25% of New California Gun Buyers Had No Background Check: Survey

The first comprehensive survey of California gun owners in over 40 years also found that roughly 25 percent of California adults live in households that possess at least one firearm. Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom has promised to “raise the bar” on gun control.

About 25 percent of California adults who purchased firearms recently did not have a background check, according to a survey released Sunday.

The 2018 California Safety and Wellbeing Survey also found that some 25 percent of Californian adults live in households with firearms—and 40 percent of those households included children aged 12 and younger.

The survey, conducted last month by the University of California-Davis Violence Prevention Research Program (VPRP), was released on the heels of the California gubernatorial election won by Gavin Newsom, who has promised  tougher gun regulations, and the mass shooting  that  left 12 dead at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, Ca.

The survey represents the first major exploration of firearm ownership in the state in over 40 years, said Nicole Kravitz-Wirst, a researcher who led the survey.

“Much remains unknown about the details surrounding firearm violence,” Kravitz-Wirtz said in a press statement accompanying the report. “Accurate and up-to-date information that could be used to develop effective policies and programs to decrease deaths and injuries from firearms is critically needed.”

According to the survey, 14 percent of California adults—roughly 4.2 million people, personally own firearms; and five percent of the firearms are assault rifles. Handguns are the most popular purchase and “were most often obtained for the purpose of protection,” the statement said.

The state already has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation.

“We alsdo found, unexpectedly, that roughly 25 percent of those who purchased their most recent firearm in California reported that they did not undergo a background check,” said Kravitz-Wirtz.

After a mass killing in 2014, California passed a law that let police officers and family members seek restraining orders to seize guns from troubled people. A year later, a shooting rampage in San Bernardino led to voters outlawing expanded magazines for guns and requiring background checks for buying ammunition.

The state has also banned assault weapons, all part of a wave of gun regulation that began 25 years ago with a mass murder at a San Francisco law firm.

Gun control activists and politicians are already weighing what more can be done, and whether existing measures could have prevented the killing, the New York Times reports.

Newsom has signaled he will introduce even tougher regulations.

“The response is not just prayers,” he said last week. “The response cannot just be excuses. The response sure as hell cannot be more guns.”

In an interview with the Sacramento Bee shortly after the vote, he promised to “raise the bar” on gun control, suggesting he would have signed bills that Brown vetoed in recent years, such as .expanding California’s gun violence restraining order law, which allows police and family members to seek the temporary removal of firearms from someone they believe is a danger to themselves or others.

California has had the most deaths from mass shootings since 1982: 128.

Florida, with roughly half the population of California, has the second most, 118. Most gun deaths are not from mass shootings, and the focus of the gun control movement is on reducing overall gun deaths, in homicides, suicides and accidents. By that measure, California has been successful: It has cut its gun-death rate in half over 25 years, and is among the states with the lowest rates, with 7.9 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2016.

The survey was presented Sunday at the American Public Health Association in San Diego.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Will California Get Any Tougher on Guns?

Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom is likely to back new gun controls, but the state’s gun laws–already some of the toughest in the nation—did not prevent a shooting that left 12 dead at a bar last week.

After a mass killing in 2014, California passed a law that let police officers and family members seek restraining orders to seize guns from troubled people. A year later, a shooting rampage in San Bernardino led to voters outlawing expanded magazines for guns and requiring background checks for buying ammunition. The state has also banned assault weapons, all part of a wave of gun regulation that began 25 years ago with a mass murder at a San Francisco law firm. California may have the nation’s toughest gun control laws, but that did not prevent a shooting that left 12 dead at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks. Gun control activists and politicians are already weighing what more can be done, and whether existing measures could have prevented the killing, the New York Times reports. California Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom is seen as more aggressive on gun restrictions than his predecessor, Jerry Brown. “The response is not just prayers,” Newsom said last week. “The response cannot just be excuses. The response sure as hell cannot be more guns.”

