San Jose asks judge to toss challenge to gun insurance law
- Lawsuit was amended after U.S. Supreme Court decision strengthening gun rights
- City says insurance requirement does not restrict gun rights
(Reuters) - San Jose, California, has asked a federal judge for the second time to dismiss a gun rights group's challenge to a city ordinance requiring gun owners to purchase insurance and pay a fee to a non-profit aimed at preventing gun violence.
The city said in a motion filed Thursday that its law remained constitutional even after the U.S. Supreme Court in June issued its ruling in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, greatly expanding gun rights.
The high court in Bruen declared for the first time that the U.S. Constitution's 2nd Amendment protects an individual's right to carry a handgun in public for self-defense and said any restrictions on that right must be consistent with the nation's historical tradition of gun control. But the city argued Thursday that requiring gun owners to buy insurance could not run afoul of the 2nd Amendment because it did not forbid owning or carrying guns.
A lawyer for the Colorado-based National Association for Gun Rights, which brought the lawsuit, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
San Jose, California's third largest city, in January 2022 passed the first-of-its-kind ordinance, which would require gun owners to obtain liability insurance covering losses and damages stemming from negligent or accidental use of their weapons. The law would also require gun owners to pay an annual fee to an anti-gun violence non-profit designated by the San Jose city manager.
The city has postponed implementing the law during the litigation.
NAGR sued immediately after the law was passed, saying the insurance requirement restricted the right to bear arms under the 2nd Amendment, and requiring payments to a non-profit was unconstitutional compelled speech under the 1st Amendment.
U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman last October dismissed an earlier version of the lawsuit, saying it would have to be re-filed in light of Bruen to challenge the law under the new standard.
San Jose said in Thursday's motion that Bruen did not invalidate the law.
"(T)he Insurance requirement bears no resemblance to the laws that the Supreme Court has historically struck down as violating Second Amendment rights, all of which have either sought to directly ban, prohibit, or prevent most or all people from keeping or bearing arms," the city wrote.
Even if the insurance requirement did restrict the right to bear arms, the city said, it was in line with the nation's historical tradition of gun control because it was analogous to 19th century laws requiring some people to post bonds in order to carry guns.
Freeman last year dismissed the challenge to the fee requirement on the grounds that it was not ripe because it had not yet been implemented. San Jose said it must be dismissed again because the requirement was still not implemented, since the city had not found a suitable non-profit.
The case is National Association for Gun Rights Inc v. City of San Jose, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, No. 5:22-cv-00501.
For NAGR: Mike Columbo of Dhillon Law Group
For San Jose: Tamarah Prevost of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy
Challenge to San Jose gun insurance, fee law can proceed
San Jose votes to be first U.S. city to mandate gun liability insurance
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.