San Jose’s gun liability insurance requirement — the first-of-its-kind in America and upheld by a federal court judge last week — will make the city safer from the firearm-related violence that has wreaked havoc across the nation, its proponents assert.
But nearly eight months after the ordinance went into effect on Jan. 1, not a single resident has been cited for not having the insurance, according to the city manager’s office, raising questions about the law’s effectiveness.
Nor is there any data on how many firearm owners in San Jose are actually following the law. The city does not have access to the state’s gun registry, meaning it cannot contact gun owners to ensure that they are in compliance. Instead, the city is trying to boost cooperation through digital advertising, point-of-sale materials at gun retailers and letters to 2,400 local insurance agents.
Under the city ordinance, firearm owners must have homeowner’s, renter’s or gun liability insurance and ensure that it covers any losses or damages resulting from the accidental use of their weapon. A form proving that the owner has the insurance must be kept with the firearm at all times. In October, the San Jose City Council approved a measure penalizing gun owners up to $1,000 for not following the insurance requirement.
“It was a stunt,” said Kostas Moros, a Los Angeles-based attorney who advocates for the Second Amendment, about the city’s law. “This was never about making measured policy that the city could enforce in a tailored, responsible way. This was about making the news. They may still enforce this, but I think it really is going to be enforced when someone is in trouble for something else.”
The figures reported by the city also present a challenge for another key part of the law: a yearly fee paid out by firearm owners to a nonprofit that helps combat gun-related violence. San Jose’s roughly 55,000 gun owners were expected to contribute over $1 million to the group — but 17 months after the council approved the measure, it has yet to be formally set up. That part of the city’s law is also in limbo because U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman in her Thursday ruling allowed the two plaintiffs suing the city to challenge the fee requirement through an amended complaint on First Amendment grounds.
— Gabriel Greschler in Why Is San Jose’s Gun Insurance Law Going Unused?