San José is on track to become the first city in the country to require gun owners to purchase liability insurance and pay the city fees to spare taxpayers the financial burden of gun violence .
This particular gun control measure has never been tried before, so it is generating a lot of buzz across the country.
“While the Second Amendment certainly protects the right to own a firearm, it does not force taxpayers to subsidize possession of these weapons,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said at the city council meeting on Tuesday. “And we need a mechanism that will both compensate injured victims and ease some of the burden on taxpayers.”
But, contrary to many reports, leaders in San José have yet to approve the bill.
And many details still need to be worked out, including how much money gun owners are expected to remit to the city each year, who should be exempt, and how quickly gun owners need to get insurance.
Here’s what we know at this point.
San José leaders voted this week on Liccardo’s gun control plan. What exactly happened?
San Jose city council voted unanimously on Tuesday night to support Liccardo’s 10-point gun control plan, which it announced earlier this month.
As part of the vote, council asked the city attorney to draft an ordinance that would require gun owners in San Jose to purchase liability insurance and pay an annual fee to the city to subsidize the expenses. related to shootings, such as police and ambulance interventions, medical care and other municipal services.
The city attorney is expected to submit the draft ordinance to council in September for a vote. It is unclear how quickly the new mandate would take effect if approved at that time.
How much should gun owners pay?
The amount gun owners owe the city each year has not yet been determined.
Liccardo said it would most likely be “a few tens of dollars” and promised to try and make it affordable for low-income residents.
Over the next three months, a consultant from the nonprofit Pacific Institute on Research and Evaluation will estimate the annual public cost incurred by San José in connection with gun violence and divide it by the number of gun owners in the country. city to determine the annual rate.
The Pacific Institute released a preliminary report estimating gun violence costs San Jose around $ 63 million a year, but it will come back in September with a final estimate and annual fee calculation.
How will it all work?
Gun owners would be required to self-certify that they have purchased insurance. They will be asked to add insurance coverage to their policies and obtain some type of compliance form to take with them.
As for fees, the city’s finance ministry plans to set up an “airtight” portal on the city’s website where gun owners submit their annual payments and other documents indicating their compliance with the fee. ‘order.
How will the new law be applied?
The San Jose Police Department will be responsible for enforcing the order, but that doesn’t mean officers will track down every gun owner in the city to make sure they’re in compliance.
“In the course of our normal job, if we come across a gun, we’ll ask if the owner has insurance,” San Jose Police Chief Anthony Mata said at the council meeting. “We’re not going door to door inspecting guns and asking if they have insurance.”
What would happen to gun owners who don’t get insurance or pay the fees?
Failure to comply with the ordinance would constitute a civil offense rather than a criminal offense.
Under the order, officers who meet a gun owner without insurance or proof of payment will be allowed to confiscate the gun. The gun owner may also be required to pay a fee for non-compliance.
Refusal to surrender firearms at the request of the police could result in a misdemeanor charge.
Who would be exempt from the ordinance?
The draft ordinance already provides for several exemptions, in particular for sworn law enforcement, retired or reserve police officers and holders of concealed weapons permits.
Council members Dev Davis and Matt Mahan also called on the city to consider exempting gun owners who have completed a safety training certification that exceeds the minimum standards required by state law. or have a gun safe that meets high security standards beyond those required by law. . Liccardo seemed less than enthusiastic about supporting such exemptions.
Do all San José officials support the proposed gun control measure?
Several council members raised concerns about the ordinance at this week’s council meeting.
Board member Pam Foley said she was concerned about whether it would be worth fighting the lawsuits. Maya Esparza said she wanted to make sure the city didn’t criminalize residents who couldn’t afford the new warrants. And Davis said she “wasn’t completely sold on fees and insurance.”
While the board has unanimously agreed to move forward with drafting the law, it remains to be seen whether everyone will support the final proposal in September.
What does the measure hope to accomplish?
Liccardo first proposed the ordinance following the 2019 Gilroy Garlic Festival where two San Jose children were killed. Then, in the wake of the Bay Area’s largest mass shooting at an VTA yard in San Jose a few months ago, the mayor unveiled a new plan to finally implement the control measure. long delayed firearms.
He compared the proposed ordinance to attempts to reduce smoking and car crashes, noting that motorists are required to carry auto insurance and that tobacco consumption is taxed both to discourage smoking and to cover costs. costs of smoking-related illness and death.
Liccardo said that while the ordinance “alone will not significantly stop mass shootings”, it may be part of the larger equation.