Does California’s Latest Mass Shooting Show the Country’s Strictest Gun Laws Are Not Strict Enough?
A mass shooting that killed six people and injured 12 in Sacramento last weekend predictably provoked immediate agitation for stricter gun control, including policies that seem utterly irrelevant to the facts of the case. That’s a familiar pattern in the gun policy debate, which consists largely of reiterating previous proposals in response to mass shootings, regardless of whether those ideas have anything to do with the most recent example.
The Sacramento Bee described the weekend’s apparently gang-related violence, which began around 2 a.m. Sunday in a downtown area where nightclubs had just closed, as “the worst mass shooting in city history.” The Los Angeles Times says “the shooting was California’s single deadliest in 2022,” although “there have been worse in the last year.” While these incidents supposedly underline the need for gun control, they simultaneously cast doubt on that argument, since California already has the strictest gun laws in the country.
Everytown for Gun Safety implicitly acknowledges that inconvenient fact in its press release about the Sacramento shoot-out. “Gun sense champions in California have continually responded to gun violence tragedies by taking action on life saving gun safety policies,” it says. “Strong gun laws save lives—and California is a clear example of that. The state continues to have one of the lowest rates of gun violence in the country while their lawmakers are leading the gun violence prevention movement.”
California does have a relatively low rate of gun-related deaths: the seventh-lowest in the country, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its ranking is less impressive, however, when you focus on firearm homicides, which is what Everytown for Gun Safety ostensibly is talking about in this context. Based on data from 2010 through 2017, California’s gun homicide rate was middling: lower than the rates in 24 states but higher than the rates in 25 states, including many with looser gun laws.
If you want to make the case that California’s firearm restrictions have resulted in fewer homicides than otherwise would have occurred, you need to look at what happened after those laws were passed and compare it to what happened in otherwise similar places that did not enact such laws. The observation that “California continues to have one of the lowest rates of gun violence in the country” (if you include suicides) as legislators pass one gun law after another hardly shows those laws are working as advertised.
Even as Everytown for Gun Safety argues that California’s strict gun laws have been effective, it says they have been stymied by the failure of other states to follow California’s example. “Gun violence continues in the state because it is surrounded by states with weaker gun laws and has become the epicenter of ‘ghost guns,'” it says. “California is only as safe as the nearest state with weak gun laws, so we need federal action to ensure that every state in the country requires background checks on all gun sales.”
The reference to “ghost guns”—i.e., homemade firearms without serial numbers—seems like a red herring based on what we know at this point. The investigation of the Sacramento shooting, which so far has resulted in three arrests, is ongoing. The Los Angeles Times says Sacramento police believe it started with a dispute between gang members. So far, however, I have not seen any reference to “g
Article from Reason.com