Newsom did not offer new measures, but said he would have signed bills that Brown vetoed in recent years. They would have expanded restraining orders to allow co-workers, school employees and mental health providers to ask courts to take away guns from someone. California has had the most deaths from mass shootings since 1982 — 128. Florida, with roughly half the population of California, has the second most, 118. Most gun deaths are not from mass shootings, and the focus of the gun control movement is on reducing overall gun deaths, in homicides, suicides and accidents. By that measure, California has been successful: It has cut its gun-death rate in half over 25 years, and is among the states with the lowest rates, with 7.9 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2016.

from https://thecrimereport.org

WA Gun Sales Rise After Voters Pass New Controls

After Washington voters approved raising the purchase age of semi-automatic weapons to 21, along with a $25 hike in price to cover the cost of stringent new gun regulations, gun sales are spiking as people rush to “to beat the deadline” next year, says one dealer.

The phone at Wade’s Eastside Guns in Seattle started ringing at 8:30 a.m. after the election. “The response to this is always classic,” said owner Wade Gaughran about Tuesday’s passage of Initiative 1639, one of the nation’s most stringent sets of gun regulations. “People will buy guns to beat the deadline.” Starting next year, Initiative 1639 will raise the purchase age for semi-automatic rifles to 21, reports the Seattle Times. People buying semi-automatic rifles must pass an enhanced background check, take a firearms-training course and wait 10 business days to take possession of the gun.

The initiative authorizes the state to add $25 to sales of semi-automatic rifles to fund the new regulations. A “safe storage” provision makes it possible that gun owners could face criminal penalties if their firearms are accessed by someone who is not legally allowed to have them, like a child or felon, and who then causes the gun to discharge or uses it in a crime. Gun sellers expect an increase in sales of semi-automatic rifles and possibly gun safes. “We have seen an uptick in sales since the passing of the law and expect it to continue,” said Jody Lewis, owner of Rehv Arms in Covington, Wa. “We will see people speed up their gun purchases,” Gaughran said. “[Buyers will say] ‘I’ll buy the next year or two of my gun budget in the next few months just so I can bypass this law for as long as possible.’ ” Tallman Trask of the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, said, “What it really boils down to is people are a little unsure of how to respond to new regulations and they go out and buy new firearms. It’s unfortunate.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Firearm Homicide Rates Rising: CDC Study

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a study of the most recently available data from 2015-2016, found that 43 percent of the largest 50 metropolitan areas reported increases in the rate of gun-related deaths compared to 2012-2013. Firearm suicide rates are also going up.

After steady declines, firearm homicide rates are on the rise, according to a recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Firearm suicide rates have also continued to increase, accounting for 50 percent of all suicides and 42 percent of youth suicide, and suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death among all those over 10 years of age, said the study which examined statistics for shootings between 2015-2016—the latest period for which data is available.

The study outlined rising rates, possible means of prevention and steps forward in gun control.

“Another factor likely affecting both firearm homicide and suicide is access to firearms by persons at risk for harming themselves or others,” the CDC said.

Youth homicide rates, though lower than those among persons of all ages, have also been increasing. In large metropolitan areas, firearm homicide rates have remained higher than national rates.

The authors of the study—Scott Kegler, Linda Dahlberg and James Mercy—noted three instances in which reducing access to guns may be helpful: reducing access to guns during an “acute suicidal risk,” particularly among young people; preventing persons accused or convicted of domestic violence restraining orders from possessing a firearm; and strengthening the background check system.

They called for more research.

According to 2015-2016 figures on large metropolitan area firearm homicide and suicide rates, 43 percent of the largest 50 metropolitan areas reported increases in the rate of gun-related deaths, compared to the rates in 2012-2013.

More than 27,000 people were killed in gun homicides in 2015-2016. In 2013-2013, that number was 23,000.

The data was collected using the National Vital Statistics System and population data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Homicide rates have begun to rise only recently. On the other hand, rates of suicide have been steadily increasing in the past 15 years across all ages, states, population groups and rural and urban settings. Rates of firearm suicide are still increasing. Rates increased 21 percent between 2006 and 2016.

“It is too soon to know whether recent increases in firearm homicide rates represent a short-term fluctuation or the beginning of a longer-term trend,” the report said.

The report noted preventing firearm homicides was difficult, but suggested policies to modify physical and social environments in urban areas may help, such as low income housing tax credits and greening activities.

The full study can be downloaded here.

Lauren Sonnenberg is a TCR news intern.

from https://thecrimereport.org

‘Old-Fashioned’ Policing Still Needed to Stop Gun Violence, say Two Scholars

The “public health” approach to preventing gun violence won’t reduce the high levels of shootings seen in many neighborhoods around the U.S. unless traditional policing is strengthened, according to two leading criminologists.

