A California city has approved a law forcing gun owners to have insurance and pay an annual $25 fee.
“Certainly, the Second Amendment protects every citizen’s right to own a gun. It does not require taxpayers to subsidize that right,” Democratic San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said, according to CNN.
Gun owners are also required under the law to have insurance. The law, which received its first approval in January, will need approval on a second reading this month before it can go on the books, taking effect in August.
Even before the second reading, a lawsuit has been filed to block the process.
“We’ve opposed this ordinance every step of the way and we will see this through to the end,” Dudley Brown, president of the National Association for Gun Rights and executive director of the National Foundation for Gun Rights, told CNN before the Jan. 25 vote that gave the law initial approval in the Silicon Valley city.
“If the San Jose City Council actually votes to impose this ridiculous tax on the constitutional right to gun ownership, our message is clear and simple: see you in court,” Brown said.
Brown’s organization, an advocacy group for the Second Amendment, filed a lawsuit against the law the day after the first reading, according to KRON-TV in San Francisco.
The National Association for Gun Rights has just sued the City of San Jose (@pnjaban is one of the plaintiffs attorneys), alleging that the city’s new firearms fee and liability insurance requirement violates constitutional law.https://t.co/fW8dAkH3hu pic.twitter.com/mWz2u7NeLC
— Cyrus Farivar (@cfarivar) January 26, 2022
San Jose, California 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.https://t.co/yGQhD0mR9i
— reason (@reason) February 5, 2022
Even in a gun-control state like California, it’s a law the could go too far.
In an interview with Slate, Liccardo said that “when people become aware of the fact that, ‘hey, whether you own a gun or not, you’re actually paying for this,’ it starts to get folks thinking about, well, ‘how could we better distribute the costs of gun ownership and gun harm?’”
Liccardo said gun owners “may not be reporting the guns to the insurance companies as they ought to be.”
“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,” he said.
Gun owners who do not pay the fee will face a fine, he said, but they will not be subject to criminal charges. However, he said, they could have their gun seized, and illustrated a possible scenario.
“Encountering people with guns, out on the street, in bars and nightclubs — you can imagine a host of different venues where a police officer would really like to have the ability to remove a gun from a potentially combustible situation. For example, there’s a bar brawl and they’re patting down everybody and someone’s got a gun. ‘Have you paid your fee? You have insurance?’ ‘No.’
“OK, well, there’s an opportunity for us to remove the gun. And then when the gun owner comes back and demonstrates that they comply with the law and they’re a lawful gun owner, they get their gun back. But in the meantime, you’ve taken a gun out of a bar brawl. And that’s not a bad thing,” he said.
Liccardo insisted that the fee is legal.
“The fact that there’s a constitutional right attached somewhere to the exercise of a particular activity doesn’t mean it can’t be regulated, taxed, or have a fee imposed. Newspapers pay taxes, even though that’s an important First Amendment right.,” he told Slate.
The fee, he said, is hardly a burden.
“Given the fact that buying a gun in this country costs hundreds if not thousands of dollars, depending on the model you take, a $25 fee is probably not terribly onerous, it seems to me. Nor is insurance, which can be obtained at little or no additional cost,” he said.
The fee will go to a not-for-profit whose focus not even Liccardo could clarify.
He said its board of directors “will be comprised of a host of folks, including, for example, Stanford professors, an epidemiologist who has been focused on gun harm, and nonprofit experts who understand domestic violence prevention programs, suicide prevention.
“We’ve invited and at least one member of a gun group has actually joined this effort to create this nonprofit, because we want organizations representing gun owners to be at the table, helping us to understand, how do we best communicate, how do we best invest? And overwhelmingly, under the ordinance, these dollars are going to serve occupants of gun-owning households or significant others who are in relationships with those who own guns,” he said.