The San José City Council on Tuesday took action to require every city household with a gun owner to have liability insurance coverage for their firearms and pay an annual fee.
San José Mayor Sam Liccardo initially pushed for these gun control measures in the wake of the mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in 2019 where the shooter and three victims were killed and 17 injured, then renewed the effort after a transit worker killed nine co-workers then himself last May in San Jose.
“When we think about the horrible shooting at the VTA and so forth, I don’t pretend to know if we could have stopped it or not,” Liccardo said at a press conference Tuesday. “But if, in fact, we could have delivered some mental health services, there may have been a chance.”
After the council vote, Liccardo said in a statement: “Tonight San José became the first city in the United States to enact an ordinance to require gun owners to purchase liability insurance, and to invest funds generated from fees paid by gun owners into evidence-based initiatives to reduce gun violence and gun harm.”
“Thank you to my council colleagues who continue to show their commitment to reducing gun violence and its devastation in our community,” the mayor said. “I am deeply grateful also to our advocacy and legal partners with Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP, EveryTown, Moms Demand Action, SAFE, the Gifford Law Alliance and many others who work tirelessly to help us craft a constitutionally compliant path to mitigate the unnecessary suffering from gun harm in our community.”
“ I look forward to supporting the efforts of others to replicate these initiatives across the nation.”
Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, said in a statement, “Following unthinkable tragedies from gun violence, San José has taken action that will save lives. Our grassroots volunteers have been proud to work hand-in-hand with the mayor, city council, and community partners to help get this innovative package of gun safety laws crafted and across the finish line."
Ewan Barker Plummer, a volunteer leader with Students Demand Action, Bay Area, said:
“This vote is a victory for gun safety. Thanks to the tireless advocacy of volunteers and commitment to gun safety from San José leaders San José is leading the charge against gun violence. We all want a safer San José, a safer California, and a safer nation. With this approach, we can move closer to that goal.”
The new ordinance, called the Gun Harm Reduction Ordinance, is expected to quickly attract legal challenges from Second Amendment advocacy organizations that have been threatening to sue the city.
There was some dissent among council members in the two separate votes Tuesday. Councilmember Dev Davis dissented on both items, saying that she believed the measures would be ineffective and might even be unconstitutional.
Councilmembers Matt Mahan and Pam Foley voted against the fees, objecting to the management structure.
The new ordinance will take effect in August. It requires that all San Jose residents who own a gun obtain a homeowner’s, renter’s or gun liability insurance policy that specifically covers losses or damages resulting from negligent or accidental use of their firearm.
Gun owners also will be asked to pay an annual fee of between $25-$35 to a nonprofit organization that will be established to aid suicide prevention programs, gender-based violence services, mental health and addiction services, and firearm safety training.
Sworn, active reserve or retired police officers, people who have a license to carry a concealed weapon and low-income residents facing financial hardships are exempt from the ordinance.
Failure to follow the ordinance could result in a civil fine or temporary forfeiture of a firearm, although police said they will only enforce it if they discover gun ownership as part of a criminal investigation.