SAN JOSE, Calif.—The San Jose City Council made history during a Jan. 25 meeting by requiring residents who own firearms to obtain liability insurance and pay an annual nonprofit fee, the first of its kind in the United States.
After four hours of discussion, debate, and public comments supporting and opposing the new law, the council voted 10–1 for the insurance requirement while the annual fee tallied in at 8–3.
“While the Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms, it does not require taxpayers to subsidize gun ownership,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said in a statement. “We won’t magically end gun violence, but we will stop paying for it.”
Liccardo told the council that despite different perspectives, everyone could agree to work together to reduce gun violence.
Councilwoman Devora Davis, who voted against the new regulations, was concerned that they potentially violate the Second Amendment.
“What we have before us this evening is unconstitutional,” Davis said. “And even though we have pro bono services to fight this in court, the city can still be on the hook for legal fees and potential damages if the court [rules the city’s ordinance as] unconstitutional.”
Under the new ordinance, which goes into effect in August, San Jose gun owners must provide proof of insurance whenever the firearm is being stored or transported.
The insurance must provide minimum coverage through a homeowner’s, renter’s, or gun liability insurance, specifically covering “losses or damages resulting from any negligent or accidental use of the firearm,” according to the ordinance.
Additionally, the law will require gun owners to pay a $25 to $35 annual “gun harm reduction fee,” which funds a nonprofit organization—still under development—that invests in gun safety, mental health services, and suicide prevention.
Citizens who fail to comply with the new order could be fined or have their firearms temporarily or permanently seized.
Those exempt from the ordinance are law enforcement, gun owners with a concealed carry weapon permit, and low-income individuals with a discretionary waiver.
Gun control advocates celebrated the move for more firearm accountability.
“Gun ownership comes with risks—risks to gun owners and risks to us all,” said a resident during the public comments section. “These risks also have costs associated with gun deaths, injuries, and psychological trauma. Until now, we’ve all been paying these costs whether we own guns or not. I believe it’s time for gun owners to pay their fair share.”
On the other hand, Second Amendment advocates called the ordinance an infringement on their constitutional right to bear arms, with some residents saying it punishes law-abiding citizens and could only exacerbate the use of illegal and unregistered firearms in the state.
“Putting a $25 fee on our ‘privilege’ to own and possess firearms within the city limits is already a precursor requirement of exercising an enumerated constitutional right,” Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California—a pro-gun political action committee based out of the state’s capital—told The Epoch Times. “You can’t put preconditions on the exercise of religion, on our ability to assemble, and on people’s ability to exercise the Second Amendment.”
Paredes, who has already begun forming a “dream team” of lawyers to challenge San Jose’s ordinance before it takes effect this summer, said insurance policies covering the misuse of a firearm simply do not exist even though the city’s gun owners are now required to be insured.
“It’s the single most insincere political act in the state of California,” he said. “This is a slippery slope because what happens in California either affects or infects the rest of the country.”
Over the past 12 months, 8 million Americans purchased a gun, according to Paredes.
“They bought a gun for the first time because they have concluded that they are their own first line of defense,” Paredes said.
The rise in gun sales has been the pattern in the past couple of years. In 2020, handgun sales in California increased 65.5 percent to almost 690,000 compared to 2019, according to a statement released last July by Rob Bonta, California attorney general.