San Jose Mayor's genius plan to tax guns out of existence

Beth LaBerge/KQED via AP, Pool

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is a man with big plans. As with many cities these days, San Jose has seen some mass shootings and Liccardo doesn’t plan to simply sit on the sidelines and wait for someone else to tackle the problem. Despite the fact that nearly all of the shootings that take place are the result of gang violence, using unregistered, illegal firearms, the Mayor plans to make law-abiding gun owners pay through the nose. But don’t say that he plans to infringe on the Second Amendment rights of the citizens of his city. Perish the thought! He would never do that. He just wants to charge an annual fee to anyone who happens to have a legally owned firearm and force all gun owners to carry mandatory liability insurance. See? Totally harmless, right? Okay… enough sarcasm. Let’s see what Mr. Liccardo is up to. (CBS San Francisco)

In the wake of the VTA mass shooting, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has reintroduced his proposal for mandatory gun owners’ insurance and an annual gun fee, in addition to other provisions.

“With council approval San Jose would become the first city in the United States to require every gun owner to have liability insurance coverage for their firearms. Second, San Jose would become the first U.S. city to require gun owners to pay a fee to compensate taxpayers for the public cost of responding to gun violence,” Liccardo at the makeshift memorial at City Hall that honors the nine fallen VTA workers who were shot and killed at the light rail yard on May 26.

Liccardo first floated the idea of gun insurance following the Gilroy Garlic Festival mass shooting in 2019, where a gunman killed three people and wounded 17 others before ending his life.

The idea that any of these proposals would survive a court challenge is something of a pipe dream, but this story does provide a useful glimpse inside the minds of west coast Democrats who still believe that the Constitution is an inconvenience to be worked around wherever possible. And these proposals are more than problematic whether we debate them based on the laws of the land or simple definitions of the terms he’s using.

Right out of the gate, Liccardo would run into the problem of California’s pre-emption laws that prevent local and municipal governments from creating a patchwork tapestry of different laws covering any given subject. Similar attempts were made recently in both Portland and Seattle and the courts shot them down there. It’s unlikely that the tactic would succeed in San Jose.

But even if that weren’t the case, Liccardo is asking to significantly warp the ideas of government fees and insurance in general. There are cases where certain forms of insurance can be made mandatory and others where they can’t. You can be required to carry homeowner’s insurance if you are paying a mortgage so the lender is assured of recovering some of their losses in the event of a catastrophe. Drivers can be made to carry automotive insurance because it’s plausible that anyone could be involved in an accident causing damages to others.

But what is the basis for requiring insurance to own a firearm? Liccardo is saying that it would ensure that “victims are compensated where there’s an insurable event.” The “insurable event” in this case would be someone getting shot. But unlike drivers, there is no “pool” of potential shooters to tap. This idea assumes that every lawful gun-owner is equally as culpable as the criminal who pulls the actual trigger.

As for the “fee” the Mayor would like to impose, it wouldn’t be a tax collected when purchasing a firearm. Nor would it relate to carrying or firing a weapon. It would be a fee simply for owning one and having it in your home even if you never so much as inserted a magazine into it. What other fees does the government collect annually simply for owning a product that you are legally entitled to possess? Liccardo tries to brush away any Second Amendment concerns with the following statement.

“We are cognizant, as the Second Amendment dictates, so that we will not be imposing fees that are so great as to be prohibitive to ownership. We want a fee that will compensate taxpayers for the cost of everything from emergency rooms to police response,” the mayor said.

First of all, the cost of purchasing a firearm in California is already fairly “prohibitive” these days without this guy loading more weight onto the backs of gun owners, but that’s not even the main point. What he’s trying to do is shift the burden of paying for medical bills incurred by complete strangers and the cost of law enforcement onto the shoulders of one pool of individuals. This entire plan stinks on ice and I almost hope that the San Jose City Council passes it just so we can watch it go down in flames.