San Jose Mayor Proposes Mandatory Gun Insurance, Annual Gun Fee in Wake of Rail Yard Mass Shooting

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Police secure the scene of a mass shooting at a rail yard run by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority in San Jose, Calif., May 26, 2021. (Peter DaSilva/Reuters)

The mayor of San Jose, Calif. reintroduced a proposal for mandatory gun owners’ insurance, an annual gun fee, and other provisions aimed at mitigating gun violence this week in the wake of the deadly Valley Transportation Authority rail yard shooting.

“With council approval, San Jose would become the first city in the United States to require every gun owner to have liability insurance coverage for their firearms,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said at a makeshift memorial at City Hall in honor of the nine VTA workers who were killed at the light rail yard last month, according to KPIX 5.

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The move comes after Liccardo first proposed mandatory gun insurance in the aftermath of the Gilroy Garlic Festival mass shooting in 2019.

The mayor said the insurance would be “little to no extra cost” for some owners who would already have it as part of their homeowners policy. 

“And that way we can ensure that victims are compensated where there’s an insurable event. And of course, insurance companies will help us make gun possession safer,” Liccardo.

The mayor is directing a team of experts to calculate the cost of a proposed annual gun fee to San Jose taxpayers. The mayor’s office said gun violence in 2018 directly cost the state’s taxpayers $1.4 billion.

“We are cognizant, as the Second Amendment dictates, so that we will not be imposing fees that are so great as to be prohibitive to ownership. We want a fee that will compensate taxpayers for the cost of everything from emergency rooms to police response,” the mayor said.

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The mayor has also proposed other measures aimed at curbing gun control, such as strengthening the effectiveness of gun violence restraining orders, preventing “straw purchases” of firearms, and requiring fingerprinting for ammunition purchases. 

However, Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California, told KPIX 5 he is creating a coalition of gun rights advocates to challenge the ordinances should they pass the city council.

“I strongly believe that Mayor Sam Liccardo is trying to do things he has no authority to do,” Paredes said.

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He argues that the state’s preemption laws prevent local governments from passing differing gun laws.

“Without that, various communities could sponsor their own laws governing firearms acquisition, sales, use and storage, and all of that. And law abiding citizens from other parts of the state would be breaking the law just by passing through some of these communities,” Paredes said. “That’s why no other city has successfully done what the mayor is proposing to do.”

“It is, we believe, very strongly unconstitutional for the government to require law-abiding citizens who are doing nothing more than exercising their Second Amendment rights to be required to have insurance, or to be taxed, while they are exercising that enumerated right,” Paredes added.

The mayor’s gun insurance and fee proposal will head to the Rules Committee next week. If passed, the proposal could come before the full San Jose City Council before the end of the month.

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