THE SAN JOSE Police Department is contending with how to train their officers to enforce the city’s controversial gun law.

Details surrounding the department’s initial training and subsequent refresher courses have not been publicly shared as police work to implement the Gun Harm Reduction Ordinance, which went into effect at the start of this year.

“Like any new program it can take repeated training and reinforcement to fully ramp up enforcement,” Sgt. Jorge Garibay told San José Spotlight.

The first-of-its kind law was championed by local leaders, including former Mayor Sam Liccardo, and requires San Jose gun owners to have liability insurance for accidental firings of their weapons. It also calls for gun owners to pay an annual fee of $25 to an as-of-yet unidentified nonprofit to support resources for people affected by gun harm, especially those who live in a home with a gun.

As police prepare for their second round of training on implementing the law, some residents are concerned it will only add more responsibility to a burdened police department without reducing real gun harm.

‘I’m feeling aggravated’

“Where are the priorities? The house is on fire and the city politicians and the police department are worried about the roof,” Margaret Petros, executive director of Mothers Against Murder, told San José Spotlight.

Her organization advocates for families of murder victims and she said getting police assistance on investigations or gathering records already takes hours or days, and police often cite short staffing as a main cause for delays.

Petros doesn’t agree with how the city is prioritizing where law enforcement needs to direct its efforts.

“I am feeling aggravated. I think more attention will be paid to this law by police, because their bosses at city hall want this to happen,” Petros said.

“Where are the priorities? The house is on fire and the city politicians and the police department are worried about the roof.”

Margaret Petros, executive director of Mothers Against Murder

Officials haven’t said publicly what circumstances might prompt an officer to inquire about a gun owner’s insurance, but Garibay noted officers have discretion when it comes to enforcing infractions and administrative citations. However, the department hasn’t issued a single citation yet.

In a July 13 ruling, U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman dismissed legal challenges brought against the city ordinance last year. But the groups who filed the challenges may appeal because they say the law wrongly places precursors on the constitutional right to bear arms.

Freeman said the city “had demonstrated that the insurance requirement is consistent with the nation’s historical traditions” — a bar set by the U.S. Supreme Court for new gun regulations — and that it did not violate the Second Amendment.

Impacts of ordinance remain unclear

While proponents of the law say having insurance requirements can encourage gun owners to more safely handle and store their weapons, Petros isn’t convinced it would have much impact.

“How could this change or reduce violence in our community? We really don’t know,” she said.

Garibay said “public safety will always take precedent” when addressing the gun insurance law. He also said SJPD shares responsibility for educating residents about the new ordinance, and wouldn’t expect officers to immediately start citing people who don’t have gun insurance.

“As with other types of laws, the department strives to gain compliance through an educational approach that eventually builds to enforcement when compliance is not gained,” Garibay told San José Spotlight. “I would expect the investigator to seek a resolution that allows the resident to fall into compliance rather than being fined.”

Petros is concerned the legal process still has a ways to go, even after more than a year and a half of litigation.

“I am certain it’s going to be appealed, because just knowing gun rights advocates, they’re not going to give up on this,” Petros said. “Let’s see what the result will be before wasting more precious time of the SJPD.”

Contact Joseph Geha at or @josephgeha16 on Twitter.

This story originally appeared in San Jose Spotlight.