A U.S. District Court judge on Wednesday denied a request from gun rights organizations for a preliminary injunction to halt the implementation of San José’s new law requiring gun owners to obtain liability insurance, pending resolutions of the group’s lawsuit seeking to void the law.
The San Jose City Council last month already voted to suspend enforcement of the law until three lawsuits have been resolved.
The San José City Council approved the gun control measures in January of 2022, making it the first city, state, or jurisdiction in the U.S. to impose such a mandate on gun owners. Several similar proposals have emerged in other cities and states since San José’s introduction of their measure, according to the city.
U.S. District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman denied the gun organizations’ motion to issue a preliminary injunction, holding that at this early stage in the case, the insurance requirement bears sufficient resemblance to 19th century surety laws as to satisfy the Supreme Court’s standard for “historic consistency.”
Freeman also ruled that the fee mandate was not yet ready for review until the city sets a specific fee amount. She indicated that the imposition of a fee itself does not run afoul of the Second Amendment, because “the Supreme Court… expressly contemplated regulations that may permissibly include fee payments, so long as the fees were not so ‘exorbitant [so as to] deny ordinary citizens their right to public carry.’”
Tamarah Prevost, representing the city in the lawsuit defense, said the court’s order this week “is a preliminary positive development, in that it prevents one gun rights group from immediately blocking San José’s groundbreaking law. We will continue to defend the city on a pro bono basis against other attacks to this law, which we believe is firmly constitutional.”
San José Mayor Sam Liccardo praised Freeman’s ruling as an “important step forward for sensible gun regulation.”
“We need bolder, more impactful, and more creative solutions than the half-measures that have emerged from Congress,” he said in a statement.. “Cities have become the nation’s laboratories of policy innovation, and we hope that our efforts will spur others to follow suit, and save lives.”
Three lawsuits have been filed since the council passed the January, when San Jose became the first city in the U.S. to require its residents to purchase liability insurance for their weapons. The law also mandated a $25 fee to be paid by gun owners to a nonprofit to help cover the cost of gun violence in the city.
But shortly after the San Jose City Council’s historic vote, a lawsuit was filed in federal court by the National Association for Gun Rights and San Jose resident Mark Sikes. Two subsequent lawsuits have been filed since.
The ordinance was supposed to go into effect Aug. 8 with a 30-day window to allow gun owners to purchase insurance. But on July 1, the city manager’s office suspended the implementation for the foreseeable future, according to a recent city memo.
The council directed the city to halt implementation of the fee until after the legal challenges have been fully resolved – at least until sometime in 2023.
Liccardo had proposed the liability insurance requirement following a mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in 2019.