Gun violence won’t be reduced by treating it as a public health problem alone, say two prominent criminologists.

Finding ways to improve “old-fashioned” policing that emphasizes getting shooters off the street to face punishment and imprisonment is critical—but it’s in danger of being overlooked in the attention to newer strategies like community policing and early conflict mediation, Phillip J. Cook and Jens Ludwig wrote in a paper for the Social Science Research Council.

Many scholars have seized on the notion that the escalating levels of gun violence in many neighborhoods around the U.S. should be seen as an “epidemic” that can be addressed by public health disease prevention strategies.

But “when it comes to prevention of criminal misuse of guns, public health scholars tend to ignore or minimize…the most targeted prevention capacity: the criminal justice system’s ability to arrest, punish, and incapacitate shooters,” they wrote in the paper.

The authors cited the Aug. 4 weekend in Chicago, when 74 persons were shot but just one shooter was arrested, as an example of the “de facto impunity” provided gunmen when police fail to provide sufficient deterrence.

“One arrest out of 74 is even worse than normal—on average about five percent of shooters are arrested in non-fatal cases and 17 percent if the victim dies,” they wrote, adding that “even when there is an arrest, a conviction is far from guaranteed.”

The authors suggested that the lack of sufficient investigative resources, including more detectives, and the inability of police to provide protection to eyewitnesses who might identify the shooters, explains the startlingly high levels of gun violence in Chicago.

Friends and families of victims are more likely to seek violent retaliation if there’s no confidence that police will act forcefully to hunt down the shooters and take them off the streets, they wrote.

They wondered whether the contemporary emphasis on “preventive policing” and stricter gun regulation had diverted key resources from the traditional police role of deterrence and “incapacitation” of violent offenders.

“Police chiefs have learned to espouse proactive measures such as intensive patrol of crime hot spots, problem-oriented policing, (and) community policing has also acquired considerable cachet,” the papers said. “In this new prevention-oriented ethos, crime investigation seems old-fashioned.

“But in our view, reactive policing is a vital component of preventing gun violence and is ignored at our peril.”

They singled out as potentially effective some newly developed police and community strategies, such as “focused deterrence,” where police concentrate on identifying known shooters and violent individuals in a neighborhood and warn them they will suffer consequences if they are caught misusing guns.

But they pointed that such strategies can only work in the long run if police and courts “make good on the threat.”

The authors called on other scholars to devote more research into the consequences of shifting more police resources from investigation to prevention, noting for example that the percentage of detectives in the Chicago police force is now half as high as it is in large cities that have lower homicide rates, such as Los Angeles and New York.

“The criminal justice system is intended to preempt private vigilante action, but that purpose is undercut by poor performance,” they wrote. “Arresting less than 10 percent of shooters (as is currently the case in Chicago) may not assuage the instinct of survivors, their families and their gangs to avenge their victimization.”

The authors said while the public health approach was a useful addition to gun violence prevention strategies, criminologists and public health scholars need to focus as well on improving the performance of police in traditional areas, such as increasing “clearance” rates, which measure solved crimes.

Police authorities, for example, should focus on removing the bureaucratic “bottlenecks” that tie up police investigations and result in low clearance rates.

Equally important, they wrote, is investigating how police can improve witness cooperation and help “keep witnesses safe in dangerous neighborhoods that are often essentially run by street gangs.”

Cook is the ITT/Sanford Professor of Public Policy and a professor of economics and sociology at Duke University. He served as vice chair of the National Research Council’s Committee on Law and Justice.

Jens Ludwig is director of the University of Chicago’s Crime Lab and McCormick Foundation Professor of Social Science Administration, law and Public Policy at the university.

The full paper can be downloaded here.

from https://thecrimereport.org

House Democrats Vow Action on Gun Control

The new Democratic majority probably will be able to pass various gun control measures but they face opposition from the Republican-controlled Senate and the White House.

Newly ascendant Democrats are promising congressional action on gun control amid a rash of mass shootings, including the late-night assault at a California bar that killed 12 people, the Associated Press reports. Measures including expanded background checks and a ban on assault-style weapons are likely to reach the House floor when Democrats retake control after eight years of Republican rule. “The American people deserve real action to end the daily epidemic of gun violence that is stealing the lives of our children on campuses, in places of worship and on our streets,” said Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who is running for a second stint as House speaker.

