November 20, 2022
Gun owners in San Jose: Get ready to comply with the city’s new gun ordinance in January.
Starting next year, all gun owners in San Jose must have insurance that covers firearm damage or accidental firing. It’s part of the city’s new gun damage reduction ordinance — a controversial, first-of-its-kind law that seeks to reduce gun incidents by mandating liability insurance and collecting an annual fee from gun owners. The annual fees would be used to fund programs focused on suicide prevention, mental health and addiction treatment, and firearm safety training or victim compensation.
San Jose households with a firearm must have homeowners, renters or guns liability insurance for their firearms. The city is still drafting plans to collect the annual fee, which has tentatively been set at $25. San Jose will begin collecting once the city selects a nonprofit organization to administer the money.
Mayor Sam Liccardo, who designed the policy, said this is a big step in making San Jose safer from gun violence. More than 200 people are killed or injured by gunfire in San Jose each year, according to his agency. Fatal and nonfatal gun shootings of San Jose residents cost $995 million in 2019-2020, Liccardo said.
“Gun insurance encourages safer behavior,” Liccardo told the San José Spotlight. “Just as auto insurance drivers received discounts on their premiums for driving safely in the 1990s, buying a car with an anti-lock braking system, or buying a car with airbags in the 1980s, insurance can encourage gun owners to carry a gun. to bring along.” safety classes, make sure their guns have chamber load indicators, buy gun safes, and get trigger locks.
How does it work?
A San Jose resident’s liability insurance must cover losses or damages resulting from the accidental use of a firearm, including but not limited to death, injury, or property damage. There is no mandatory minimum coverage.
“Firearm owners have the option of meeting required liability insurance through homeowner’s insurance or renter’s insurance that provide liability coverage,” city spokesman Kristen Van Kley told San Jose Spotlight. “Homeowners and renters insurance is widely available from many different insurers in California.”
Gun owners must complete an insurance certificate form and have a policy in effect before January 1. The form must also always be with the firearm as proof of compliance. If a firearm is discovered without the form, it will result in a police report and could lead to administrative charges, with charges starting at $250.
The only gun owners in San Jose exempt from the insurance requirement are police officers and those with concealed carry permits, according to city documents. Low-income gun owners can apply for an exemption.
“There should be little burden on gun owners since most home and renters insurance policies already cover what is required by law, otherwise the policyholder can get a rider for free or at little cost,” Liccardo said. “Gap owners only need to confirm that they have such insurance.”
But the issue of coverage can be more complicated. Councilors Maya Esparza and Dev Davis previously said most insurance companies they spoke to told them that only accidental layoffs outside a household can potentially be covered. Not negligence or criminal conduct.
“I spoke to two insurance agents, including mine, from different companies and neither of them said negligent use is specifically covered in their policies,” Davis said. “I’m still not sure how we can demand a specific type of insurance that doesn’t exist.”
Liccardo originally came up with the idea after the 2019 Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting that killed three children. Things stalled when COVID-19 hit in March 2020, but Liccardo brought the idea back in May 2021 after the mass shooting at the VTA light rail station in downtown San Jose. The ordinance passed almost unanimously in February, drawing support from groups like Moms Demand Action and other organizations advocating for gun reform.
The ordinance was also highly controversial. Its implementation was delayed as the city faced multiple lawsuits from gun rights activists and taxpayer associations. In August, a federal judge ruled against blocking San Jose’s gun law, so the city went ahead with implementation. So far, the court has dismissed nine of the 10 claims filed by two litigants, and a third plaintiff has withdrawn their lawsuit, Liccardo said.
San Jose isn’t out of the woods just yet, though. Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California, said his organization and a coalition of Second Amendment advocates plan to sue the city once the law is passed. They oppose the ordinance because it violates their right to bear arms by erecting barriers and forcing gun owners to exercise that right. He also said he believes gun insurance will have “no impact” on reducing gun violence.
“This law is just not going to prevent criminal abuse,” Paredes said. “What it will do is make it a little more difficult and cumbersome for some people in the lower income areas of San Jose — those people who live where crime is more prevalent — to own a gun.”
Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.
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