San Jose: San José Poised to Become First City in the Nation to Require Gun Liability Insurance and Investment by Gun Owners in Violence Reduction
The Californer/10173973

January 24, 2022

One-Pager Summary
Watch the press conference here.

Media Contact:
Rachel Davis, Communications Director/Press Secretary, Office of Mayor Sam Liccardo

SAN JOSÉ, CA - The San José City Council will vote tomorrow on the ordinance requiring every household with a gun owner to have liability insurance coverage for their firearms and to invest in evidence-based initiatives to reduce gun harm– making San José the first city or state in the nation with such gun violence reduction proposals. Mayor Sam Liccardo proposed these strategies in June, 2021 after a violent mass shooting at the VTA yard in San José, and the Council unanimously approved drafting the ordinance that will be considered tomorrow.  He was joined at today's press conference by Vice Mayor Chappie Jones (D1), and Councilmember David Cohen (D4) as well as Esther Peralez-Dieckmann, Next Door Solutions, Executive Director, and Sharon Genkin, Volunteer California State Lead for Community Outreach, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America today prior to the vote.

"Cities have learned too well that we cannot wait for Congress to act to protect our residents from gun violence and harm; we must step up," said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. "The two components of this initiative-–requiring liability insurance and the investment of gun fees into violence-reduction programs–utilize long-established public health approaches to reducing harm in other contexts.

Liccardo explained, "We have seen how insurance has reduced auto fatalities over several decades, for example, by incentivizing safer driving and the purchase of cars equipped with airbags and antilock brakes. Similarly, gun liability insurance available today on the market can adjust premiums to encourage gun owners to use gun safes, install trigger-locks, and take gun safety classes."  That is a critical need, Liccardo argues, in a nation where  4.6 million children live in a household where a gun is kept unlocked and loaded, and 72% of gun injuries occur at home, causing 500 deaths and 26,000 injuries through unintentional shootings.

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Liccardo continued, "The modest fee paid by gun owners will directly support community-based organizations employing evidence-based gun harm-reduction initiatives, including dom3estic violence and suicide prevention programs, drug and mental health treatment, and gun safety classes. Overwhelmingly, gun owners and their families will benefit most from those programs, because the services will be focused to reduce risks of harm precisely where that risk is greatest: in households with guns."

San José has been leading efforts to deploy several other interventions to reduce gun violence as well, such as bolstering gun violence restraining orders, banning untraceable "ghost guns" and preventing illegal straw purchasing. With resources from the current proposal, San Jose's community-based health organizations can also work to coordinate early mental health interventions for individuals in gun-owning households showing signs of distress.

Based on a recent study by the Pacific Institute on Research and Evaluation (PIRE), San José taxpayers subsidize gun ownership by $151 annually per firearm-owning household, or nearly $40 million per year, to pay for gun violence response with publicly-funded services such as emergency police and medical response, victim assistance, incident investigation, health care, and perpetrator adjudication, and judicial sanctioning. When private financial costs to individuals and families are included, San José residents incur an annual burden of $442 million per year.

Liccardo observed, "While the Second Amendment protects every citizen's right to own a gun, it does not require taxpayers to subsidize that right."

The Mayor and Councilmembers propose a modest annual fee that gun owners will pay will be approximately $25, plus a small additional cost for the administration of the program.   The funds generated from this fee will go directly to a non-profit organization being created by a team of public health and gun violence experts.  The funding will be distributed to community-based, evidence-based programs to reduce gun violence, such as domestic violence and suicide prevention, mental health counseling, addiction treatment, and gun-safe storage and training. Programs will prioritize serving clients living in households in which a gun is owned and to intimate partners of gun owners.

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Currently, several non-profit and community partners are working to establish this non-profit organization. Early partners involved in its formation include Esther Peralez-Diekmann, Executive Director of Nextdoor Solutions to Domestic Violence, Reymundo Espinoza, Chief Executive Officer for Gardner Health Services, and Stanford University Medical Center Infectious Disease Specialist, Dr. Julie Parsonnet, MD among others. The non-profit will distribute the money to domestic violence, gun violence, and other violence reduction services and programs.

After the ordinance is approved by City Council, the City's role will remain very limited, largely consisting of reactive enforcement.  The non-profit organization will be responsible for the collection, administration, and distribution of funds.

If this effort is successful, it will serve as a model for other cities and states to reduce gun harm, while engaging the insurance industry more broadly in incentivizing safer behavior for gun owners.

Research by PIRE and other work on this ordinance has been supported by a grant from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation using philanthropic funds originating from two donors: the Heising-Simons Foundation, and Silicon Valley Angel founder Ron Conway.

If Council approves the ordinance tomorrow and at its second reading on February 8th, it will become effective on August 8th.

Statements of Support:

Allison Anderman, Senior Counsel and Director of Local Policy, Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence

"We applaud Mayor Liccardo and the City of San José for continuing to search for novel and innovative ways to prevent gun violence in the community and redress its harms. Undoubtedly, services to prevent suicides, domestic abuse, and community violence need greater funding. We appreciate the City's efforts to invest in these programs and the victims of gun violence."

Jeff Rosen, Santa Clara County District Attorney
"Your trigger is your responsibility. Take a class. Buy a lock and a safe. Guns have a societal cost that is greater than their price tags and insurance."

Vice Mayor Chappie Jones, D1
"I have advocated for policies that reduce the harm of guns for both gun owners and non-gun owners throughout my tenure on City Council. The shooting at VTA last year was a tragic reminder of the harm that firearms cause our society, and it reinforced the need for common sense solutions to reduce gun related tragedies. Our proposal will make San Jose a safer city to live in while simultaneously reducing the financial hardship on both government and our taxpayers. I am immensely proud of the work of my council colleagues and myself."

Councilmember David Cohen, D4
"Increased gun ownership correlates with more gun violence, including an increase in accidental shootings and suicides. The costs resulting from such violence is high. This is a reasonable approach to ensure that those who choose to own firearms are also accountable to their effects."

Testimonial from retired Assistant Santa Clara County District Attorney Rolanda Dixon

Testimonial from Sharon Genkin, Volunteer California State Lead for Community Outreach, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America


About the City of San José

With more than one million residents, San José comprises the 10th largest city in the United States, and one of its most diverse cities.  San José's transformation into a global innovation center in the heart of Silicon Valley has resulted in the world's greatest concentration of technology talent and development.

Filed Under: Government, City

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