Just weeks after a gunman opened fire on the Gilroy Garlic Festival, killing three and wounding more than a dozen others, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has announced a “comprehensive” proposal to combat gun violence.
The initiative unveiled this morning, which city officials are calling a first-of-its-kind in the nation, would require firearm owners to carry liability insurance for their weapons. Those unable to acquire such insurance would instead pay a fee to compensate the public for the “cost of firearm violence in America’s 10th largest city,” according to a press release from the mayor’s office.
The insurance would cover accidental discharges, as well as the intentional acts of someone who stole, borrowed or acquired the gun. However, it wouldn't cover the liability of the gun owner for their own “intentional conduct.”
“Under current Supreme Court rulings, the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the right to keep and bear arms,” the mayor said. “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.”
Liccardo compares his initiative to other “harm reduction strategies” that have helped lower smoking rates and injuries and deaths from car collisions.
“We require motorists to carry automobile insurance, and the insurance industry appropriately encourages and rewards safe driver behavior,” Liccardo added. “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.”
Like car insurance, the proposal would be enforced if someone was caught with an uninsured gun on them.
“We don’t expect the bad guys to go and buy insurance,” he said. “We do expect, however, that they may be involved in an incident where they’re packing.”
In addition to the insurance or fee requirements, Liccardo also proposes mandating a gun and ammunition sales tax that would help fund gun safety classes, gun violence prevention programs and victim assistance services.
With the approval of the City Council, officials would conduct citywide polling on the potential ballot measure and work with the county and other nearby cities to pursue a regional tax measure.
He also plans to explore a “consent-to-search” program for juveniles that would allow parents to give law enforcement the go-ahead to search their child’s property. In the last part of his proposal, Liccardo said that he wants to create a program that would offer cash to tipsters who share information about people with unlawfully-obtained guns or weapons.
“With this measure, we won’t suddenly end gun violence,” Liccardo noted. “But we’re going to stop paying for it.”
The insurance or fee requirements would be passed by the San Jose City Council, while the gun and ammunition tax would be left up to the voters.
San Jose Vice Mayor Chappie Jones supported his colleague's proposal at a press conference Monday afternoon.
“We must do something to change this violence. We can’t wait for the federal government to take action,” he said. “As someone who was a victim of gun violence, I know the pain and the terror of being shot at.”
Jones was 19-years-old when a man tried to cut in front of him at a drive-thru. The incident led to a car chase that left Jones fleeing while bullets hit the back of his car.
“It really hit me what that impact would be on my parents if they lost their son and how they would never be the same,” he said. “I know there is going to be a lot of strong opposition to the proposal. This is one step in a very long journey to adopt common sense gun regulations. ”
Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) praised the San Jose mayor’s proposal.
“Since Trump and his Republican allies have abdicated their responsibility to address our country’s gun violence crisis, cities and states must lead, and I applaud Mayor Liccardo and San Jose’s bold leadership on this innovative solution,” he said.
Liccardo plans to reach out to other mayors throughout the state and the nation to help pass similar local laws. He also wants the city to advocate for a statewide insurance-based approach to “harm reduction from guns.”
“Just like restrictions against smoking in offices and restaurants started in cities and spread widely, we hope by this effort we can promote a national model of harm reduction to reduce gun violence,” Liccardo said.