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October 3, 2022
Rachel Davis, Chief Communications Officer, Office of Mayor Sam Liccardo, firstname.lastname@example.org
A federal U.S. District Court again permitted the City of San José's first-in-the-nation law to overcome legal challenge. The law requires gun owners to obtain civil liability insurance, and to pay a fee to support gun violence-reduction programs. The San José City Council approved those measures in January of 2022, making it the first city, state, or jurisdiction of any kind to impose such a mandate on gun owners. Several similar proposals have emerged in other cities and states since San José's introduction of their measure.
Specifically, U.S. District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman issued an order late Friday granting the City of San Jose's motion to dismiss on nine of the ten causes of action, or claims, brought by the two plaintiff groups, led by the National Association of Gun Rights, Inc., in separate lawsuits. Another plaintiff has since withdrawn its lawsuit by dismissing its own claims.
The Court dismissed nine out of ten of the claims, forcing the plaintiffs to amend their complaints and re-file them if those claims are to proceed. The Court disposed of several critical issues, however, for example, by holding that the "Ordinance as drafted does not [unconstitutionally] "condition" the exercise of Second Amendment rights because there are no means by which a San Jose gun owner may be deprived of his or her firearm." Judge Freeman also dismissed plaintiffs' claim that state law prevents San Jose's implementation of its ordinance, finding that "the Ordinance's compliance requirement is dissimilar to a gun licensing or registration scheme and, therefore, is not preempted by California general laws on firearm licensing or registration."
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On August 3, 2022, the U.S. District previously also ruled in favor of the City of San Jose by denying the gun groups efforts to seek a preliminary injunction on the implementation of the ordinance.
Tamarah Prevost, a partner with Cotchett, Pitre, & McCarthy, argued the motions for the City of San José. Ms. Prevost asserted that: "Though the court's order comes at an early stage in this litigation, it confirms the City's belief that this gun ordinance is lawful, constitutional, and reflects a sensible approach to the extremely complex problem of gun violence in San Jose."
San José Mayor Sam Liccardo, who proposed these measures and advocated for their passage, observed that "the Court has again made clear that it will not accept simplistic arguments against the constitutionality of reasonable regulations to make guns safer." Liccardo continued, "To reduce gun-related deaths and injuries in this nation, we must refocus our efforts from merely reducing the proliferation of firearms–seemingly futile in a nation already with 400 million guns– to common-sense measures that make gun possession safer. We look forward to implementing this ordinance to provide a model for safety for other cities and states nationally."
Liccardo proposed–and a majority of his Council colleagues approved–these measures as a means to reduce gun harm. Specifically, insurance would operate to compensate victims of unintentional shootings, while utilizing risk-adjusted insurance premiums to induce safer behavior among gun owners, such as using a gun safe, installing a trigger lock or chamber-load indicator, or taking gun safety courses. The fee requirement would support gun violence prevention programs, specifically supporting mental health counseling, suicide and domestic violence prevention programs, and gun safety courses targeted at residents in gun-owning households. No other city or state has yet implemented either of these types of interventions, but a gun liability insurance requirement has been previously proposed in several state legislatures—including recently in California--and Congress.
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The City expects the litigation to continue, as the plaintiffs may seek to amend their complaints and refile dismissed claims. The City will proceed with the implementation of the insurance requirement in the ordinance on January 1st, and will ultimately implement the fee requirement pursuant to the process and timeline set forth by the City Manager's Office.
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.
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