Hiltzik: California proves tough gun laws reduce deaths

The most predictable reaction of the gun lobby and its political mouthpieces to calls for stricter gun laws in the wake of mass shootings has been tough laws without effect.

You’ve probably heard all the arguments: That we’ve got tough laws on books, that the problem is they’re not being enforced. Or that the most commonly proposed legislation won’t stop the latest perpetrator of the latest gun-related horror, such as Uvalde gunman Salvador Ramos.

None of that is true, and California, which has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, is proof.

America raved with Kool-Aid saying your house is safer with a gun in it than without it.

– Garen Wintemute, UC Davis

As we previously reported, statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the total number of gun deaths in California, at a rate of 8.5 per 100,000 population in 2020, easily reaches rates are highest in loosely controlled states, such as Texas (14.2 per 100,000) and Louisiana (26.3).

The disparity is particularly stark when it comes to gun deaths among people under the age of 18. California’s rate is about half of the national average, less than half that of Texas, and only a quarter of Louisiana’s.

It is true that California has not been immune to a national pandemic of mass shootings. But its legislation has had a positive, measurable impact. “California still hasn’t solved the problem of mass shootings,” said Ari Freilich, director of state policy at gun safety organization Giffords. “But California children are half as likely to be shot.”

Let’s take a look at key elements of California’s law, and how they may have interfered with the latest gun-related rage – the killings of 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary School. in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, and the murder of 10 people at a supermarket in Buffalo, NY, on May 14.

California’s firearms regulations are among the most comprehensive in the United States. Assault weapons, partially defined by the manufacturer and partially functional, have been banned since 1989. Buyers of any firearm must go through a registered dealer and submit it for inspection. background; Ammunition sales are also regulated.

Handguns cannot be sold to anyone under the age of 21, and there are certain exceptions to transferring another firearm to anyone under the age of 18. All purchases require a waiting period of at least 10 days or more if certain procedures have not been completed, such as a gun safety course and passing a test. Most are prohibited from buying more than one gun per month.

Carrying a loaded weapon is generally prohibited, as well as carrying a loaded weapon without a permit.

California also has a so-called red flag law, or “high-risk protection order,” that allows family members, police, employers, or school employees to notify authorities about signs danger signal from a person and for a judge to order the weapon confiscated from that person.

There is no provision in the California Constitution protecting the right to bear arms. State law prioritizes all local initiatives.

How might these laws affect Buffalo and Uvalde shooters who use assault weapons?

“They can’t buy those weapons here,” said Garen Wintemute, head of the Violence Prevention Research Program at UC Davis. The state’s 10-day waiting period offers an important “opportunity to intervene,” he added, because about 80% of mass shooters have stated their intentions in advance.

The 18-year-old man accused in the buffalo shooting even livestreamed his assault. Ramos is said to have left a trail of well-meaning posts on social media.

Ramos purchased two assault weapons within the days after his 18th birthday, which would be blocked not only by California’s assault weapons ban but also multiple gun purchases and a 10-day waiting period.

Freilich told me, “We don’t know that a 10-day cooling period will be enough to stop the shooting,” but he won’t receive his weapon immediately.

The effectiveness of red flag laws, including California’s law that went into effect in 2016, is being studied by Wintemute and his colleagues. But there are cases that “suggest that this personalized, urgent intervention could play some role in efforts to prevent mass shootings,” he and his co-authors wrote in 2019. .

Among the cases, a California car dealership employee threatened to shoot his supervisor and other co-workers if he was fired. A red flag order was issued the next day and five guns were recovered from his home, along with 400 rounds of ammunition. “We consider it a mass shooting that was contained,” Wintemute said.

As my colleague Anita Chabria observes, the most serious threat to the safety of Californians may come from federal justice. Among the court rulings that have worried advocates of reasonable gun laws are several made by US Judge Roger Benitez in San Diego starting in 2019.

Benitez, appointed by George W. Bush, rescinded the state’s ban on ammunition magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds, mandatory background checks for gun buyers, and a ban on weapons state assault weapon. All three rulings are on hold while they are reviewed by federal appellate judges.

Benitez’s ruling on the assault weapons ban, enacted on June 4, 2021, is particularly notable for the laxity of its argument.

