Gun owners aren’t the only constituency unhappy with San Jose’s new gun-control ordinances.
A group of taxpayer advocacy groups launched a legal challenge against San Jose’s annual firearms tax and insurance mandate on Wednesday. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the Silicon Valley Public Accountability Foundation, the Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association, and two individual residents are targeting the annual fee requirement for gun owners. They argue the tax is unconstitutional.
“By requiring San Jose gun owners to pay an Annual Gun Harm Reduction Fee to private non-profit organization that the City Manager will designate, the Ordinance forces San Jose gun owners to associate with or support that private group and to fund their message, in violation of the gun owners’ rights of free speech and association under the United States and California constitutions,” the complaint reads.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo (D.), a top supporter of the ordinance, stood by the regulation despite the new lawsuit.
“No good deed goes unlitigated,” Liccardo told The Reload.
The law, which isn’t expected to go into effect until August, would require gun owners to obtain liability insurance coverage and pay an estimated annual $25 fee to a yet-to-be-established non-profit organization created with help from the city. The non-profit would then be in charge of distributing funds to gun-violence prevention services and firearm safety training, according to the law. Failure to comply with either mandate could result in a fine and the confiscation of a resident’s firearms.
When it passed in January, mayor Liccardo (D.) called the law “a constitutionally compliant path to mitigate the unnecessary suffering from gun harm in our community.” But opponents say it violates a collection of state and federal protections.
The tax lawsuit marks the second constitutional challenge to San Jose’s first-of-its-kind law before it has even officially gone into effect. Within hours of its passage by the San Jose City Council back in January, a lawsuit was filed in federal court by the National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR) and a San Jose resident who claimed the ordinance violated the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“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,” the NAGR suit reads. “In fact, the penalties for nonpayment of the insurance and fees include seizure of the citizen’s gun. The ordinance is, therefore, patently unconstitutional.”
But unlike that suit, which challenged the ordinance as a violation of residents’ gun rights, this latest filing alleges that the law violates both the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and a provision in the state constitution that requires a two-thirds vote of the electorate to pass a new local tax.
“Our interest is not in the right to own guns,” Tim Bittle, HJTA’s director of legal affairs, told The Mercury News. “But we’re very concerned about the potential precedent that could be set by this unusual requirement that gun owners pay a fee to a private non-profit organization, which then has control of how the revenue of the fee gets spent.”
Other gun-rights groups have also expressed outrage at the provision as well. The NRA called it an “attempt to punish law-abiding gun owners for owning a lawful product, by making them pay for the activities of criminals.” Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, told The Reload in January his group would file a suit alongside the Firearms Policy Coalition once the ordinance went into effect.