Monday, July 11, 2022







        Yes, there have been several examples of completely unprovoked mass gun violence in California. But no, it’s not nearly on the same scale as in the rest of America.


        Yet, there is some commonality: Most mass crimes committed with firearms in this state over the last several years were perpetrated by shooters aged 21 and under. Just like recent massacres in Texas, Illinois, Buffalo, NY and many other places.


        But gun mortality rates in California are far lower than in other states, especially the big ones we are most often and most appropriately compared with.


        In 2020, researchers say, this state’s rate of firearm deaths was one of the lowest in America, at 8.5 per 100,000 residents. That compared with 13.7 per 100,000 nationally and in Florida and 14.2 per 100,000 in Texas, where Republican Gov. Greg Abbott prompted state legislators last year to make open and closed (hidden) carry pretty much a universal right. All this came before the U.S. Supreme Court this summer made open and closed carry essentially a nationwide right for adults.


        While some Californians will die and have died in shootups like the 2019 Poway synagogue incident and a springtime Sacramento mass killing, residents of this state are about 25 percent less likely to die from a bullet wound than other Americans.


        That is thanks to a panoply of state laws, some governing ammunition purchase, some dealing with background checks and others with age limits.


        These laws are one reason we don’t hear much about “Saturday Night Specials” anymore. Those were cheap handguns with low standards for design and safety, readily available for street-corner purchase. Recent California laws  cut that trade far below its previous levels. Now we hear more about “ghost guns,” often home-built from designs available on the Internet.


        One new law pushed and quickly signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom this year will use the principle okayed by the Supreme Court when it ruled a current Texas anti-abortion law constitutional:


        The Texas law allows private citizens to sue anyone who promotes or assists an abortion in any way, even if the plaintiff has never met the abortion patient or provider. That law puts anyone who helps a woman get the procedure at risk for major monetary penalties.


        Newsom has now put makers, designers, dealers and on-line promoters of ghost guns at similar risk.


        There’s also a Newsom effort to make Californians much more aware than they are today about the state’s 2014 “red flag” law, allowing family members and a few others to request court orders forbidding firearm access for persons with mental illness or emotional problems, considering them risks to themselves and others.


        This law has been little used, but the gun lobby is now working to stymie proposals for similar rules in other states, alleging they violate the Constitution’s Second Amendment. So far, there are few signs this idea will catch on significantly across the nation. Still, Newsom promised last month to invest $11 million in state education funds to promote it here.


        President Biden wants national laws to go much farther than California’s in controlling firearms, asking for a ban on private ownership of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines often used in school shootings and other multi-fatal incidents.


        He also wants to eliminate the federal law giving gun makers immunity from financial liability when their products are used to kill dozens, as in Uvalde, Tex., and the 2012 Sandy Hook school shootings in Connecticut.


        Even after 15 Republican senators joined Democrats to pass a gun control bill in June, there’s no reason to believe its funding for red flag protections will be used in most states. GOP governors like Abbott often claim mental illness, not guns, causes most mass shootings. If that’s true, why don’t they even try to enforce the new national red flag rules or push similar state laws?


        The bottom line: Newsom is right in saying California is safer – even if far from completely safe – because of its gun laws. And if, as is often intoned piously, we’re all in this together, let’s see more states adopt the kind of laws that now protect Californians more than most others.



    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

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