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San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo talks to people participating in a 2016 march in downtown San Jose. Photo: Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto via Getty Images

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is today proposing a city ordinance that would require firearm owners to either carry liability insurance or pay a fee to cover public costs of gun violence to the city.

Why it matters: San Jose is reeling from the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting last month that killed 2 children and 1 adult and injured a dozen more. The city, the 10th-largest in the U.S., is the first to propose this kind of "harm reduction" measure to curb gun violence.

How it works: If approved by the city council, the measure would require San Jose gun owners to have private liability insurance.

  • If such insurance is not available, or if an individual is not able to purchase coverage, firearm owners could pay a fee intended to help cover the costs to city police and emergency services related to gun violence.
  • That payment would need to be protected with strict privacy standards, possibly using blockchain technology, to comply with California's state law that precludes local governments from establishing gun registries.

What they're saying: Insurance can incentivize safe behavior and discourage risky behavior, from purchasing a home security system to thinking twice about letting a teenager drive a car, Liccardo told Axios in an interview.

  • "Those are all decisions that are influenced in different ways by price signals in the insurance markets," he said. "In many cases, we can say insurance has saved thousands of lives because drivers recognize, for example, the benefit of having a discount for an airbag."
  • The intent of the harm-reduction model, he said, is to pull the gun debate out of the idealogical arena and "try to find ways we can reduce the harm of gun violence without infringing on recognized Second Amendment rights."

Gun insurance proposals have been unsuccessfully pitched before at both the national and state level, with several states proposing insurance requirements after the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre.

The other side: Opponents of the insurance measures say they infringe on Second Amendment rights by creating a new financial burden for gun owners. The insurance and firearm industries have argued in the past that property or casualty insurance does not cover intentional criminal behavior.

Liccardo makes a public health argument, pointing out that in addition to automobile insurance, the U.S. taxes tobacco consumption to discourage risky behavior and cover the public health costs generated by smoking-related illnesses and deaths.

  • Under his proposal, insurance would provide coverage for accidental discharge of the gun and for the intentional acts of third parties who steal, borrow or otherwise acquire the gun.

What's next: Liccardo's proposal will need to be approved by the city council, and he is starting conversations with other California mayors and state legislators.

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - World

UK government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

Driving the news: U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne called the intelligence "deeply concerning" in a statement to Axios. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.

Updated 5 hours ago - Science

This powerful new accelerator looks for keys to the center of atoms

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Nuclear physicists trying to piece together how atoms are built are about to get a powerful new tool.

Why it matters: When the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams begins experiments later this spring, physicists from around the world will use the particle accelerator to better understand the inner workings of atoms that make up all the matter that can be seen in the universe.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated" — Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Teens and adults missed 37 million vaccinations during COVID — Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America — Annual COVID vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults — Beijing officials urge COVID-19 "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics.
  5. Variant tracker