gun owners to have liability insurance and pay a fee to the city. The gun control crowd swooned over the measure, hoping it will become a model for other communities and states throughout the nation.
However, there are serious issues with the bill. It’s already facing legal challenge and I seriously doubt it’ll survive a Supreme Court challenge, should it get to that level, for one thing.
As J.D. Tuccille over at Reason notes, though, that’s only part of the problem.
Deputizing private parties to restrict liberty has become popular among politicians constrained by constitutional protections for individual rights. They get to target personal freedom without explicitly restricting anything, like a bratty kid waving his hands around a sibling’s face while chanting “I’m not touching you!” The latest such example is the San Jose, California, city government, which insists that it is “constitutionally compliant” in requiring gun owners to purchase liability insurance and to pay an “annual gun harm reduction fee” to exercise a right specifically protected by the Second Amendment.
“This isn’t actually governmental regulation,” Liccardo insisted to NPR last week. “This is private sector regulation. This is insurance companies. Insurance companies have been regulating safety of automobiles for five decades, and as a result, we all have seen per mile deaths drop dramatically over the last five decades because we have air bags and anti-lock brakes and so forth that insurance companies incentivize drivers to go buy.”
That’s a common comparison for gun prohibitionists and it doesn’t improve with repetition. For starters “the right to bear arms” enjoys specific constitutional protections, unlike car ownership. Then there’s the fact that, like many places, California doesn’t require insurance and registration for vehicles used only on private property or transported by trailer. If the Second Amendment didn’t protect gun ownership, that might make car insurance and fee requirements comparable to burdens on people carrying concealed weapons, but not to those placed on people keeping guns in their homes and taking them to a range.
That’s a point I’ve made more than a few times, truth be told.
Yet Liccardo still makes that point because few in the media will push back at it. Sure, I will and Tuccille has, but only a handful of others have any interest in doing so, almost all of whom are easily dismissed by the San Jose mayor.
But the reality is that this push to use private parties to create an end-around on constitutional protections is especially problematic.
Plus, he’s also full of it.
See, he makes the comparison to auto insurance, but he forgets that auto insurance was a thing long before it was mandated by any state. It already existed and states could see the advantages that would be in place if everyone had it. In particular, people wouldn’t be stuck paying for repairs because someone else hit them.
But that insurance has always covered accidents, not intentional misuse of a vehicle. It also doesn’t cover the guy who stole your car and slammed into a school bus.
Yet what Liccardo is doing is gun control. By mandating that people buy insurance–insurance that doesn’t seem to exist anywhere on the planet–he’s seeking to control who can and cannot have firearms. In fact, he’s really trying to make it so no one can own firearms at all, though I suspect he figures someone will eventually offer the required insurance.
In truth, though, it’s gun control. Privatized or not, at that point we’re just quibbling on the details.