San Jose becomes first US city to require gun owners to carry insurance and pay annual fee
egorshitikov / Pixabay
San Jose becomes first US city to require gun owners to carry insurance and pay annual fee

The San Jose City Council Tuesday passed a first-of-its-kind ordinance mandating residents who own a gun to carry liability insurance and pay an annual fee aimed at reducing gun violence.

The new ordinance, which is set to take effect in August if approved by the City Council at its second reading on February 8th, requires that all San Jose residents who own a gun obtain a homeowner’s, renters or gun liability insurance policy that covers explicitly losses or damages resulting from negligent or accidental use of their firearm.

According to the city’s ordinance, gun owners will also be required to pay an annual fee of between $25-$35 to a nonprofit organization that will be established to manage the funds and distribute them to groups that will offer various services to residents who own a firearm or live with someone who does. Those services will include suicide prevention programs, gender-based violence services, mental health and addiction services, and firearm safety training.

As a proponent of the ordinance, Mayor Sam Liccardo acknowledged that the two-pronged law would not affect residents who unlawfully own guns. However, he argues that it will incentivize safer gun ownership, reduce the public cost of gun violence and provide resources and services for residents who are most affected by the use of guns.

Liccardo initially pushed for these gun control measures in the wake of the mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in 2019, where four people, including two San Jose children, were gunned down by a man who cut through a security gate. He then reignited the efforts last summer following the Bay Area’s deadliest mass shooting at a VTA rail yard.

Under the city’s vision for the ordinance, the nonprofit will send letters through the Department of Justice database to registered gun owners living in San Jose asking them to pay the annual fee. Once payment is made, the nonprofit will send the gun owner a form with their proof of payment and a space on the form to fill out their insurance information. Gun owners will be required to carry or store a copy of the paperwork with their firearm, according to the mayor.

Residents who are exempted from the ordinance include active, active reserve, and retired police officers, as well as those who already have a license to carry a concealed weapon and low-income residents facing financial hardships.

According to San Jose Police Chief Antony Mata, failure to abide by the law could result in a civil fine or temporary forfeiture of a firearm. Officers will not be going door to door searching for offenders but solely be checking for proof of payment and insurance if they come across a firearm during an investigation.

The new ordinance is the city’s latest attempt to lessen the impact of gun violence and unintentional shootings in San Jose. The city council last year unanimously adopted a new gun law that requires retailers to video-record all firearm purchases. In 2017, city leaders narrowly approved a measure that mandates gun owners to lock up their firearms when they leave home.