Judge says unlikely to block California’s gun insurance law

An attendee tries out a gun on display at the National Rifle Association (NRA) annual convention in Houston, Texas, U.S., May 28, 2022. REUTERS/Callaghan O’Hare

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  • The first-of-its-kind measure would require gun owners to obtain liability insurance
  • The gun rights group says it violates the Second Amendment right to bear arms

(Reuters) – A federal judge on Thursday appeared ready to allow a San Jose, California, city ordinance requiring gun owners to buy insurance to go into effect, even as he expressed strong concerns about another part of the law requiring gun owners to pay a fee of a newly formed non-profit against gun violence.

U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman in San Jose said during a video conference hearing that she does not believe the ordinance implicates the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because it does not allow the city to enforce it by confiscating guns and is therefore reluctant to grant a request by the National Gun Rights Association for a preliminary injunction blocking it.

“It seems to me that this ordinance does not regulate who can own a gun or where they can carry a gun,” she said.

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In January, San Jose passed a first-of-its-kind ordinance that will require gun owners to obtain liability insurance covering loss and damage resulting from careless or accidental use of their guns. The measure was supposed to take effect in August, but the city said earlier this month it would delay it until the litigation is resolved.

NAGR immediately sued, saying the ordinance violated the Second Amendment right to bear arms. In a recent statement, the group said last month’s U.S. Supreme Court decision expanding gun rights bolstered its case. The Supreme Court, striking down a New York law on concealed carry licenses, ruled that restrictions on gun ownership must be consistent with those traditionally accepted in US history.

However, Freeman said Thursday that requiring owners to buy insurance and pay fees does not directly restrict gun ownership.

Mike Columbo of Dhillon Law Group, advocating for NAGR, said the requirement still burdens the right to bear arms by imposing requirements that apply only to gun owners.

Freeman seemed more sympathetic to the group’s contention that requiring gun owners to donate to a nonprofit aimed at fighting gun violence could violate the First Amendment by forcing them to support an anti-gun organization. She said the city may have avoided the problem by charging fees to run a gun violence program.

However, the judge said it was too early to block that measure because the nonprofit had not yet been established.

“I don’t want the city to walk away thinking this is a victory,” she said. “I think there are real problems here. I need to understand what a nonprofit is and what it does before I can manage.”

The case is National Gun Rights Association Inc et al v. City of San Jose et al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 5:22-cv-00501.

For NAGR: Mike Columbo of Dhillon Law Group

For San Jose: Tamara Prevost of Cotchett Pitre & McCarthy

Read more:

San Jose votes to become first US city to mandate gun liability insurance

US Supreme Court expands gun rights and strikes down New York law

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Brendan Pearson

Thomson Reuters

Brendan Pearson reports on product liability litigation and all areas of healthcare law. He can be reached at [email protected]

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