San Jose mayor proposes mandatory gun liability insurance
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is pictured in this file photo.

    San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo unveiled a gun safety proposal Monday that he knows won’t “suddenly end gun violence” — but will ensure the nation’s 10th largest city will stop paying for it.

    Liccardo is suggesting San Jose require gun owners in the city to carry mandatory liability insurance for weapons or pay an in-lieu fee to compensate taxpayers for the “public costs of firearm violence.” He likened it to smokers paying higher taxes for cigarettes or to car insurance companies rewarding safe drivers.

    The idea from Liccardo, which was recently proposed by professor and San Jose-based attorney Michael Vargas in an op-ed for San José Spotlight, comes two weeks after three people were gunned down at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. As Vargas pointed out, many states have considered requiring gun owners to carry liability insurance over a decade, including California in 2013. But that bill passed the California Legislature only after the liability insurance language was stripped out.

    But if a local ordinance is adopted by San Jose lawmakers, the Bay Area’s largest city would become the first in the nation with such a law. Liccardo said he’ll work with other mayors to encourage them to pass similar legislation.

    “A mayor doesn’t have the luxury of just offering ‘thoughts and prayers’ — we have to solve problems,” Liccardo said in a statement. “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.”

    According to Liccardo’s plan, sworn law enforcement officers would be excluded from carrying insurance. The insurance would cover accidental discharge of the gun, as well as intentional acts of third parties who steal, borrow or acquire the gun. It wouldn’t cover the policyholder’s misconduct.

    Liccardo also suggested citywide polling to gauge support for a sales tax on firearm and ammunition sales to fund gun safety classes and provide assistance to victims, in addition to creating cash rewards for those who report unlawfully-obtained weapons. The mayor also wants to evaluate a program that allows parents to enable the police to search and seize weapons in their homes in exchange for not prosecuting their child or dependent.

    Congressman Ro Khanna, who last year hosted a gun violence town hall with Warriors head coach Steve Kerr and Matt Deitsch from Parkland of Match for Our Lives, voiced support for the proposal Monday.

    “The costs of gun violence are far too high,” Khanna tweeted. “If you need to have insurance to drive an automobile and follow safety guidelines, then why shouldn’t you need insurance to operate and keep a gun safely.”

    San Jose Assemblymember Ash Kalra, who proposed citywide gun control policies in 2016, also applauded the mayor’s efforts.

    “In our country, hundreds of people are killed or injured by guns with each passing day,” Kalra told San José Spotlight. “Today, San Jose is sending a clear message; enough is enough. I commend Mayor Liccardo for his bold effort to put forth a first-in-the-nation proposal that would help curb rampant gun-related violence in our communities. I am proud to represent a city that has the courage and initiative to stand up and do what our federal government refuses to do.”

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