A mass shooting prompted a California mayor to take action. He couldn’t stop another | San jose

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On July 28, 2019, a gunman opened fire on a crowd at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, killing Stephen Romero, six, Keyla Salazar, 13, and Trevor Irby, 25, and injuring 17 others .

The mass shooting sent shockwaves through the community, located 30 miles south of San Jose in the Bay Area of ​​California, as it sparked all-too-familiar calls from elected officials that “thoughts and prayersWere no longer a sufficient answer.

Among them was San José Mayor Sam Liccardo, who two weeks later unveiled a one-of-a-kind proposal that would require gun owners in the 10th largest city in the United States to purchase liability insurance. civilian for their weapons. Those who do not purchase the insurance would be required to pay a fee to cover the cost of gun violence in the city. But in the 22 months following the announcement, the initiative failed to reach San José City Council.

Then another mass shootout rocked San José.

Justin Bates, who was injured in the mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, and his mother, Lisa Barth, attend a vigil outside City Hall in Gilroy, Calif., July 29, 2019. Photograph: Kate Munsch / Reuters

On the morning of May 26, a 57-year-old Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority maintenance worker shot dead nine of his co-workers in the transit agency’s marshalling yard in San Jose before pulling himself up. commit suicide.

In the weeks that followed, Liccardo returned to action, re-announcing his gun insurance proposal with the addition that all gun owners would be required to pay fees, whether they had or not purchased insurance. The city council passed a law first proposed by the mayor in February 2019 that requires gun shops to register the sale of arms and ammunition.

The road to the passage of meaningful firearms legislation in San José has been a long one. Liccardo, for his part, attributes the delays to the pandemic as health experts who were supposed to study the costs of gun violence were overwhelmed as the coronavirus spread through the Bay Area. And he pointed to the legal minefield the city’s team of lawyers had to walk through as they figured out how to enact a gun insurance warrant that no city in the country had tried before.

But the lengthy process in San José points to a larger trend – the extreme difficulty of enacting comprehensive gun legislation in the United States – even after mass shootings.

“When episodes of mass shootings took place in New Zealand, Australia or the UK, these governments took responsibility to say, ‘We are going to take action that will dramatically reduce gun violence in our community. “” said Liccardo. “The result has been a dramatic reduction in damage from firearms. It should come as no surprise that in a country where we apparently do not have the will to do anything substantial to truly reduce gun violence in our country, there must be a horrible tragedy. “

In the face of Republican opposition, gun control legislation has historically failed in the US Congress, even after mass shootings, said Christopher Poliquin, assistant professor of strategy at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management . Instead, most gun policies – whether relaxing or tightening restrictions – have been enacted by state legislatures.

Most initiatives on gun restrictions follow mass shootings, Poliquin added, despite the prevalence of daily gun violence in the community in the country. Overall, mass shootings made up only 0.2% of all gun deaths in the United States in 2019, but high-profile attacks tend to have the most impact on policymakers, Poliquin said.

People attend a vigil at City Hall on May 27 for victims of a mass shooting in San José.
People attend a vigil at City Hall on May 27 for victims of a mass shooting in San José. Photograph: Amy Osborne / AFP / Getty Images

Liccardo compares its gun insurance mandate to other “harm reduction strategies” that have helped reduce smoking, injuries and deaths from auto crashes. The insurance would cover accidental discharges and intentional acts of a person who has borrowed, stolen or otherwise acquired a firearm. However, it would not cover the costs associated with “intentional acts” of gun violence by the gun owner.

City officials have yet to determine the amount of fees to help cover the cost of gun violence in San Jose, but the money will pay for police and other emergency services put under strain by them. gun-related injuries and deaths. In California, gun violence costs the state an estimated $ 22.6 billion each year, including $ 1.2 billion on the shoulders of taxpayers.

If San Jose adopts Liccardo’s gun insurance proposal, the policy could have ripple effects on other cities in California, as other mayors have already expressed interest in enacting similar legislation.

But first, it will have to withstand legal scrutiny as the Second Amendment groups prepare to sue San Jose.

Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California, expects “the mayor to have his rear end put in a basket by the courts.”

“They are allowed to exercise a right enumerated in the constitution,” Paredes said of gun owners. “You cannot force an insurance policy against a listed right. “

Sam Liccardo, mayor of San Jose, speaks during a vigil the day after a mass shooting in the city.
Sam Liccardo, mayor of San Jose, speaks during a vigil the day after a mass shooting in the city. Photograph: Nic Coury / AP

The threat of legal action is part of the realm of gun control in the United States, and in most states, the hands of the local legislator are tied on the matter due to pre-emption laws. These laws prevent local governments from regulating firearms in certain areas, such as licensing or permitting. California is only one of two states with limited firearms preemption laws, and five states have no pre-emption law.

“The gun lobby has spent decades working to ensure that local jurisdictions do not have the freedom to govern on this issue and take whatever action they deem necessary to protect their communities,” said Lawyer Allison Anderman principal among the Giffords. Legal Center for the Prevention of Armed Violence. “This is obviously so that newer cities or more liberal cities in more conservative states do not do what the state legislature will not do and limit access to guns, because it is not. good for the profits of the gun industry. “

Even if the gun insurance proposal passes the legal test, Liccardo himself acknowledges that there is unlikely to be a risk of a mass shooting again in San José. Instead, he says it will allow the city to identify “high risk” gun owners.

If an officer responding to a domestic violence call at home discovers that there is a firearm without insurance, “it gives the officer an opportunity to seize the weapon on the spot,” Liccardo says.

“It’s actually very important because it’s a particular context where we know that gun ownership is strongly correlated with gun violence,” he added.

Anderman, who worked with Liccardo’s office on firearms insurance policy, agrees that “the extent of the damage it could mitigate is pretty narrow.” However, it will offer victims of gun violence monetary compensation that they might not otherwise receive.

Keyla Salazar, third from right, was one of the victims of the Gilroy Garlic Festival mass shooting.  Also pictured, from left to right, David Pimentel (Keyla's grandfather), Betzabe Vargas (Keyla's grandmother), Giordano Pimentel (Keyla's uncle), Katiuska Pimentel Vargas (Keyla's aunt ), Dasha Lopez, Lyann Salazar (Keyla's sister), Lorena Pimentel (Keyla's mother)) and Eduardo Lopez.
Keyla Salazar, third from right, was one of the victims of the Gilroy Garlic Festival mass shooting. Also pictured, from left to right, David Pimentel (Keyla’s grandfather), Betzabe Vargas (Keyla’s grandmother), Giordano Pimentel (Keyla’s uncle), Katiuska Pimentel Vargas (Keyla’s aunt ), Dasha Lopez, Lyann Salazar (Keyla’s sister), Lorena Pimentel (Keyla’s mother)) and Eduardo Lopez. Photograph: courtesy of the Salazar family

Next month marks the second anniversary of the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting, and the families of those killed continue to grapple with the trauma of that day.

Katiuska Pimentel Vargas remembers her niece, Keyla, as tough, gentle and generous. Before the gunman killed her, the 13-year-old saved her birthday money to buy ice cream for her friends at the paleteros when their parents ran out of money.

She loved art and animals, including her beloved guinea pig, Albert.

It was “disappointing” to see San Jose wait so long to act, Vargas said.

Still, she wants others to know that there are people behind the numbers, that Keyla is not just a number, but one of the more than 14,000 people who died from gun violence in 2019.

“We just want people to remember what happened so that we don’t forget the pain families continue to experience,” Vargas said. “I don’t want another family to go through what we’ve been through.”





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