Want to own a gun, and you happen to live in San Jose? You will soon have to pay for insurance to keep your firearms.
San Jose city council decided to tackle the growing gun violence issue that is plaguing cities across the country. They did so by unanimously passing gun control measures Tuesday that will require all gun owners in the city to carry insurance and pay an annual fee to cover taxpayer costs related to gun violence or risk having their guns confiscated. The city attorney’s office will return to the council in the fall with an ordinance for final approval.
“The council has made clear that while the Second Amendment certainly protects the right for every citizen to own a gun, it does not mandate that taxpayers subsidize that right,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said at a news conference Wednesday.
Liccardo has been reportedly working on gun reform measures for almost two years. The mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival set the ball in motion only to see it shelved so that the main focus of the council was COVID-19.
This is not the only piece of gun reform that the council has passed. Two weeks ago, the council passed a measure that requires all purchases at gun shops to be video and audio recorded.
The exact details of how much the city will charge gun owners have yet to be worked out, although lawmakers stress that fees and insurance will not significantly burden gun owners.
“Owning a gun in this country is expensive simply because guns cost a lot of money,” Liccardo said. “Many guns cost hundreds of dollars. So I would expect that a fee that is perhaps a couple dozen dollars is not going to be particularly onerous.”
San Jose residents phoned into the council meeting Tuesday, some with gun control groups, such as Moms Demand Action, praising the measures.
“There is no one law or policy that will solve the public health crisis that is the gun violence epidemic,” said Jessica Blitchok, a volunteer with Moms Demand Action. “However, a holistic approach will reduce gun harm in San Jose and the greater community.”
“The mandatory gun liability insurance puts a financial burden on a constitutional right,” said an anonymous caller. “When a police officer comes on a call, and they ask the question, ‘Do you have a firearm? Do you have insurance?’ You have to produce that. Seems kind of ridiculous.”
Resident Sasha Sherman agreed stated, “Mayor, it seems like you’re playing national politics here, and I don’t think San Jose taxpayers should subsidize your political ad campaign,” she said.
Councilmember Raul Peralez, a reserve police officer, and gun owner, says he does not understand those who are against gun reform.
“I likely own the most guns of anyone on the council. I’ve continually been in favor of sensible gun laws,” Peralez said Tuesday. “If paying more is able to offset the negative impacts of guns in society, I will continue to support them while being a proud gun owner. They’re not mutually exclusive.”
Councilmembers Dev Davis and Matt Mahan proposed exemptions to carry insurance if gun owners could prove they can safely handle a gun, either through gun safety training or previous experience, such as being a retired or reserve law enforcement officer. City officials plan to come back in the fall for further research on the exemption.
“I see the value of guns for self-defense, for hunting, for sport, and also I’ve seen the research on gun violence,” Davis said. “Research shows that states with tougher gun laws have lower levels of gun violence. I’m not completely sold on the fee and insurance.”