San Jose Mayor Sam Licccardo has pushed his city into requiring gun owners to have liability insurance, among other unconstitutional measures.
However, there’s absolutely no one who offers liability insurance for guns. Not for private individuals, at least.
It seems, though, through an interview with Slate, Liccardo is finally addressing where people are supposed to get coverage.
This is Sam Liccardo’s last year as mayor of San Jose, California, and one of the things he wanted to get done before leaving office is pass a few ordinances around guns. He’s really leaned in. First, San Jose required all gun purchases to be recorded, to ensure they’re legal. Then, just last month, the city instituted another rule, believed to be the first of its kind in the country. This ordinance will require gun owners to both have liability insurance and pay a fee to the city; that money will fund gun safety initiatives. It’s the beginning of a new kind of framework for gun safety—less about gun control, more about harm reduction. On Thursday’s episode of What Next, I spoke to Liccardo about how the ordinance will work and why he’s taken this approach. Our conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.
So the City Council voted last month on this ordinance, and it requires gun owners in San Jose to carry liability insurance and to pay an annual $25 fee, a harm reduction fee. The fee seems a little bit new to me. The insurance seems like something people may already have, through homeowners insurance or something like that. So tell me how this ordinance will change things.
Yeah, all fair. So let me start with the insurance. It is true that many homeowners and renters already have liability insurance for possession of guns. They may not be reporting the guns to the insurance companies as they ought to be. It all depends, obviously, on the policy. But this is insurance that’s widely available. We want to make sure that, first of all, folks have it, because that’s important to compensate those who are injured and harmed by guns, but also because when you notify the insurance company, the insurance company can start to ask questions like, do you have a gun safe? Do you have a trigger lock? Have you taken gun safety classes? And those kinds of actions can help to reduce the premium for the insured, just as drivers got safe driver discounts on our premiums.
We got discounts back in the day when they came out with anti-lock brakes and airbags and other kinds of devices that have made driving safer. In fact, we’ve seen on a per-mile basis that the fatalities related to automobiles have dropped about 80 percent over the last five decades. And a big part of that is insurance companies that are incentivizing people to be safer, to drive safer cars. So in the same way, we’re hoping that insurance companies will really get in the game, roll up their sleeves, not just obviously as San Jose does this, but hopefully as more cities and states do it.
And yet, not everyone is a homeowner.
While renter’s insurance is a thing, what Liccardo is doing is, as we’ve noted before, made it more difficult for the economically disadvantaged–you know, poor folks–to own guns. Not only will they have to pay the euphemistically named “harm reduction fee” better called a poll tax for guns, but they’ll also be required to have homeowner’s insurance (or renter’s insurance).
However, some people have trouble getting renter’s insurance. I’ve talked to folks who live in things like mobile homes who tell me they can’t get affordable insurance.
According to Liccardo and San Jose, these people don’t get to exercise their Second Amendment rights.
Then there’s the comparison to cars that Liccardo is making. He’s not the first to make that one, either. It’s a common enough thing among the anti-Second Amendment crowd.
What they’re forgetting is that driving on public roads is classified as a privilege. As a result, they can require all kinds of things before you can do so and it’s not an infringement on your rights.
But the right to keep and bear arms is just that, a right. The Supreme Court has found it to be an individual right, too. As such, I just don’t see how this is constitutional in any way since the courts have already ruled that requiring people to pay to exercise a right is unconstitutional.
Then there’s the simple fact that this won’t really do anything.
First, let’s talk compensation. All that liability insurance will cover is accidental shootings. While these make headlines, they actually account for only a tiny number of actual shootings each year. Most shootings are carried out intentionally, whether by the gun’s lawful owner or not. Insurance ain’t covering that.
And while insurance may offer deals for owning a gun safe or other such things, that’s only if the actuarial tables illustrate they’ll save money in the long run by doing so. Contrary to what Liccardo may think, most guns are never stolen.
Let’s be honest, if insurance companies aren’t mandating things like security cameras, some kind of automatic lock on the doors, and other such things to combat the money they lose from burglaries. I find it unlikely they’re going to both push for people to have a safe and make them use them or else.
Then again, I don’t really see this surviving legal challenge if it makes it to the Supreme Court. The only hope San Jose has is that that Court just doesn’t feel like fooling with it.