San Jose, CA – The mayor of the nation’s 10th largest city has proposed legislation that would require gun owners to either pay for liability insurance or be slapped with a fee to help pay for the costs of gun violence.
“Gun ownership is an inherently dangerous activity,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo declared during a recent press conference at City Hall, according to The Mercury News. “We have to protect our communities.”
“Under current Supreme Court rulings, the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution protects the right to keep and bear arms,” Liccardo continued, according to The Hill. “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,” he declared.
Liccardo said that under his plan, accidental discharges of firearms and “intentional acts” committed by people who steal or use someone else’s gun would be covered by the firearm owner’s liability insurance, The Mercury News reported.
The mayor admitted that insurance providers won’t cover “intentional conduct” committed by the actual gun owner.
“With this measure, we won’t suddenly end gun violence,” Liccardo told reporters, according to The Mercury News. “But we’re going to stop paying for it.”
He also pushed for sales tax increases on firearms and ammunition, and said that those funds could be used to pay for victims’ services, various gun violence prevention programs, and cash rewards for people who turn in citizens who have obtained firearms illegally.
Liccardo urged city leaders to find a way to create a program that would allow parents to have law enforcement search their property or their children, The Mercury News reported.
If gun owners are unable to afford liability insurance, they would be charged a fee, he suggested.
The requirement would not apply to sworn law enforcement officers, according to CNN.
The mayor claimed that his proposals are no different than liability insurance requirements for motorists, The Mercury News reported.
But driving a car is not a constitutionally-protected right.
He also likened his ideas to the taxes that are imposed on tobacco to help discourage use.
"We require motorists to carry automobile insurance, and the insurance industry appropriately encourages and rewards safe driver behavior,” Liccardo said, according to CNN. “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," the mayor added.
But supporters of the Second Amendment have vowed to sue the city if Liccardo’s proposals become law.
Attorney George Lee, who represents firearm groups, said that the mayor’s ideas are “really misguided,” The Mercury News reported.
Lee argued that Liccardo’s claim that insurance companies will cover “intentional acts” committed by people who steal or use someone else’s firearm is false, and said that such legislation would do nothing to bring an end to mass shootings.
The only people who would be punished would be legal gun owners.
“It’s yet another burden on gun owners,” Lee told The Mercury News.
Liccardo’s proposals are a long way off from becoming law, and would need to be approved by the City Council and voters before anything could be enacted.
“I would be lying if I said to you that the insurance companies are enthusiastic about this,” he told The New York Times.
The mayor also admitted that new technology would need to be developed in order to handle a fee system in order for the city to avoid creating a gun registry, which would be a violation of state law, The Mercury News reported.
“If we prove up this innovative solution and scale it across other cities and states, the history of ‘harm reduction’ efforts instructs that we can make a long-term impact,” he declared.
San Jose Vice Mayor Chappie Jones said he knows that “there is going to be a lot of strong opposition,” but that he supports Liccardo’s proposals, The Mercury News reported.
Assemblyman David Chiu said he is also backing the mayor’s efforts.
“Since Trump and his Republican allies have abdicated their responsibility to address our country’s gun violence crisis, cities and states must lead,” Chiu declared. “I applaud Mayor Liccardo and San Jose’s bold leadership on this innovative solution.”