State Watch

San Jose mayor proposes mandatory liability insurance for gun owners

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San Jose, Calif., Mayor Sam Liccardo on Monday introduced a city ordinance that would require gun owners to either obtain insurance for their firearms or pay a fee that supports the public cost of gun violence.

The proposal, introduced just weeks after a mass shooting in Gilroy, Calif., which left two San Jose children dead, is being touted as a first-of-its-kind “harm reduction” model by the mayor’s office.

“A mayor doesn’t have the luxury of just offering ‘thoughts and prayers’—we have to solve problems. While this is far from a complete solution, it is something we can do to reduce the harms of firearms, without waiting for Congress to take action,” Liccardo said in a statement announcing the proposal. 

{mosads}“Under current Supreme Court rulings, the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution protects the right to keep and bear arms. However, the Constitution does not require taxpayers to subsidize that individual choice. The cost of city police and emergency services required to address gun violence should be paid by gun owners, not all taxpayers.”

If passed by the San Jose City Council, the ordinance would mandate that all gun owners in the city obtain liability insurance for their firearms. The insurance would cover things such as the accidental discharge of a weapon, as well as the actions of a third party that intentionally steals or borrows an individuals gun. 

The insurance would not cover a person’s intentional conduct with a firearm. 

If the insurance is unavailable, or if a gun owner is unable to gain coverage, the ordinance offers the option for individuals to pay a fee that would go toward services including emergency medical help. 

Liccardo said that the payments would need to be protected by high privacy standards to avoid state law prohibiting the government from establishing registries. 

The proposal comes as many elected officials push for new regulations on firearms in the wake of mass shootings in Texas and Ohio that left 31 people dead earlier this month. Last month, a mass shooting at a food festival in Gilroy, located about 30 miles from San Jose, killed three

Liccardo argued that his plan is comparable to the “harm reduction” strategies that have lowered smoking rates as well as deaths and injuries from car accidents. 

“We require motorists to carry automobile insurance, and the insurance industry appropriately encourages and rewards safe driver behavior,” Liccardo said. “We tax tobacco consumption both to discourage risky behavior and to make sure non-smokers are not forced to subsidize the substantial public health costs generated by smoking-related illnesses and deaths. These successful public health models inspire a similar ‘harm reduction’ approach for firearms.”

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who represents a district in Silicon Valley, applauded Liccardo’s proposal, calling it a “tremendous step” because the “costs of gun violence are far too high.”

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