San Jose leaders have taken a monumental step to become the first city in the United States to institute new gun laws that require gun owners to purchase insurance and pay an annual fee to reduce armed violence.
Within minutes, however, the first legal challenge was filed in federal court.
Here’s everything you need to know about the city’s new ordinance – and the lawsuit it faces.
What does the new municipal firearms ordinance say?
The new municipal law — called the Gun Harm Reduction Ordinance — has two parts.
First, it requires all San Jose residents who own a firearm to carry an owner’s, renter’s, or firearm’s liability insurance policy that specifically covers loss or damage resulting from use. careless or accidental use of their firearm.
Additionally, the law requires gun owners to pay an annual fee to a non-profit organization that will manage the funds and distribute them to groups that will provide various services such as mental health services and rehabilitation programs. suicide prevention to residents who own a firearm or who live or are in a relationship with someone who does.
Liccardo anticipates that the nonprofit will ask the Department of Justice to send letters to all registered San Jose gun owners listed in their database and ask them to pay the annual fee. Once payment is made, the association will send the gun owner a form with their proof of payment and a space on the form to fill out their insurance information. These documents must then be transported or stored with an individual’s firearm, in accordance with the order.
Why do proponents of the ordinance think it will reduce gun violence?
Proponents of the new ordinance — including San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo — say the insurance component will encourage safer gun ownership.
Liccardo said Tuesday night that, like auto insurance, risk-adjusted premiums will encourage gun owners to take certain steps to lower their premiums, such as taking safety courses, storing their guns appropriately and install child safety locks.
As for the annual fee, proponents argue that using the funds generated for services focused on gun owners and their loved ones will have the most impact on reducing gun harm. .
A 2004 study published in the National Journal of Medicine found that people who lived in a household with a gun — even if properly stored — were twice as likely to die of homicide and three times more likely to die of suicide than those who didn’t. A more recent 2020 study from Stanford concluded that men who owned a handgun were eight times more likely to commit suicide by firearm than men who did not, and women who owned them were 35 times more likely to do so than women who did not have one.
Using funds generated from annual fees for suicide prevention programs, gun safety classes, mental health services and addictions intervention will reduce the risk that gun owners San Jose Fire fall into this trend, according to proponents.
What’s wrong with the legal challenge?
Minutes after Tuesday night’s vote, the National Association for Gun Rights and San Jose resident Mark Sikes filed a federal lawsuit against the city arguing that the ordinance is “patently unconstitutional.” and violates state and city laws. Sikes is a resident who legally owns firearms and would be subject to the new order, according to the lawsuit.
“If left intact, the City of San Jose ordinance would strike at the very heart of the fundamental constitutional right to keep and bear arms and to defend one’s home,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, argues the city has failed to prove how the insurance and fee requirement will actually reduce gun damage and is specifically aimed at the fee system.
“This redistribution of wealth from gun owners to a non-profit organization favored by the city and its staff is not only abhorrent to the Constitution, it is an invitation to corruption and wastefulness,” declares the lawsuit.
The city expects further lawsuits are likely to follow.
How much is the fine?
The base fine will be $25, but could go up to $35 once administrative fees are added, according to the mayor.
Who sets up the non-profit organization responsible for managing the fees collected?
Liccardo has assembled a group of stakeholders, experts, and advocates in areas related to gun violence who are currently creating the nonprofit. Among those involved are Gardner Family Health Network CEO Reymundo Espinoza, Stanford professor Dr. Julie Parsonnet, and nonprofit leaders like Esther Peralez-Dieckmann, executive director of NextDoor Solutions to Domestic Violence.
The city manager will have the final say in choosing the designated nonprofit, which must then provide semi-annual reports to city leaders on its work and results.
Do all insurance companies offer this insurance, or only some? How much will it cost?
The mayor’s team contacted more than a dozen home and renter’s insurance providers and “found wide availability” in policies that cover gun ownership, according to Liccardo.
The order does not contain details of a minimum coverage threshold or a premium. The city also did not provide an estimate of the additional costs that firearms liability coverage might add to an individual’s already existing homeowner’s or renter’s insurance bill.
When should the ordinance come into effect?
The order is expected to take effect by the end of August, but could be delayed depending on legal challenges. The city does not plan to start collecting fees until the lawsuits are settled.
Who would be exempt from the order?
- Sworn police officers, active reserve or retired
- Residents with a Concealed Weapon Permit
- Low-income residents in financial difficulty
What is the definition of “financial hardship”?
This is one of the details of the order that has yet to be worked out.
The mayor initially defined it as residents eligible for California code 68632 and exempt from paying court fees due to their financial situation. However, several board members asked if this definition could be broadened. The council is expected to revisit this when the ordinance returns for the second vote on February 8.
How many residents will be affected by the order?
Neither the city nor the nonprofit will have access to the Justice Department’s database due to security and personal privacy concerns, so the exact number of gun owners from San Jose currently registered is unclear.
Still, the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, which worked with the city to estimate the annual public cost of gun violence in San Jose, estimates that between 50,000 and 55,000 households in San Jose own guns.
If all of these households paid an annual fee of $25, more than $1 million would be collected each year.
How will it be applied?
Failure to comply with the order would be treated as a civil offense rather than a criminal offence. Those who choose not to purchase insurance or pay fees could have their firearms temporarily confiscated or face a civil fine.
The San Jose Police Department will be tasked with enforcing the ordinance, but officers won’t be going door-to-door to make sure every gun owner in the city is in compliance.
According to San Jose Police Chief Anthony Mata, officers will only enforce laws if they discover a firearm during an investigation or as part of their normal duties.