The City of San Jose gave final approval in January to a new gun control ordinance under the guise of an insurance requirement and annual fee. The city’s mayor hopes others will “replicate these initiatives across the nation.”
San Jose’s gun insurance requirement is a targeted assault on individual rights, meant to make firearm ownership difficult while keeping it technically legal.
Part of this strategy is to make the law incredibly complicated.
Given the complexity and sheer volume of California’s gun laws, it is already extremely difficult for gun owners to know how and when California law affects them, let alone to understand this law’s full implications.
Add on the fact that San Jose’s ordinance involves insurance, a topic which most people already find confusing, and the burden on average gun owners becomes excessive. Plus, even the slightest misstep in legal compliance can be a huge risk, given the state’s well-known animus toward gun owners.
The added complexity of gun insurance will surely push some actual or would-be owners to simply give up on firearms, rather than deal with the difficulties involved. And that is not accidental; it’s very much an intended purpose of this law. If you can’t directly outlaw guns, just make it too complicated — and legally risky — to own them.
Along with the burden of greater complexity, there are the problems of availability and cost. San Jose will require gun owners to have insurance “specifically covering losses or damages resulting from any accidental use of the Firearm.” It’s unclear whether this insurance is even available — but if it is, it’s likely to be quite expensive.
An earlier version of the bill (which came very close to final passage) required coverage for “any negligent or accidental use” — even though several council members consulted insurance agents who said that negligence would not be covered by their policies. One of these council members wondered “how we can require a specific type of insurance that does not exist.”
San Jose’s approach is part of a common gun control strategy: to make gun ownership too difficult, or even practically impossible, for everyday Americans.
Although the final version of the bill deleted the term “negligence,” this change doesn’t seem to actually resolve the problem. In many legal contexts, there is little or no difference between “accidental” and “negligent” use of a firearm — the terms can be practically synonymous. The category of “accidents” may still encompass acts of gross negligence, which are often excluded from insurance policies, as some of the council members discovered.
Ultimately, it may be impossible to purchase the coverage required by the law. If that’s true, it’s reasonable to suspect this was deliberate — a feature, not a bug.
Even if the required coverage is available, it won’t be cheap given the law’s extreme requirements.
A policy that covers more risk will always be more expensive, and with the language of “any accidental use,” San Jose’s ordinance casts an extraordinarily broad net.
For instance, every gun owner in San Jose — no matter how careful and responsible — will be required to have insurance covering any damages that could conceivably arise from a wrongful death lawsuit in the event of an accident. Since California places no limit on these damages, insurers must factor in the possibility of extremely high costs and price their policies accordingly. A policy that didn’t cover such extreme situations would certainly be cheaper but wouldn’t comply with the ordinance.
It’s morally reprehensible — as well as unconstitutional — for politicians to price people out of defending themselves, their loved ones, and their communities. This is just as outrageous as imposing an annual fee on churchgoers, forcing individuals to pay a tax to vote, or requiring protesters to purchase insurance before exercising their freedom of speech.
Those who can prove “financial hardship” will be exempt from the insurance requirement and fee. But the definition of “hardship” is left to the discretion of the city manager, introducing further uncertainty and bureaucratic complexity.
And while the separate “Annual Gun Harm Reduction Fee” is currently $25, the city council is free to raise it, and the ordinance sets no limit or range. It could rise dramatically in the future. (READ MORE: Biden’s Assault on the Second Amendment Begins)
Most importantly, there is simply no reason why peaceable gun owners should pay a fee for “Gun Harm Reduction,” as if they bore some collective responsibility for the actions of violent criminals, simply by virtue of owning firearms.
With the final passage of San Jose’s gun insurance ordinance, other cities — and perhaps states — may follow suit. But gun-rights advocates have been vigilant, and some gun-rights groups have already promised legal challenges.
As other jurisdictions consider rolling out these laws, we should recognize that San Jose’s approach is part of a common gun control strategy: to make gun ownership too difficult, or even practically impossible, for everyday Americans.
Gun insurance requirements are not just a misguided policy. They’re part of a larger agenda for the “soft disarmament” of the People. We must fight against that agenda with every legitimate means we have.
Cody J. Wisniewski (@TheWizardofLawz) is the Director of Mountain States Legal Foundation’s Center to Keep and Bear Arms. He primarily focuses on Second Amendment issues but is happy so long as he is reminding the government of its enumerated powers and constitutional restrictions.