On Tuesday night, the Californian city of San Jose voted to require gun owners to carry liability insurance in what’s believed to be the first measure of its kind in the United States. The San Jose City Council overwhelmingly approved the measure despite the opposition from gun owners who said it would violate their Second Amendment rights and promise to sue, according to AP News.
Having liability insurance would encourage people in the 55,000 households in San Jose who legally own at least one registered gun to have gun safes, install trigger locks and take gun safety classes, Mayor Sam Liccardo said. According to AP News, the liability would cover losses or damages resulting from any accidental use of a firearm, including death, injury, or property damage. If a gun is stolen or lost, the owner of the firearm would be considered liable until the theft or loss is reported to authorities. Gun owners who don’t have insurance won’t have to lose their guns or face any criminal charges, the mayor said.
The council also voted to require gun owners to pay an estimated fee of $25 fee, which would be collected by a nonprofit that is yet to be named and doled out to community groups to be used for firearm safety education and training, suicidal prevention, domestic violence, and mental health services, says AP News. Council members, several of which had lost friends due to gun violence, said this was a step toward dealing with gun violence that Councilman Sergio Jimenez described as “a scourge on our society.”
Critics argued that the fee and liability requirements violated the right to bear arms and would do nothing to stop gun crimes, including the use of build-it-yourself “ghost guns” that are untraceable. The measure does not address the larger issue of illegally obtained weapons that are stolen or purchased with background checks as well. The mayor responded to these concerns admitting that it won’t stop mass shootings and keep “bad people from committing violent crime,” but then pointed out that most gun deaths nationally are from suicide, accidental shootings, or other causes. Before the vote took place, AP News says the executive director of Gun Owners of California, said his group would sue if the proposal took effect. However, Liccardo said attorneys have already offered to defend the city pro bono.