Legal challenge against San Jose’s gun insurance law dealt serious blow

San Jose Mercury News

In a major blow to pro-gun groups, a federal judge has dismissed their claims challenging San Jose’s novel law requiring firearm owners to carry liability insurance.

The new law, passed by the city council last year, triggered immediate lawsuits by the Colorado-based National Association for Gun Rights and the state’s Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, which argued that it was unconstitutional and burdensome and that San Jose had failed to prove it would reduce gun violence.

The city is the first in the country to impose such rules on gun owners, and its supporters contend that the requirements will encourage safer firearm handling.

In the Thursday ruling, U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman said the city “had demonstrated that the Insurance Requirement is consistent with the Nation’s historical traditions” and did not violate the Second Amendment. Freeman will allow the plaintiffs to file an amended complaint on First Amendment grounds over a yearly fee the city plans on requiring firearm owners to pay to a nonprofit that combats gun violence.

Freeman’s decision comes after a landmark ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the June 2022 Bruen decision that changed the test of how a gun law’s constitutionality is determined, requiring that it be consistent with the country’s history and tradition with firearms. The shift has sparked major questions over how lower courts are ruling on local gun rules, as in the case of the state’s Unsafe Handgun Act that has seen challenges by federal judges under the Supreme Court’s new standard.

In the case involving San Jose’s law, Freeman ruled that the city’s gun laws passed the benchmark set up by the Supreme Court.

The liability insurance rule went into effect Jan. 1 of this year. The timing for the yearly fee requirement is still being worked out by the city.

In a statement, the city of San Jose wrote that the judge’s decision “affirms that there are constitutional ways to provide protections from gun-related harms, such as liability insurance, for the public and gun owners. We believe that this decision will inform the work of other local and state entities working on gun safety initiatives.”

Former Mayor Sam Liccardo, who helped pass the insurance law, wrote, “The Court’s order is a victory for San Jose today, and for many other communities in the future. The gun lobby’s grip over Congress and many state houses leaves it to local leaders to offer our families something more than ‘hopes and prayers.’ While we will need many innovative solutions to reduce the relentless human toll of gun violence in our communities, San Jose’s implementation of this ordinance will enable investments in mental health, domestic violence and suicide prevention, and other evidence-based measures to reduce firearm deaths and injuries.”

In a statement, the National Association for Gun Rights wrote, “This ruling is what happens when judges rely more on anti-gun groups like Brady than the actual ruling authorities here — namely the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. Supreme Court. … No one would argue that having to pay $25 a year to petition your government or speak your mind wouldn’t violate those rights — and yet that is exactly what this court has claimed when it comes to the right to keep and bear arms. This is a truly astounding example of bad-faith judicial acrobatics.”  (To read the entire article, please click HERE)

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