Gov. Gavin Newsom of California announced with much fanfare on Friday the 11th of October that he had signed 15 anti-Second Amendment bills that were so onerous that even the ACLU opposed many of them. At the signing, Gov. Newsom said, “California has outperformed the rest of the nation, because of our gun safety laws, in reducing the gun murder rate substantially compared to the national reduction. No state does it as well or comprehensively as the state of California, and we still have a long way to go.” Newsom stated that from 1993 to 2017, California experienced a 62% drop in the gun murder rate in California while the rest of the country experienced only a 34% drop.
So, other than the fact that there are some blatant violations of the Second Amendment in those bills, have California gun laws actually led to California becoming safer than the rest of the country? Let’s take a look. I apologize ahead of time if I jump around different years, as I’m doing my best to use open source references and compare apples to apples, and sometimes I can’t find data for the year I want so I have to use the year I can find.
Let’s fact-check his numbers. I’m using California’s own numbers and the FBI’s numbers, so you can double-check me if you want. I can’t seem to find in California’s numbers where they break down homicides by weapon. They break down robberies and aggravated assaults by weapon, but not homicide, which strikes me as odd, but whatever, I’ll use the whole homicide number. Overall, California did indeed experience a drop in homicides of 56% (1993 had 4,095 homicides, 2017 had 1,829). The country overall experienced a drop of 33% (1993 had 23,415 homicides, 2017 had 15,345). But it wasn’t just homicides that dropped. Overall violent crime in California went down 47%, including knife and strong-arm crime. Overall violent crime in the entire country went down 48%. So, while there appears to be a correlation between stricter gun laws and violent crime reduction at first glance, looking at overall trends doesn’t seem to give the same answer. Also worthy of note is the fact that while violent crime (or even firearm crime) has declined overall, it has experienced temporary upticks during the cited period, even as California’s gun laws have increased. That indicates that while there may appear to be a correlation, they can’t prove causation because there are obviously other factors influencing violent crime besides the simple refrain of “more guns equals more crime.”
Comparison doesn’t really help California’s case either. California’s murder numbers for 2018 (1,739) are higher than Texas (1,301), even though Texas has significantly laxer gun laws. Now, to be fair, California has a larger population than Texas, but despite their significantly stricter gun laws, in 2015 California had a homicide rate of 4.8 per 100,000 – the exact same as Texas. Both also had similar percentages of homicides by firearm (70.1% for California and 72.9% for Texas). Additionally, in an 18-year list of active shooter incidents compiled by the FBI, California had 31 incidents, Texas had 17. This simply shouldn’t be if more gun laws equals less gun crime.
Gun violence is a very complex problem – one that most politicians really aren’t that interested in tackling. It is far more convenient for them to take a complex (and emotional) issue, attach it to a political stance that benefits them (gun laws), then incessantly beat their drum on that single issue while ignoring the other complexities involved. And yes, I honestly believe that many politicians fear ordinary people with guns. It eats away at their control, and politicians love to control.
It’s simple for someone trying to make a point to throw up handpicked data and say it proves their point. But before you vote to give up your rights to the politicians, at least take a minute to see if a slightly deeper dive still supports their premise. Fear is the enemy of liberty, and it should tell you a lot that politicians’ most potent weapon when they eye your rights (whether mass surveillance, gun laws, or a dozen other proposed laws) is playing on your fear.