In late January 2022, the city of San Jose, California was the first US city to require gun owners to purchase liability insurance. A recent trend in Democratic-leaning cities has led to a slew of similar laws being discussed by other cities. San Jose’s law may encourage them to wait before they join the trend. Critics of the San Jose law point to its lack of enforcement or penalties for gun owners who fail to purchase insurance and a $25 fee levied against gun owners that may prove unconstitutional. Sam Liccardo, the mayor of San Jose, suggested that the insurance mandate would encourage gun owners to have gun safes, use trigger locks, and enroll in gun safety classes, likely to reduce their hypothetical insurance bill. Gun insurance remains a nebulous, theoretical concept, so it’s unclear whether insurance agencies will offer financial incentives for gun owners to be responsible.
As of February 24th, the Ohio State Senate has fired back. A bill was introduced by State Senators Theresa Gavarone and Terry Johnson that aims to prohibit cities from passing similar restrictions in Ohio. The bill’s text explicitly protects citizens from having to carry firearm liability insurance or needing to pay a fee for possessing firearms, parts, components, or ammunition. Ohio’s legislators have taken a proactive stance against gun regulations in recent months, passing similar bills in the state House and Senate that make concealed carry licenses optional for anyone over 21. Currently, those legally using a hidden carry holster must undergo a background check and pass an 8-hour training course. Another proposed law shortens the training that teachers would need to carry guns in classrooms from 728 hours to 20. Should these measures pass, Ohio hopes to become an example of responsible, informed, and unrestricted gun ownership that can prove to left-wing critics that more regulation is not the answer.
A Modest Compromise
While the efficacy and constitutionality of gun control remain hot topics for debate, legislators in Tennessee have introduced an innovative method of encouraging responsible ownership without infringing on gun owners’ rights. In 2021, state Senator Sara Kyle introduced a bill that waived state sales tax on gun safes, locks, and other devices for one year. She hopes to make the one-year exemption permanent in 2022. By reducing restrictions rather than adding them, her bill has received bipartisan support and acclaim from special interest groups on both sides of the aisle. Home storage of firearms is an especially pertinent topic given the swell of new gun owners in recent years. Between January 2020 and May 2021, over 5 million Americans bought their first gun, a massive increase over the 2.4 million who purchased guns for the first time in 2019.
Other reasonable compromises can be found throughout the country. Washington state’s 2018 safe storage measure, for example, makes no attempts to violate the privacy of gun owners’ homes by mandating a certain method of gun storage. It does, however, include language that holds owners responsible if certain “prohibited persons” use firearms that aren’t stored securely. The state has introduced programs to educate gun owners about safe storage and offers them financial kickbacks when they purchase safes, locks, and other storage devices. In other words, it’s helping owners be responsible in a non-invasive way while avoiding the mistake of punishing them preemptively for the irresponsible actions of others.
A Unified Future
San Jose’s recent gun insurance mandate has been making waves on social media, but it doesn’t tell the whole story when it comes to the evolution of laws surrounding our personal security. Not only are states like Ohio loosening restrictions on responsible gun owners, but states like Tennessee and Washington are experimenting with less restrictive, more incentive-based programs that encourage responsible ownership without burdening owners or infringing on their rights. The success of the Tennessee and Washington programs may pave the way for other innovative measures in the future. They serve as proof that you don’t have to restrict rights in order to steer citizens in a more responsible direction and keep everyone safe.