SJ mayor calls for legislation requiring gun owners to buy insurance

All San Jose gun owners could be required to purchase liability insurance for their weapons under a new city ordinance proposed by Mayor Sam Liccardo on Monday, two weeks after a mass shooting in Gilroy killed two local children.

The ordinance would be the first of its kind in the country if successful, according to Liccardo’s office. It is modeled after “harm reduction” strategies for tobacco and automobile use, which both reward safe behavior and create a taxpayer subsidy for the public cost of gun violence.

The insurance would cover accidental discharge and acts by third parties who steal, borrow or unlawfully obtain the gun, but wouldn’t cover intentional acts by the gun owner.

On July 28, a 19-year-old Gilroy man fatally shot three people and injured 13 others at the Gilroy Garlic Festival before killing himself. Two of the victims, 13-year-old Keyla Salazar and 6-year-old Stephen Romero, were from San Jose.

“A mayor doesn’t have the luxury of just offering ‘thoughts and prayers’ — we have to solve problems.” Liccardo said in a statement Monday. “While this is far from a complete solution, it is something we can do to reduce the harms of firearms, without waiting for Congress to take action.”

Anyone who cannot afford the insurance will be charged a per-household fee to compensate taxpayers for the public costs of gun violence, which include police and emergency response, hospitalization, rehabilitation, victim support services and prosecution. Liccardo said the payment would be highly private to comply with state laws preventing gun registries.

Separately, the city will consider polling city residents on an ammunition sales tax to fund gun safety classes, gun violence prevention programs and assistance services for victims of gun violence. The city may also partner with the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office to create a “consent-to-search” program for parents to have law enforcement search their child or their property for weapons, and a cash reward program for anyone who reports unlawfully obtained weapons.

Similar legislation has been proposed on a statewide level in New York, North Carolina, Hawaii, Washington, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

“As Silicon Valley’s largest city, if we prove up this innovative solution and scale it across other cities and states, the history of ‘harm reduction’ efforts instructs that we can make a long-term impact,” Liccardo said.

The Rules and Open Government Committee will hear the ordinance next Wednesday, Liccardo’s spokeswoman Chloe Meyere said. It could take at least two weeks before it’s presented to the City Council.

By Supriya Yelimeli, Bay City News

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