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Gun owners sue San Jose over gun insurance requirement

Gun owners wasted no time in suing the capital of the Silicon Valley claiming an ordinance requiring them to carry gun insurance amounts to an unapproved tax.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (CN) — Less than 24 hours after San Jose became the first U.S. city to require gun owners to carry liability insurance, firearms advocates and a gun owner filed a federal lawsuit claiming a violation of the Second Amendment.

The National Association for Gun Rights and Mark Sikes sued the city Wednesday, claiming the ordinance also violates their First Amendment rights because the money they pay would be funneled to anti-gun organizations. And they claim the ordinance amounts to a tax imposed without the approval of California voters.

“If left intact, the city of San Jose’s ordinance would strike at the very core of the fundamental constitutional right to keep and bear arms and defend one’s home,” the plaintiffs say in their complaint.

The San Jose City Council passed the ordinance partly in response to a mass shooting that occurred there in 2021, when an employee of the regional transportation agency opened fire on his fellow employees, killing nine people, before turning the gun on himself. 

“When we think about the horrible mass shootings, I don’t pretend to know that we could have stopped it or not,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo during Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. “But if in fact, we could have delivered some mental health services, there may have been a chance. That’s the point of this.”

Liccardo first proposed similar legislation after a mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in 2019, saying gun owners and not the general public should bear the burden of gun education and victim services. 

The mayor and other council members also say the plaintiffs' contention that the city does not incur costs related to gun ownership is wrong: It spends nearly $8 million a year to respond to various gun-related incidents. 

But several of the City Council members complained during Tuesday’s meeting about the uncertainties surrounding the ordinance, including the fact that the nonprofit that would educate people about gun ownership and provide services to gun victims has yet to be created. 

“These kinds of fees are typically paid by a customer who is asking for, or at least wants the service provided,” said councilmember Matt Mahan, according to the San Jose Spotlight. “In my interaction with many, many constituents in District 10, that’s just not been the sentiment.”

Several speakers told the City Council they did not want the ordinance to pass and several threatened the type of litigation that was filed Wednesday in federal court. 

According to the complaint, about 50,000 people own guns in San Jose, all of whom would be required to pay insurance and some fees to maintain their gun ownership rights under the ordinance. 

“The ordinance thus would charge all law-abiding owners of guns for home and self-defense to pay for the harms caused by criminals who use unregistered guns to commit acts of violence,” the plaintiffs say in their complaint. 

They added the ordinance burdens the Second Amendment rights of gun owners without providing any evidence that the regulation will result in lower incidents of gun violence within the city. 

“The ordinance cites a number of statistics about gun violence, but provides no studies or statistics that the yet-to-be-determined nonprofit will accomplish the stated aim of reducing gun violence,” they say in their complaint.

They want a federal judge to block the ordinance from taking effect and a declaration the ordinance violates the constitutional rights of gun owners. Attorney Harmeet Dhillon represents them.

The city spokesperson told the press Monday the city anticipated legal action and has been offered legal counsel at no charge.

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