The city of San Jose voted Tuesday to pass a law that will compel gun owners to take out insurance to cover any damage caused by their weapon, a move its mayor said was the first of its kind in the United States.
The plan, voted on by the city council, will also require weapons owners in the Californian city to pay an annual fee that will fund a non-profit group to help victims of gun violence.
“Tonight San Jose became the first city in the United States to enact an ordinance to require gun owners to purchase liability insurance, and to invest funds generated from fees paid by gun owners into evidence-based initiative to reduce gun violence and gun harm,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said in a statement on Twitter.
The proposed ordinance, which must pass a second reading on February 8 before it becomes law in August, is also intended to cut down the costs to taxpayers.
“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,” Liccardo said ahead of the vote.
“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.”
Firearms are prevalent in the United States, where around 40 percent of adults live in a gun-owning household, according to the Pew Research Center.
Almost 23 million firearms were sold across the country in 2020 and 40,000 people die from gunshots annually.
Despite the horrific toll and the fact that a majority of Americans favor the tightening of gun control rules, repeated attempts to limit gun ownership have failed, with opponents arguing controls are an infringement of individual liberties.
A press release from San Jose city council said gun violence costs the city nearly $40 million a year, including for emergency police and medical response, health care, and investigations.
“While the Second Amendment protects every citizen’s right to own a gun, it does not require taxpayers to subsidize that right,” said Liccardo.
The $25 annual fee will help to fund programs aimed at reducing gun violence, as well as mental health counseling and addiction treatment.
Ahead of the vote, the National Foundation for Gun Rights, an advocacy group, described the proposed law as “a blatantly unconstitutional scheme.”
“This is just as unthinkable as imposing a ‘free speech tax’ or a ‘church attendance tax.’
“The National Foundation for Gun Rights is preparing a lawsuit to challenge this gun ownership tax in federal district court.”
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)