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Zornio: Colorado should follow California on gun liability insurance

San Jose became the first city to pass firearm liability insurance requirements. Colorado should become the first state.

If the mere suggestion that Coloradans could take a page from California on gun laws makes you bristle, you’re not going to like this column.

Last week, San Jose City Council members offered a vote of 10 to 1 for gun liability insurance requirements. As Silicon Valley’s third most populous city, the move sent a clear message: If you own a gun, you are responsible for the outcomes that may come of use of it.

The first-of-its-kind measure comes in response to a mass shooting in the city that left nine people dead last year. If passed, the initiative will require gun owners to carry personal insurance for their firearms. A second motion passed 8 to 3 to pay an annual “harm reduction” fee of $25.

Trish Zornio (Photo by Holly Hursley Photography)

Officials were clear the measure would not stop all gun violence. The primary goals stated were to help increase the safety and storage of firearms, as well as to offer some additional relief in the aftermath of violence. 

There’s reason to believe the initiative will work.

Roughly 5,500 households in the city are reported to be home to at least one legal owner of a firearm. The liability requirements are therefore likely to increase the use of gun safes, trigger locks and safety classes for most of these residents. 

The measures will miss so-called ghost guns or otherwise illegally obtained weapons, but they could still drastically reduce accidental and stolen weapon incidents.

Right on cue, objecting lawsuits have already been filed.

Immediately following the vote, one Colorado-based gun advocacy group, the National Association of Gun Rights, filed suit in federal court. Others have said they will follow.

The groups claim the San Jose City Council efforts are unconstitutional, citing unlawful taxes on gun ownership and threats to the Second Amendment.

Setting aside the absurdity of today’s political landscape where rational discussions of gun safety appear to be impossible, one can’t help but wonder who the NAGR thinks should be responsible for the costs of gun violence if not the gun owners themselves. 

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For example, San Jose is reported to have an estimated $40 million in direct annual expenses by taxpayers for emergency services related to gun violence. Should that burden fall to non-gun owning taxpayers when it’s a largely preventable cost?

In Colorado, the numbers are equally staggering. Everytown, a gun safety nonprofit, estimates our state spends roughly $5.6 billion on gun violence annually with $170.2 million of that coming directly from taxpayer dollars. Does NAGR support wasting taxpayer money on costs that could more appropriately be covered by gun liability insurance?

The common retort by passionate gun advocates is usually something along the lines of not infringing upon and needing to preserve the Second Amendment.

But let’s be candid; There is no surer way to jeopardize the right to bear arms than to spend decades stymying any and all measures of safety and responsibility while a new generation of voters are gunned down in their schools. That will be the undoing of the Second Amendment — not background checks or liability insurance.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

As a nation, gun violence continues to rise. As a state, we’ve experienced more than our fair share of it. Thankfully, despite the occasional extremist group, most Colorado voters are unaffiliated and support common sense gun safety measures. This can be readily seen in the election of gun safety advocates, as well as with the passage of multiple gun safety laws in recent years.

The next logical next step, therefore, is to pick up where San Jose City Council members left off. They have helped pave the way for policymakers to enact stronger safety and responsibility laws, and as a state we should follow their lead. 

If San Jose can be the first city to pass gun liability insurance, Colorado can be the first state to do the same.


Trish Zornio is a scientist, lecturer and writer who has worked at some of the nation’s top universities and hospitals. She’s an avid rock climber and was a 2020 candidate for the U.S. Senate in Colorado.


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