California’s San Jose votes to become first in US to require gun owners to pay fees and carry insurance

Gun owners will be required to pay an annual fee and carry liability insurance in move aimed to reduce gun violence and incentivise safety

Rachel Sharp
Wednesday 26 January 2022 16:06
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<p>San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo at a memorial for the victims of a mass shooting in the city in June  </p>

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo at a memorial for the victims of a mass shooting in the city in June

San Jose is set to become the first city in the US to require gun owners to pay a fee and carry liability insurance, in a move aimed at helping to reduce gun violence and ease the burden of gun crime on taxpayers in the California city.

The city council approved the two first-in-a-nation measures on Tuesday night, voting 10-1 in favour of passing the insurance provisions and 8-3 in favour of the fees.

The first measure will require gun owners to get liability insurance to cover damage caused by their firearm, with lower premiums for those with gun safes, trigger locks and those who complete gun safety classes..

Under the fee measure, gun owners will be charged an annual fee of $25 with the funds going to a nonprofit for evidence-based gun crime prevention initiatives and to help victims of gun violence.

The historic move has divided opinion with gun control advocates welcoming the clampdown as a way to encourage responsible gun safety among owners while gun rights groups have already vowed to block it if it enters into law.

The ordinance first needs to be approved at its final reading in February before it will take effect in the city from August.

Once introduced, law enforcement officers will check for proof of insurance from gun owners, in a similar way to checks for car insurance.

Failure to comply with the rules after that will result in fines and gun owners having their firearms impounded, according to the ordinance.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, who first proposed the measures back in June, said that these steps will help reduce both the risk and financial costs of gun violence on citizens.

“Tonight San José became the first city in the United States to enact an ordinance to require gun owners to purchase liability insurance, and to invest funds generated from fees paid by gun owners into evidence-based initiatives to reduce gun violence and gun harm,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Thank you to my council colleagues who continue to show their commitment to reducing  gun violence and its devastation in our community.”

He added that he hopes to help other cities “replicate these initiatives across the nation”.

The mayor introduced the measures in the wake of the mass shooting at a public transit rail yard in San Jose in June.

The gunman, an employee of the Valley Transportation Authority, shot and killed nine coworkers before turning the gun on himself.

Rachel Michelson from Moms Demand Action said the new measures will help prevent more lives being lost to gun violence by incentivising safer gun ownership.

“Once again, San José has taken initiative to be a leader in the gun violence prevention movement,” she said in a statement.

“This ordinance is an innovative approach to address the costs of gun violence and incentivize safer practices that can help prevent firearm deaths and injuries.

“Other cities should follow San José’s lead and prioritize safer cities.”

However, gun rights groups have claimed the measures violate their Second Amendment rights.

Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, Dudley Brown, president of the National Association for Gun Rights and executive director of the National Foundation for Gun Rights, vowed to file a lawsuit if the ordinance comes into effect.

"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," he said in a statement to CNN.

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