Fewer guns plus more gun control add up to less gun carnage. That’s logical. And it’s a fact. California is proof. So is Mississippi.
California is a state with arguably the nation’s strictest gun laws. And it has one of the lowest rates of gun deaths.
States with lax gun controls have some of the highest gun death rates. Many are Southern red states. Starting with Mississippi.
“We must be doing something right,” says Garen Wintemute, director of the UC Firearms Violence Research Program.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that our gun violence rate has dropped much more than the rest of the country. My suspicion is that our robust regulatory system has a lot to do with it.”
Wintemute is a career researcher, as well as an emergency room doctor who has treated countless gunshot wounds. He tends to be cautious with his rhetoric.
But not so much the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which doesn’t mince words. It grades California with an “A” for gun control. “Overall, California has the strongest gun safety laws in the nation and has been a trailblazer,” it reports.
Mississippi gets an “F” from Giffords: It “has the weakest gun laws in the country and the highest gun death rate.”
That’s backed up by the National Center for Health Statistics. For 2021, the year with the latest data, it reports that Mississippi had the nation’s highest gun death rate of nearly 34 per 100,000 people.
That includes homicides, suicides and accidental shootings.
Other states with weak gun control laws and high gun death rates include Louisiana, Alabama, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, South Carolina and Oklahoma.
Mississippi also has one of the nation’s highest gun ownership rates, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 50 percent of the state’s residents have firearms in their homes.
Contrast that with California, where the gun death rate was 9 per 100,000. There are seven states with even lower rates. California’s gun ownership rate is one of the lowest, with 16 percent of households having firearms.
Unless I’m missing something, the fact that blue states with big urban centers — California, New York, New Jersey — have lower gun death rates than many rural red states is even more proof that gun control works. Cities tend to be more ridden with criminal gangs than are country villages.
There’s also research that shows you’re less safe around a gun than away from one. Again, that’s logical — despite gun lobby propaganda.
“Living with a handgun owner is associated with substantially elevated risk of dying by homicide,” a Stanford University report concluded last year after a study of 18 million Californians over a 12-year period.
Meanwhile, California’s strongest gun laws — the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, a required background check on ammunition buyers — are being challenged in lawsuits filed by gun rights advocates who have been inspired by the firearms-friendly U.S. Supreme Court.
A monumental pro-gun decision last year by the Supreme Court threw out a New York law restricting who could carry concealed loaded guns. In effect, the court also invalidated California’s similar law.
Legislation to replace the old concealed weapons law with one that passes Supreme Court muster is this year’s biggest gun bill in California.
The Assembly recently passed a more problematic bill, which now heads to the Senate. It would impose an 11 percent excise tax on the sale of guns and ammunition to fund gun violence prevention programs.
It’s a good cause. These programs work. But they should be paid for out of the state general fund. It’s a societal problem. Everyone should kick in. Not just hunters and target shooters. Gov. Gavin Newsom should pony up general fund money to pay for the worthwhile programs and avoid taxing law-abiding gun owners.
Control their guns. Lay off their pocketbooks.
George Skelton is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times.