By Lloyd Alaban
With the city still reeling from the shooting, elected officials gathered again Tuesday to propose local gun control measures, including a rule that would require all gun owners to carry insurance.
Mayor Sam Liccardo said that eight incidents of gun violence occurred in the city since the VTA mass shooting.
“Cities cannot wait for Congress and certainly not for the courts to protect residents from gun violence,” Liccardo said. “These gun deaths are preventable and we can save lives and make our community safer, but we need to recognize gun violence for what it is: a public health crisis.”
The proposed measures include requiring gun owners to pay fees to help fund critical emergency medical and police response, as well as to reduce the burden of gun violence on taxpayers. City leaders also aim to prevent straw purchases—buying a firearm and passing it off to another person prohibited from owning a gun—a practice banned under state law.
The proposal follow a recent decision by a federal judge to overturn California’s longtime ban on assault weapons. In the ruling, U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez of the Southern District of California said the ban was unconstitutional and likened the AR-15 rifle to the Swiss Army knife.
Liccardo addressed this on Tuesday.
“San Jose residents know the difference between an AR-15 and a Swiss army knife, even if a federal judge doesn’t,” he said.
Alongside Liccardo stood Vice Mayor Chappie Jones, Councilmembers David Cohen and Magdalena Carrasco, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, Moms Demand Action volunteer Yvonne Murray, Esther Sanchez-Gomez, an attorney with the Giffords Law Center and Maria Ines Ortega, co-president of the Winchester/Cadillac Project Hope Association.
Ortega, who spoke through a Spanish translator, said the community cannot continue to witness innocent lives lost.
“It’s time to implement stronger laws, to keep our families safe,” she said. “My kids have been exposed to stray bullets multiple times… we need this to stop. We need it to stop now.”
Councilmember Cohen said that he has “no doubt” that ensuring gun owners are responsible will save lives.
“We can no longer wait for others to solve this problem for us,” he said. “Our city can be a model for others to follow.”
Councilmember Carrasco said it’s not just the local community crying out for change, but the whole country.
“We recognize this won’t solve everything, but we hope it will be an incentive for those who choose to continue to bear arms to behave in a way that will reduce harm,” she said. “And for those who shouldn’t have arms in their possession, we will be able to strengthen those policies and make sure they don’t have them.”
She spoke about having to tell her kids to duck and cover while gunshots rang out on her street.
“As a mother and elected official, I refuse to accept any type of gun violence in our community,” she said.
Carrasco also touched on what she referred to as another epidemic in San Jose: domestic violence. She said domestic violence is the most underreported crime in the country, with actual incidents five times higher than those reported. And, she said, the presence of guns in an already hostile situation increases the likelihood of a woman losing her life by 500%.
“There’s only tragedy to be had when guns and domestic violence intersect,” she said. “We need red flag laws to protect our community from domestic violence and other domestic partner violence.”
Tuesday wasn’t the first time Liccardo proposed requiring insurance for all gun owners. It earned him national headlines in 2019, but the policy’s implementation halted last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said he and his staff have gathered data on gun violence for the last two years for the proposals.
The VTA mass shooting happened May 26 shortly after a union meeting at a VTA light rail yard in downtown San Jose. The gunman, a 57-year-old VTA technician, killed nine people before shooting himself.
The shooter had three 9mm pistols and 32 high-capacity magazines, according to the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office. Authorities said the shooter fired 39 bullets. The magazines, which held more than 10 rounds, are illegal in California.
The three guns were legally obtained and registered, according to FBI Special Agent in Charge Craig Fair.
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This article was originally published by The San José Spotlight.