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City of San Jose passes nation’s first gun tax on law-abiding gun owners, but gun rights group files immediate lawsuit to block it

Soon after the San Jose, California, City Council passed an ordinance on Tuesday requiring gun owners to purchase liability insurance and to pay a gun harm reduction fee in, the National Foundation for Gun Rights (NFGR) filed suit in federal court, claiming the new law is an unconstitutional tax on guns.

Quick Facts

The law, the first of its kind in the United States, requires gun owners to obtain liability insurance and pay a “gun harm reduction” fee in what critics are calling a tax on gun ownership.

“Tonight San José 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 initiatives to reduce gun violence and gun harm,” Mayor Sam Licardo said in a statement. “I look forward to supporting the efforts of others to replicate these initiatives across the nation.”

The fee will be paid to a designated but as yet-unnamed nonprofit organization that will provide “services to residents of the City that own or possess a Firearm in the City or to members of their household” including, but not limited to, “suicide prevention services or programs, violence reduction or domestic violence services or programs, mental health services related to gun violence, firearms safety education or training.”

Violators of the ordinance may be fined and have their weapon impounded.

In what is expected to be the first of numerous lawsuits against the ordinance, NFGR, along with local resident and gunowner Mark Sikes, sued the City of San Jose and the City Council in the U.S. District Court of Northern California, San Jose. The suit argues, 

The Second Amendment ‘guarantee[s] the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation…’ and the government ‘may not impose a charge for the enjoyment of a right granted by the federal constitution…’ And yet, the City of San Jose has taken the unprecedented step of requiring virtually all gun owners within its city limits to pay unspecified sums of money to private insurance companies and an unspecified fee to an unidentified government-chosen non-profit simply to exercise their constitutional right to own a gun, as well as an unspecified fee to the City for the costs of administering the unlawful Ordinance.

The NFGR also contended,

Just as a tax on the fundamental right for the press to circulate its content “suggests that the goal of the regulation is not unrelated to suppression of expression…” San Jose’s imposition of a tax, fee, or other arbitrary cost on gun ownership is intended to suppress gun ownership without furthering any government interest. In fact, the penalties for nonpayment of the insurance and fees include seizure of the citizen’s gun. The Ordinance is, therefore, patently unconstitutional.

Not only does the ordinance target law-abiding gun owners for keeping their guns at home, the suit argues, but it also requires them to support a nonprofit advocacy organization, violating their First Amendment rights.

NFGR also claims that the ordinance violates the California constitution by imposing taxes that were not approved by voters and is unrelated to costs borne by the city and that payments to the nonprofit for programs not controlled by the City Council violates the city charter.

The purpose of this ordinance is brazenly transparent. It has nothing to do with making gun owners more responsible or helping victims of gun violence. From the pages of statistics about the danger of guns in the order to the insurance and fees to be imposed on law-abiding citizens, this ordinance is clearly intended to disincentivize, punish, and limit gun ownership, ultimately stripping San Jose residents of their Second Amendment rights.

Supreme Court Justice John Marshall ruled in the case of McCulloch v. Maryland in 1819 “that the power to tax involves the power to destroy; that the power to destroy may defeat and render useless the power to create.” 

That’s exactly what is intended here. The left doesn’t like guns and this is just the latest end run around the Constitution to try to constrain the rights of law-abiding Americans to own a gun and protect themselves, their families, and their community.

The new law doesn’t fine San Jose residents who possess illegal guns, have used a gun to commit a crime, or been irresponsible in handling or storing their gun in a way that led to harm. No, it fines them merely for exercising their Second Amendment right to purchase and possess a gun. Moreover, forcing gun owners to financially support organizations with a mission and message “approved” by the government violates their First Amendment rights.

Hopefully, the courts will step in and put a quick end to this overt encroachment on liberty.

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