The grotesque toll of gun violence is once again being debated in Congress. As Luis Ferré-Sadurní and I reported over the long weekend, states are not holding their breath.
Especially this state: In a way that tends to be underreported, California has dramatically reduced gun deaths, emergency physician and researcher Dr. Garen J. Wintemute told me this week. long standing on gun violence.
“Over the last 20, maybe even 25 years – with the exception of the two years of the pandemic, which increased homicides and suicides across the country – our rates of gun violence have tended to drop,” said Dr. Wintemute, who directs the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis, Medical Center in Sacramento. “And that happened at a time when most rates in the rest of the country were going up.”
California’s gun death rate is among the lowest in the country, with 8.5 gun deaths per 100,000 population in 2020, compared to 13.7 per 100,000 nationally and 14, 2 per 100,000 in Texas, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. And Californians are about 25% less likely to die in mass shootings, compared to residents of other states, according to a recent analysis by the Public Policy Institute of California.
I asked Dr. Wintemute how California was different. Here’s a slightly edited excerpt from our conversation, which took place on Memorial Day after he was in the ER:
Just a few weeks ago, California had a mass shooting. By what measures are our policies successful?
You have to look at it in terms of the population. We have more mass shootings in California, but we’re also by far the largest state. I looked a while back at rates of gun violence in the 21st century — homicides and suicides together — and the rest of the country was up, but California’s rates were so low that the average was flat.
We always hear that nothing works, that even California’s strict gun laws are ineffective.
This is because we assess policies one by one, in isolation. The results of a policy can be mixed or even negative. But what California has done over several decades has been to enact a whole set of policies that I think work in synergy, with measurable effect.
It sounds like the “Swiss Cheese Model” public health experts are used to tackling Covid.
Yes. The idea is to prevent the holes in the policies from coming together. But if we rank states, California’s rate of gun violence ranks 29th out of 50 states for homicides and 44th for suicides.
Can you share some examples?
California has done a lot to prevent high-risk people from buying guns. We have expanded the criteria to keep guns away from people who pose a danger to themselves or others due to mental illness. If you’re convicted of a violent crime in California, you can’t have a gun for the next 10 years; this offense must be a felony in most states.
We require background checks, and not just with authorized retailers; in most states, purchases from private parties require no background checks or record keeping of any kind. We have a system, which we are currently evaluating, for recovering weapons from “banned persons” – people who have been convicted of violent crimes or are facing restraining orders for domestic violence. And we enforce those policies, unlike many other states.
In the early 1990s, cheap handguns – “Saturday Night Specials” – were almost entirely made around Los Angeles. These were a few companies making over 800,000 inexpensive handguns a year. The state has therefore imposed design and safety standards. One of the companies has since traveled to Nevada. The rest went bankrupt and no one else came to fill the void.
What about gaps?
Every time California sets a new standard, the gun industry tries to outsmart it. Unregulated ghost guns have become extremely popular here precisely because we are such a tightly regulated market. And the state’s program to recover guns from banned people has never had the level of funding it needs to do all the work – there are only about 40 trained officers overall. of the state and a backlog of at least 10,000 whose arms must be taken.
Overall, what could the rest of the country learn from California?
The lower the prevalence of ownership, the lower the rate of gun violence – this is one of the strongest research findings in decades. Gun ownership rates are lower here, in part because of this set of state measures. In the United States as a whole, something like 25 to 30 percent of individuals own firearms. In California, it’s about 15-18%.
If you read a story, make it this one
In this sweet tale of the town by Tim Arango, a luxury apartment building project in Los Angeles threatens an oak tree that dates back to the 1936 Olympics and bears witness to a forgotten chapter in black history.
where we travel
Today’s tip comes from Ann Wride, who recommends the seaside town of Cambria:
“Cambria is perfectly located between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It is on the Pacific and is the southern gateway to the beautiful Big Sur coastline. It has beautiful grounds with lots of Monterey pines.
He owns several wineries in town as well as many more in the nearby hills of Paso Robles.
Due to its beautiful location and proximity to Hearst Castle, it is an excellent tourist destination and has many fine restaurants. Weekends can be busy, but if you’re lucky enough to be there during the week, count yourself blessed.
We were tourists on a magical sunny day several years ago and as such made an offer on a house and stayed.”
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected] We will share more in future editions of the newsletter.
What we read
Dennis Hopper. Brooke Hayward. Viola Davis. Here are some summer books that take us “into performance and creativity, slipping down old paths, leading some careful reading,” our reviewer writes.
And before leaving, some good news
Nearly two years after a massive wildfire ripped through Big Basin Redwoods State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains, parts of the park are expected to reopen soon after July 4, the Los Angeles Times reports.