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San Jose requiring gun buyers to be video recorded

Gun section in Stans Merry Mart, Wenatchee Washington. (Thayne Tuason/Wikimedia Commons)
June 18, 2021

Firearm retailers in San Jose must begin video recording all gun purchases, according to a new ordinance passed unanimously by the city council on Tuesday. Retailers have 90 days to comply with the new law.

“The sale or transfer of a Firearm or of Firearm Ammunition to persons who are not sworn peace officers shall be recorded by the video surveillance system in such a way that the facial features of the purchaser or transferee are clearly visible,” the ordinance says.

It also requires purchasers to be audio recorded, and mandates rules on video recording quality and storage. Audio and video of firearm transactions and documentation must be kept for at least 30 days.

The mandate seeks to combat “straw purchasing,” or the act of buying a gun for someone else who may not be able to legally purchase a firearm himself.  

“We know a significant number of crooks and gangs get firearms through straw purchasing,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said at Tuesday night’s council meeting. “This set of ordinances is really focused on narrowing the flow of guns to those which are clearly legal and hopefully doing something to deter the flow of guns that are unlawful to own.”

The Firearms Policy Coalition, based in Sacramento, slammed the new ordinance as unconstitutional.

“It is outrageous that Mayor Liccardo wants to use ‘Big Brother’-style omniveillance to record gun owners’ every move, violating the privacy of millions, especially at-risk firearm purchasers,” the coalition wrote in a statement reported by The Mercury News.

According to Liccardo, the ordinance is the first step in a larger set of initiatives proposed by the mayor and city lawmakers, including requiring gun owners have liability insurance and pay a “modest annual fee” to cover the taxpayer “cost of gun-related violence.”

“Insurance compensates the victims of unintentional gun harm — which annually injures 27,000 Americans and claims the lives of 500 more — paying medical bills, rehabilitative needs, and tragically, funeral expenses,” the mayor wrote prior to the law’s passage Tuesday.

The mayor also asserted that the proposed gun-owner tax would compensate San Jose residents who “bear the financial burden” of government response necessitated by gun violence

“Many like to point to the Second Amendment to skew the discussion on much needed gun reform. And while it protects the rights of citizens to own guns, it doesn’t require the public to subsidize gun ownership,” he claimed.

“Skeptics will say that criminals won’t comply. They’re right; yet that’s an important feature of these proposals, not a defect,” Liccardo continued. “These ordinances create a legal mandate that provides police with a lawful means for seizing guns from non-law-abiding, dangerous people.

The council is expected to consider the mayor’s additional proposals later this year.

The move comes less than a month after a Transportation Valley Authority staffer opened fire at a San Jose TVA facility, killing 10 people, including himself. State and local lawmakers called for stricter gun laws in response to the shooting.