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San Jose Passes First-of-Its-Kind Insurance Requirement for Gun Owners

The measure will affect about 55,000 gun-owning households in the California city.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo speaks during a press conference honoring nine people killed during a mass shooting, on May 27, 2021, in San Jose, California.

The city council in San Jose, California, has approved a new measure that would require gun owners in the city to purchase liability insurance for their weapons.

Several cities across the U.S. have presented similar proposals, but it’s likely that San Jose, which passed the ordinance on Tuesday, will be the first in the country to implement such a measure.

There are about 55,000 gun-owning households in the city that will be affected by the law. Mayor Sam Liccardo hopes that the measure will have a ripple effect, potentially encouraging people to take additional precautionary measures like taking gun safety classes or obtaining gun safes and other locking mechanisms.

Liccardo also claimed that although the ordinance won’t stop mass shootings and violent crime, it may help in other ways, like preventing deadly accidents and suicides.

The new ordinance will require gun owners to purchase liability insurance for their weapons or to purchase home insurance plans that include liability insurance. The city won’t go door-to-door to check that the ordinance is being followed; instead, enforcement will come about if an investigation uncovers that a person isn’t insured for weapons that they own.

A gun owner who doesn’t have insurance will be subjected to a fine from the city and possible forfeiture of their gun. If a weapon is lost or stolen, the gun owner must still pay insurance until they notify police about their weapon being missing.

The city council also passed a provision that will require gun owners to pay an annual fee of $25-35, which will go toward a number of nonprofit services in the city, including suicide prevention programs, gender-based violence services, mental health and addiction programs and firearm safety.

The ordinance does make exceptions for certain individuals, including active or retired police officers, those who have a license to carry a concealed weapon in the state, and low-income residents who are unable to afford purchasing liability insurance.

Gun advocates were quick to object to the measure, with many residents voicing opposition to the ordinance during the city council meeting this week. Dudley Brown, president of the National Association for Gun Rights, said that his organization would undoubtedly file a lawsuit against San Jose’s new rule on gun ownership.

“Our message is clear and simple: see you in court,” Brown said.

But Liccardo has said that the ordinance is not incongruous to the right to bear arms.

“Certainly the Second Amendment protects every citizen’s right to own a gun. It does not require taxpayers to subsidize that right,” the mayor said, adding that guns cost San Jose taxpayers $40 million a year in emergency response services.

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