San Jose has implemented a new ordinance requiring gun owners in the city to have liability insurance and pay a fee — legislation that is more expansive than any across the country. Some say it is unconstitutional.
CapRadio’s Mike Hagerty spoke with San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo about the background of the ordinance, what it means for residents, and the city’s response to a lawsuit just moments after the council voted to pass the ordinance.
What does this ordinance require gun owners in San Jose to do and how soon?
There are two elements of this ordinance. One requires gun owners in San Jose to have liability insurance. The second requires the payment of a fee that supports a set of programs run by nonprofit organizations to reduce gun violence in our communities, such as providing mental health counseling, suicide prevention to those who live in a household with a gun or domestic violence prevention or gun safety classes.
The ordinance goes farther than any law anywhere in the country. The San Jose area has certainly seen its share of gun violence. Just last summer, the deadliest mass shooting in the Bay Area took place at a VTA rail yard in your city. I take it that event and the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting two years before were part of what motivated you to push for this ordinance?
Well, certainly they spurred us to think about how we could reduce the devastating impacts of gun harm in our communities. But you know, I think we all know that those mass shootings, as horrific as they are and the fact that they certainly capture all of our attention in the headlines, it really tells only a very, very small part of the story about the devastating impacts of gun harm in our communities. The majority of of deaths by gun are by suicide, not homicide, and more than a third of emergency room admissions for injuries that are gun related are from unintentional shootings. And so it's important for us to look at this holistically and figure out, how can we reduce these devastating tragedies in all the ways they manifest themselves?
The National Association for Gun Rights and a San Jose resident gun owner, a man named Mark Sykes, filed suit in federal court just minutes after the council vote that passed the ordinance. They say that the ordinance is unconstitutional and violates both state laws here in California and existing San Jose city ordinances. What will be the city's legal response and do you think you can win in court?
Yes, though we know in the realm of gun regulation, no good deed goes unlitigated. We expected there would be litigation. We have a great law firm, Petrie, that's providing law services, pro bono. We've got great partners nationally. They've been helping us. But you know, Brady United and every town and many other organizations are working hard to ensure we've got the best defense, and I'm confident we're going to survive legal scrutiny.
Look, we recognize and embrace the fact that the Second Amendment protects the right of every American to own and possess a gun. It doesn't require, though, that taxpayers subsidize that right. And here in the state of California, taxpayers spend more than $1.4 billion on public expenses, simply responding to gun violence and gun harm of various kinds — whether that's in emergency rooms or police or a host of other ways. And so this is simply a measure to try to reduce that harm and shift some of that financial burden back to gun owners themselves, which is appropriate.
CapRadio provides a trusted source of news because of you. As a nonprofit organization, donations from people like you sustain the journalism that allows us to discover stories that are important to our audience. If you believe in what we do and support our mission, please donate today.