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San Jose to Require Gun Owners to Carry Liability Insurance

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Mayor Sam Liccardo speaks at a press conference following Wednesday's mass shooting at a VTA rail yard in San Jose. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Updated, July 1, 7:40 p.m.

San Jose officials moved a step closer to being the first city in the nation to require gun owners to carry liability insurance and pay a fee to cover taxpayers’ costs associated with gun violence.

A draft ordinance was unanimously approved by the City Council on Tuesday, a month after a disgruntled Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority employee fatally shot nine of his co-workers and then himself, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Mayor Sam Liccardo praised the measure and said gun owners who do not comply with the new rules shouldn’t have guns.

"We won’t magically end gun violence, but we stop paying for it," Liccardo said in a statement.


The measure is part of a 10-point gun control plan that Liccardo unveiled following the May 26 mass shooting at the VTA light rail yard in San Jose.

The plan now heads to the Rules Committee where more details will be ironed out. For example, officials need to determine how much gun owners would have to pay, or how to enforce the rule. The city attorney’s office also has to make sure the ordinances are defensible in court. The council is expected to hear the proposal again in September for a final vote.

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The fees from gun owners would be used to cover the direct costs of gun violence to city taxpayers for services that include police response, ambulance transport and gunshot-related medical treatment for victims. Details on the fees would be determined upon completion of a gun harm study from the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, a group that promotes individual and public health, welfare and safety.

In a preliminary report released ahead of the vote Tuesday, the institute estimated that gun-related homicides, suicides and other shootings cost San Jose around $63 million annually. A more thorough study is expected to be completed in the fall.

City officials know how many guns were purchased in San Jose since 2001, Liccardo said, but the city has no gun registry and no way to track gun owners.

Earlier this month, city lawmakers passed another measure requiring all retailers to record video and audio of all firearm purchases. San Jose would be the largest California city with such a rule.

Correction: This story clarifies that San Jose officials approved Mayor Sam Liccardo's plan and directed city staff to draft an ordinance that would require liability insurance for gun owners. The council will vote on whether the draft ordinance should be law in September.

KQED's Adhiti Bandlamudi contributed to this report.

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