It begins by comparing these uniquely destructive killing machines to a Swiss army knife: Like those distinctive cherry-red instruments, Benitez writes in a tone that might be an imitation of an advertising campaign on Madison Avenue, “the popular AR-15 rifle was the perfect mix of homeland defense and homeland defense equipment…good for the nation as a whole. home and battlefield”.

A similar tone spread 2-1 comments by a panel of the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals overturning California’s ban on selling semi-automatic weapons to people under the age of 21, introduced in September. before.


Firearms are now the leading cause of death for Americans ages 1 to 19.


In his majority opinion, Judge Ryan D. Nelson, a Trump appointee, wrote that the ban, along with the current ban on the sale of handguns to youth, leaves young people with only the option of using Use handguns for self-defense at home.

Unfortunately, he wrote, “pistols are beaten by semi-automatic rifles in a number of situations. Semi-automatic rifles can defeat modern armor, have a much longer range than shotguns and are more effective at protecting children roaming over large houses, are much more accurate and capable ability to prevent secondary damage and is generally easier for young adults to use and handle. ”

One would think from these words – in which Trump-appointed counterpart Kenneth K. Lee concurs – that America remains a land of lawlessness at the border, in which children living in the wild need to be cared for. Protect regularly by covering fire.

Indeed, Nelson endorsed gun rights for 18- to 21-year-olds by evoking the Second Amendment background to the colonial tradition of citizen militias, who frequently enlisted in the military. 15 year old young man.

But he doesn’t seem to have absorbed meaning from his own observation that members of those early militias were “required to meet regularly to inspect and register weapons,” a requirement. demand does not exist in the modern context.

The rulings by Benitez and the appellate judges are “the predictable consequence of a long-standing effort to get the judiciary right,” Wintemute said. Changing all state gun regulations is a pending decision in a New York 2nd Amendment case by the US Supreme Court.

The prospect that the court might extend the scope of the 2nd Amendment even beyond the boundaries set forth by the late Justice Antonin Scalia in the so-called Heller decision of 2008 thwarted initiatives. legislation at the state level. According to the law enforcement agencies, California intends to appeal the appeal decision on semi-automatic weapons to the 9th Circuit court in full pending the Supreme Court’s decision.

What enlivens these rulings, along with much of the family defense rhetoric of gun advocates, is the impression that families and homes in America are being threatened by violence that doesn’t matter. cease. The raw numbers don’t support that view – indeed, the data contradicts it.

According to FBI statistics, the violent crime rate has been declining continuously for at least three decades, from 747 cases reported per 100,000 people in 1993 to 379.4 in 2020. The murder rate has dropped from 5.5 per 100,000 in 2000 down to 5.0 in 2020; The property crime rate, which includes theft, burglary and motor vehicle theft, has fallen from about 3,618 cases per 100,000 in 2000 to about 2,110 cases in 2020.

Where does the impression of a country under siege come from? In the gun lobby and among politicians, skeptics frighten voters into supporting their policies and candidacy.

“America has taken a Kool-Aid that says your home is safer with a gun,” Wintemute said. “But it’s clear that having a gun in the house increases the likelihood of someone dying there.”

That’s especially true for children and young people, for whom firearms are now the leading cause of death, far ahead of motor vehicle accidents, poisoning and cancer.

According to a 2020 study by researchers at Stanford University, the suicide rate for men who own a gun is eight times higher than that of those who don’t.

Self-defense is an illusion that, according to another study, reports that “guns kept in the home are more likely to be associated with a fatal or non-fatal shooting incident, criminal assault, or attempted suicide.” murder rather than being used for self-injury or suicide. -defense.”

The biggest obstacle to gun legislation to stamp out gun violence in the US may be the assumption that nothing works, encouraged by those who think the best solution to homicides is students are inaction.

After Uvalde, Texas Governor Greg Abbott defended the easing of gun restrictions in his state by remarking: “There are ‘real gun laws’ in Chicago. There are ‘real gun laws’ in NY. There are real gun laws in California…[T]More people get shot here every weekend in Chicago than… in TX schools. ”

No politician thinks that should be allowed anywhere near a microphone, because Abbott’s words are justification for murder. The truth is that California’s “real gun laws” have made Californians safer in their homes, workplaces, and public gatherings than Texans. Is there anything else more important?

https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2022-06-02/california-gun-laws-work Hiltzik: California proves tough gun laws reduce deaths

Edmund DeMarche

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