News and Analysis

San Jose, CA, Becomes First U.S. City To Approve Forcing Gun Owners To Carry Liability Insurance

San Jose is America's 10th largest city.
Marla Aufmuth/Getty Images for Watermark Conference for Women 2018

On Tuesday, San Jose, California, became the first city in the United States to approve a law requiring all gun owners to pay a fee and carry liability insurance.

“The Silicon Valley city’s council split the vote into two parts: the first approving the bulk of the proposal, including the insurance provisions, and the second approving the fee provisions. The insurance vote passed 10-1, while the fees vote passed 8-3. The ordinance must be approved next month at its final reading in order to take effect in August,” CNN reported.

“Under San Jose’s proposed law, gun owners would be charged an annual $25 fee directed to a nonprofit set up to distribute funds to gun crime prevention and to victims of gun violence. The measure also would require gun owners to obtain liability insurance that would cover damage caused by their weapon,” CNN added.

Prior to the vote, Dudley Brown, president of the National Association for Gun Rights and executive director of the National Foundation for Gun Rights and an opponent of the proposed law, told CNN, “We’ve opposed this ordinance every step of the way and we will see this through to the end. … 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.”

 After a mass shooting at a public transit rail yard in San Jose in May 2021 in which eight workers were killed, the San Jose city council unanimously approved drafting the ordinance calling for the restrictions on gun owners.

San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo, a Democrat, wrote in a Los Angeles Times op-ed last week:

We anticipate that a barrage of lawsuits from the firearm industry and gun rights advocates will follow. … Why should any city subject itself to litigation? Because now-common horrific reports of shootings throughout the nation do little more than elicit a performative parade of prayers and platitudes from Congress. Because problem-solving must be elevated over political posturing. …

Requiring every gun owner in my city to carry liability insurance will better compensate unintentional shooting victims and their families for medical and related expenses. More importantly, insurance can also incentivize safer gun ownership. Risk-adjusted premiums will encourage owners to take gun-safety courses, use gun safes or install child-safe trigger locks to reduce the annual toll of accidental gun harm. …

Gun rights advocates argue that gun owners should not have to pay a fee to exercise their constitutional right to bear arms. To be sure, the 2nd Amendment protects the rights of citizens to own guns, but it doesn’t require the public to subsidize gun ownership. …

Critics say that criminals won’t obey insurance or fee mandates — and they are right. But these ordinances create a legal mandate that gives police the means for at least the temporary forfeiture of guns from dangerous law-breakers.

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