Taxpayer and public accountability coalition files lawsuit against City of San Jose over unconstitutional gun ordinance


logo scale with arrow and laurel wreath - blue and gold - text: Silicon Valley Public Accountability Foundation

SAN JOSE, Calif.-- A San Jose ordinance requiring gun owners to pay a fee to a private nonprofit organization is unconstitutional, according to a new lawsuit filed against the city.

The non-profit Silicon Valley Public Accountability Foundation joined forces with Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association and others to bring a court challenge against San Jose Ordinance No. 30716.

The Ordinance imposes an annual "gun harm reduction fee" that gun owners must pay once a year to a private, nonprofit organization to be designated by San Jose's City Manager. Failure to pay the fee is punishable by a fine and confiscation of the gun owner's firearms.

The challengers filed their complaint in Santa Clara Superior Court. According to the complaint, the new fee violates gun owners' constitutional rights of free speech and association, places an unconstitutional condition on the right to bear arms, is a special tax which needed 2/3 voter approval, unlawfully delegates governmental taxing power to a private organization, and for these reasons is invalid.

"The City Council was warned in correspondence that this fee would be unconstitutional," said Jon Coupal, President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. "Prior to the Ordinance being passed, SVPAF met with city staff, the city attorney, and almost every council office to avoid litigation," added Jonathan Fleming, Executive Director of the Silicon Valley Public Accountability Foundation. "Now it's time to hold the City accountable for blatantly violating the law and trampling the liberties and rights of San Jose residents."

No nonprofit organization has been designated yet to collect the fees. Under the Ordinance, the nonprofit will be solely responsible for how revenue from the fee gets spent.

The Ordinance also requires gun owners to maintain liability insurance covering gun-related injuries. The associations are not challenging this aspect of the Ordinance, but other groups object to it.

Although not addressed in their lawsuit, the Silicon Valley Public Accountability Foundation argues that the fee is regressive because lower-income gun owners are least able to afford the insurance and the annual fee that the Ordinance requires. Ironically, the Foundation argues, criminals who own unregistered guns will never be called upon to pay the fee or buy the insurance.


For questions or additional comments, please contact the attorney representing the plaintiffs: Tim Bittle, Director of Legal Affairs for Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, at (707) 718-5626 or

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