In This City, a US First on Gun Ownership

City Council in San Jose, Calif., votes to require gun owners to pay fee, carry liability insurance
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 26, 2022 8:22 AM CST
In This City, a US First on Gun Ownership
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Iuri Gagarin)

(Newser) – Gun owners in San Jose will soon need to pony up more cash than the cost of the firearm itself. An ordinance has passed in the California city that would require individuals with guns in their possession to pay a $25 annual fee for the privilege, as well as to hold liability insurance. It's said to be the first such measure in the US, designed to help tamp down gun violence and shift the financial burden from taxpayers directly to gun owners, reports CNN. The San Jose City Council's vote on Tuesday was a two-parter: The vote on the fees came in at 8-3, while the vote on the insurance was 10-1.

"Certainly the Second Amendment protects every citizen's right to own a gun," Mayor Sam Liccardo, a Democrat, said at a presser Monday before the vote. "It does not require taxpayers to subsidize that right." A recent study cited by NBC Bay Area found San Jose taxpayers currently pay about $150 annually for households with guns, with about $442 million per year spent on addressing gun violence. The ordinance notes that, to encourage gun owners to adopt safer behaviors, lower premiums would be available to those who do such things as take gun safety classes and use gun safes and trigger locks.

Those found to have breached the law could see fines, as well as have their guns impounded "subject to a due process hearing," notes the ordinance. The measure is part of a wider gun-control initiative first proposed by Liccardo after a mass shooting at a local rail yard in May that left 10 dead, including the gunman. The $25 annual fee will be funneled to a nonprofit that will use the funds to help victims of gun violence and prevent other gun crimes. CBS News notes the liability insurance would cover damage or losses related to accidental use of the gun in question, whether it be property damage, injury, or death.

There will be exemptions, including for members of law enforcement and those who can't afford it. If the measure gets an OK at its final reading in February, the law will go into effect in August, though gun rights advocates are already warning there will be legal challenges. "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," said Dudley Brown, head of the National Association for Gun Rights, per CNN. (Read more San Jose stories.)

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