The city of San Jose, California, has a new city ordinance which requires gun owners who reside within the city limits to carry liability insurance and pay an annual fee. In my humble opinion, this ordinance is certifiable grade “A” hogwash and I’ll explain why.
I don’t normally keep up with the plethora of gun regulations in the state of California for several reasons. First of all, I don’t reside in California and rarely travel there. Additionally, it seems like there is a new gun regulation every other week. On top of all the state regulations, there are also local ordinances to contend with. It’s an awful lot to keep up with.
Unsurprisingly, I’m late to the game in terms of this ordinance which was first introduced in 2019. From what I’ve gathered, the introduction of the ordinance was, understandably, controversial on the basis of its constitutionality, enforceability, and projected impact on gun violence reduction.
Now I’m no legal expert, but it doesn’t take much critical thinking to realize that enforcement is only possible by having a list of gun owners and having a mechanism or process in place to verify those gun owners have an active insurance policy. Speaking of which, you know what else requires an annual fee and an active insurance policy? Vehicle registrations. There isn’t even a small logic leap needed to see the similarity. What does require Olympic level mental gymnastics is trying to figure out how any of this will reduce gun violence. Especially, when the city leadership acknowledges the ordinance will not affect residents who unlawfully own guns and commit crimes.
So what does the ordinance mandate? As I briefly mentioned, it requires gun owners to purchase and maintain an active firearm liability insurance policy and pay an annual fee. Let’s explore those.
The annual fee, which is placatively dubbed as “Annual Gun Harm Reduction Fee”, is a required fee imposed on any person who resides in San Jose and owns or possesses a firearm. The amount of the fee payment schedule isn’t defined or constrained. Rather, the payment schedule is left to the city manager to decide and the amount is left up to the city council to determine. This is a huge problem for gun owners because the fee could be a modest small amount or an obscenely huge tariff. Not to mention that the amount is subject to change and the rate of change isn’t capped.
The ordinance does impose some guidelines as to how the city can use that money. It specifically requires that all the money collected will be used by a designated nonprofit organization to provide services to firearm owning residents and members of their household. A few services like, suicide prevention programs, violence reduction programs, domestic violence services, gun violence related mental health services, and firearms safety education or training. However, the list isn’t exclusionary. Furthermore, the designation of the nonprofit organization is left up to the city council once again. Call me skeptical, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn the funds end up going to a nonprofit gun control advocacy group for said services.
Regardless of what the fee is called or how the funds are used, I can’t help but see it as a tax. A tax that raises the cost of gun ownership and therefore makes legal gun ownership less accessible to lower income households who are more likely to find themselves in need of one for defensive purposes.
In terms of the liability requirement, the ordinance calls for a policy that specifically covers losses or damages resulting from negligent and accidental discharges. The amount of coverage required is not specified and it appears that the coverage amount may be specified in regulations left up to the city manager to define.
I do think that having a firearms liability protection is a good idea. In fact, I personally carry a
Right To Bear membership myself which happens to offer accidental discharge coverage. However, I’m not a fan of being forced to carry such a policy. The requirement is a forced expense which further raises the total cost of ownership and yet again makes legal gun ownership less accessible to folks with financial constraints.
I’m certain somebody somewhere will point out that the ordinance does list an exception for financial hardship making my complaint about making legal gun ownership less accessible to lower income household’s moot. While there is, in fact, a financial exception listed, the criteria by which a person can claim the exemption is, predictably, left up to the city manager to define. Additionally, peace officers and folks licensed to carry a concealed weapon are also exempted from the annual fee and insurance requirements.
Coming back full circle to the similarities between this ordinance and vehicle registration, the ordinance requires firearm owners to produce proof of insurance and annual fee payment to peace officers who request it. Failure to produce the documentation or failure to comply with the ordinance can result in an administrative citation, fines, or impoundment of the owned firearms.
So, what can a gun owner who resides in San Jose, California do?
My first suggestion is to move to a location that is gun friendly. However, I understand this may not be possible or practical for many reasons.
The next suggestion is to get involved with local, regional, and national gun rights organizations. More specifically, get involved with those who are fighting the legal battle to strike down the ordinance. From what I’ve gathered, the gun rights organizations that are actively involved in the legal battles are: National Association for Gun Rights and Gun Owners of California. There are many ways to get involved - some ways require time, other ways require money.
Last but not least, it’s not a bad idea to get an armed self-defense plan like the memberships offered by Right to Bear. Feel free to check out the review I wrote about their plan and policy after I personally purchased one over here.
Author: Uncle Zo - https://unclezo.com/