San Jose engages in gun control theater
Lawmakers in San Jose, California are taking steps toward adopting a first-of-its-kind ordinance requiring local gun owners to buy insurance and to pay an annual fee to “subsidize police responses, ambulances, medical treatment and other municipal expenses related to shootings, injuries and deaths.”
According to the San Francisco Chronicle:
The amount of the fee hasn’t been determined, but Mayor Sam Liccardo said…it would probably be “a couple dozen dollars” and would not be charged to those who could not afford it. He said insurers have advised the city that including gun coverage on their policies would add little or nothing to typical premium costs.
Which is utterly beside the point of a constitutionally guaranteed right. But the mayor seems unfazed:
“The Second Amendment certainly protects the right of every citizen to own a gun,” Liccardo told reporters. “It does not mandate that taxpayers subsidize that right.
Setting aside the ghoulish notion that local governments are currently subsidizing gun violence, the constitutional issues are very real:
George Mocsary, a law professor at the University of Wyoming, says that San Jose’s proposed gun control policies raise a number of constitutional issues.
It’s highly questionable, he says, if insurers will actually write the kinds of policies that San Jose would require gun owners to purchase. If they don’t, then they would be unable to comply with the city’s mandate, and thus effectively would be prohibited from owning firearms.
“You can’t intentionally ban something indirectly if you can’t ban it directly,” he says, adding that if gun owners were required to pay exorbitant fees or to purchase more insurance than what would be considered “actuarially fair,” that would likely also be unconstitutional.
Mocsary also raises some practical concerns with requiring gun owners to carry insurance, arguing that it could increase the potential for more firearm injuries.
“The best way to incentivize more of an activity is to take away the financial consequences of that activity,” he tells Reason. “If you are taking away from individuals the financial consequences of people being hurt by their guns because their insurance will pay for it, the natural behavior will be for people to take less care.”
What San Jose is dabbling in is gun control theater. The promised lawsuits challenging the measure, should it be approved, ought to remind the council that if they wish to signal their displeasure with others exercising their rights, they are free to do so…as private citizens. But they cannot use the power of the state to enforce it.