Deputizing private parties to restrict liberty has become popular among politicians constrained by constitutional protections for individual rights. They get to target personal freedom without explicitly restricting anything, like a bratty kid waving his hands around a sibling’s face while chanting “I’m not touching you!” The latest such example is the San Jose, California, city government, which insists that it is “constitutionally compliant” in requiring gun owners to purchase liability insurance and to pay an “annual gun harm reduction fee” to exercise a right specifically protected by the Second Amendment. …
The problems with requiring people to pay fees and carry insurance to exercise their rights might be more obvious if the San Jose city government had imposed its rules on journalists and bloggers. Liability insurance and annual fees would be obvious infringements of First Amendment rights if smugly imposed as an effort to offset the supposed harms caused by alleged disinformation and misinformation. Then again, [San Jose Mayor Sam] Liccardo and company might consider that a clever idea after all.
“In a new trend, many governments have sought to shift the burden of censorship to private companies and individuals by pressing them to remove content, often resorting to direct blocking only when those measures fail,” Freedom House warned in 2015. “Local companies are especially vulnerable to the whims of law enforcement agencies and a recent proliferation of repressive laws. But large, international companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter have faced similar demands due to their significant popularity and reach.”
Since then, privatized authoritarianism has only proliferated. We now commonly see demands that companies boot disfavored speakers coming from sources as highly placed as the White House. Politicians who think it’s fine to conscript private businesses into muzzling their opponents were never going to balk at drafting those same firms into helping them to disarm the public. Rather than submit, people who care about liberty need to exercise it in defiance of out-sourced efforts at control.
— J.D. Tuccille in San Jose’s Insurance Requirement Is Privatized Gun Control