WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is urging local and federal leaders to come together to reduce gun violence amid an alarming rise in crime. Tuesday, Biden met with several community activists and local leaders, including San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo who has been breaking ground on strategies to curb gun violence and crime in California.
“This is a hopeful moment for me, an opportunity to be able to hear from colleagues from throughout the country and most importantly to be there while the President is hearing them,” Liccardo said.
In the wake of the Santa Clara mass shooting in May, where a transit worker killed ten people including himself, Liccardo followed that event up with pitches for the first-in-the-state city ordinances to require gun owners to have liability insurance and pay a yearly fee to relieve taxpayers of the cost of responding to gun violence. Liccardo discussed these plans with President Joe Biden and others at the White House.
“The president demonstrated he was passionate about this issue; he's very concerned about what's happening on the streets of big cities throughout the country,” Liccardo said. “He is really committed toward every prong of the strategy that we articulate around prevention, around intervention, and getting police out there in the street, as well as community-based public safety solutions.”
Homicides in California jumped 31% in 2020 making it the deadliest year in over a decade, according to reports from the state attorney general’s office. Liccardo hopes that the rate will go down and said he's open to bringing back ideas he heard in the White House meeting, such as new ways to get police more focused on developing relationships in the community. He said he just wants to prevent any more shootings.
“It shocks you like nothing else can and there's no question that while we've got families grieving, we’ve also got a community coming together to support those families and their loved ones, and we're committed to doing everything we possibly can to ensure it doesn't happen again,” Liccardo said.
Republicans, like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, have blamed the spike in crime on weak Democratic policies and have sought to portray the party and President Biden as supporters of “defunding” the police. But at the meeting, Biden urged the contrary: for leaders to use COVID-19 relief plan funds passed earlier this year to get more police officers into high crime neighborhoods. Liccardo said he’s doing just that and also using that money to get young adults in rough areas jobs.
He hopes his new proposals to require mandatory gun insurance and mandatory gun ownership fees will reach other cities across California.
“I've been talking to state legislators certainly, as well as the mayors of other cities throughout the state, they’re very interested in what we're doing,” Liccardo said. “We know obviously the benefit would be greater if we're able to scale it throughout the state of California and so we're quite interested in working collaboratively with the legislature, and with other cities, see how we can really learn from each other, try each of these ideas, and as we demonstrate results be able to scale the impact of these kinds of policies.”
The liability insurance and annual fee requirement were approved by San Jose’s city council a couple of weeks ago. Now the city’s independent consultant is figuring out exactly how much that fee will be, with a new ordinance draft expected for the city council’s consideration in October.