California’s Gun Laws Are Saving Lives!

California has the strongest gun laws in the nation and they have made a difference. Between 1990 and 2010, California reduced its firearm mortality rate by 52 percent — a 24 percentage point greater reduction than in the rest of the nation. California has done the best job in the country adopting laws designed to make it harder for criminals and other dangerous people to access dangerous weapons. Among other benefits, these laws have: helped combat illegal firearms trafficking, reduced firearm homicides and suicides, and enabled law enforcement to seize weapons from prohibited persons.

However, more must be done at both the state and federal levels to make our communities safer. Over 6,000 people are shot in California each year, nearly half of them die. In the U.S., firearm laws remain the weakest of all industrialized nations. Weak federal firearm laws undermine California’s efforts to reduce its gun violence. In spite of this, California’s gun laws have proved effective in saving lives.

CA Continues to Reduce its Firearm Mortality Rate

The chart at the right compares firearm deaths in California with those in the rest of the country. In 2010, California’s firearm mortality rate declined to 7.5 per 100,000, while the rest of the nation was at 10.3.

Data source: CDC National Center for Health Statistics, WONDER online database. Underlying cause of death used to select firearm deaths. Rates were calculated using census population estimates adjusted to the 2000 and 2010 US population.

Data source: CDC National Center for Health Statistics, WONDER online database. Underlying cause of death used to select firearm deaths. Rates were calculated using census population estimates adjusted to the 2000 and 2010 US population.

In 1993, over 14,000 people were shot in California, and over 5,000 of them died. The numbers have decreased steadily since then as gun laws have been enacted. Some of California’s most important gun laws went into effect in the early 1990s including: an assault weapons ban; universal background checks of gun sales/transfers (including gun shows); a Department of Justice (DOJ)-maintained database of all handgun sales; prohibition of gun sales to persons guilty of certain violent misdemeanors; a law making it possible to hold gun owners criminally responsible for child access and misuse of their gun; and a basic handgun safety training and certificate requirement for handgun purchases.

Help Prevent Gun Violence in California

It is easy to get overwhelmed by statistics and studies but in the end we have to remember that gun violence takes human lives, destroys families and communities, and shreds the fabric of our society. Everyone must work together to answer the question: How can we keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of dangerous people? We are accomplishing this in California without treading on any constitutional rights. By enacting strict gun laws and regulations, we are saving lives. The rest of the country must follow California’s lead until gun violence is no longer an American public health epidemic.

Toni Wellen is the chair of the Santa Barbara Coalition Against Gun Violence. She lives in Carpinteria.

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