A gunman holding four people hostage at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas this weekend is a reminder again the daily threat of gun violence to our local communities. San Jose, of which I am mayor, is not immune: our one million residents have suffered three mass shootings in three years, as well as hundreds of murders, suicides and serious injuries.
Last June our municipal council unanimously approved my proposals that will mitigate the harm caused by guns in our community – and a final vote on Jan. 25 should turn them into law. The proposals include two requirements for gun owners that no city or state in the United States has ever implemented: the purchase of liability insurance and the payment of an annual fee to fund violence reduction initiatives. We anticipate a deluge of lawsuits from the gun industry and gun rights advocates will follow.
Why should a city expose itself to litigation? Because the horrifying now-common reports of shootings across the country do little more than elicit a performative parade of prayers and platitudes from Congress. Because problem solving must be elevated above political posturing.
Because, as one grieving mother asked as I hugged her in memory of her son, “we just need someone to do something.”
My proposals take a page of public health approaches that have reduced automobile-related deaths, smoking, and teenage pregnancy in the United States, they encourage accountability, rely on multidisciplinary learning and invest in proven risk reduction initiatives with expert guidance.
Requiring every gun owner in my city to carry liability insurance will better compensate unintentional shooting victims and their families for medical and related expenses. More importantly, insurance can also incentivize safer gun ownership. Risk-adjusted bonuses will encourage owners to take gun safety courses, use gun safes or install child safety locks to reduce the annual accidental damage toll caused by firearms.
Unintentional shootings – often involving children – claim the lives of 500 Americans and injure 26,000 each year. New laws coming to San Jose apply lessons learned from the insurance industry’s impact on auto safety. The reduction in premiums for policyholders who drive more carefully or who buy cars equipped with airbags or anti-lock brakes has contributed to reduce fatal accidents per kilometer by nearly 80% over the past five decades, saving 3.5 million lives. We need a similar approach to dealing with risks from unintentional firearms, because around 4.6 million children live in a home where a gun is kept unlocked and loaded, and the shootings became the second leading cause of death among American children and adolescents.
Imposing a modest annual fee on gun owners can support underfunded domestic violence and suicide prevention programs, gun safety classes, mental health services and crisis intervention. substance addiction. We invited doctors, public health experts and, yes, gun owners, to help determine how to allocate the money from these fees in ways that reduce gun violence. Prioritizing these investments to serve residents of gun-owning households will have the greatest impact because studies suggest that even a firearm properly stored at home greatly increases the risk of death by homicide and suicide of the occupants.
Gun rights advocates argue that gun owners should not have to pay a fee to exercise their constitutional right to bear arms. While the 2nd Amendment protects the rights of citizens to own guns, it does not compel the public to subsidize gun ownership. Taxpayers bear the financial burden every day of police, ambulances and trauma surgeons responding to gun violence. These direct costs of armed violence total $40 million a year for San Jose taxpayers, and $1.4 billion for taxpayers across the state.
Critics say criminals don’t obey insurance or fee warrants – and they’re right. But these orders create a legal mandate that empowers police to at least temporarily confiscate firearms from dangerous offenders. Considering in particular the legally fragile status of concealed carry regulations before the current one Supreme Court, law enforcement agencies face significant challenges in keeping communities safe amid the ubiquitous presence of firearms. Giving police the ability to distinguish fraudsters from law-abiding gun owners will have enormous public safety benefits.
These new laws will not end all gun violence. We are also rolling out other interventions, such as strengthening gun violence prohibition orders, banning untraceable “ghost guns” and prevent the illegal purchase of firearms for people such as criminals or minors who are not allowed to buy guns themselves. We also need to coordinate early mental health interventions for people showing signs of distress.
While Congress drags on, communities don’t have the luxury of rejecting the devastation of gun violence. We live among grieving family members; we hear echoes of painful praise and we work with traumatized friends. These new laws are not a panacea, but they can reduce the unnecessary suffering of our community during a crisis that is long overdue to “do something about”.
Sam Liccardo is the mayor of San Jose, America’s 10and biggest city.