Pelosi vowed to push for a range of actions to stem gun violence, including restrictions on high-capacity magazines and a measure allowing temporary removal of guns from people deemed an imminent risk to themselves or others. The measures could win approval in the Democratic-controlled House next year but will face opposition from the Republican-controlled Senate and the White House, where President Trump has promised to “protect the Second Amendment.” Gun control advocates believe they have the political momentum to make guns a central issue next year. The political calculus on guns is changing, said Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) whose district includes the Parkland high school where 17 people were killed in February. The Democrats’ new majority includes dozens of candidates who support gun control, including Lucy McBath in Georgia, whose 17-year-old son was fatally shot in 2012. She made gun violence the centerpiece of her campaign.

from https://thecrimereport.org

New U.S. Aid For Prosecutors Using Ballistics Evidence

A new slew of federal grants is going to prosecutors and law enforcement agencies that want to extract more investigative leads from the national ballistics database.

For almost two decades, the Department of Justice has urged police to use the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN), an innovative ballistics system, to solve gun crimes. Now the DOJ is looking beyond police chiefs and crime labs, who test the ballistics evidence, to prosecutors, who can find important links  between cases and make charges stick in court, The Trace reports. One sign of the shift is a new slew of federal grants to law enforcement agencies that want to extract more investigative leads from the national ballistics database. For the first time this year, every recipient of a NIBIN grant is required to share the money with the local prosecutor’s office. One grant was given to a prosecutor’s office, in Baton Rouge, La. Several prosecutors will use grant money to pay the salary of a dedicated staff member who will be charged with flagging ballistics links between cases and coordinating prosecutions between related cases.

“More and more, prosecutors are coming out of our traditional roles and working collaboratively with others,” said Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore, whose office won a $635,000 grant. “You might pick someone up on simple battery, then find out this guy got caught with a gun that has three bodies on it,” said Moore, referring to a gun used in three homicides. “It’s good for us to be aware of that.” When a gun fires a bullet, it leaves unique marks on the shell casing it ejects. NIBIN is like a fingerprint database, only for those shell casing markings. Many municipalities aren’t using NIBIN, or they’re using it poorly. Only about a quarter of the ballistics evidence collected nationwide is entered into NIBIN. This year, BJA awarded $4 million in NIBIN-related grants — double last year’ total — to seven jurisdictions, including Indianapolis, San Francisco and Detroit.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Can Pro-Gun Control Democrats Win House Races?

Seeking more restrictions on guns has been a losing argument for many Democrats in the past. They are hoping that things will turn out differently on Tuesday.

Many thought Colorado’s Columbine High School massacre in 1999 would galvanize gun control efforts. Others thought the same in 2012, when a gunman killed 12 Aurora, Co., moviegoers at a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.” The Aurora area’s congressional district has more registered Democrats than Republicans, and by presidential election results, it is slightly bluer than the nation as a whole, the New York Times reports. Yet four successive Democrats have failed to unseat Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican with consistent “A” ratings from the National Rifle Association and more campaign contributions from the group than any other member of Colorado’s congressional delegation.

This year, Jason Crow — an Army veteran who wants to ban assault weapons, restrict high-capacity magazines and expand background checks — appears poised to defeat  Coffman. A recent poll showed Crow leading by nine points. Crow has raised some $1.6 million more than Coffman. Crow is one of a large number of Democrats who are campaigning explicitly on gun control in a way that most would not have dared do before, when an F rating from the NRA could be a political death sentence. Gun rights remain a powerful motivator for millions of voters, and Republicans continue to argue in many races that their Democratic opponents are a threat to the Second Amendment. According to Gallup polling, 43 percent of Americans have a gun in their home, and  NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker said the group had “a record number of dues-paying members and tens of millions of supporters who show up at the polls and vote for candidates who support our constitutional right to self-defense.” At the same time, 61 percent of Americans want stricter gun laws, according to Gallup. Support for universal background checks and red-flag laws is substantially higher, and that is emboldening some Democrats.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Are Fewer Gun Controls Responsible for More OH Murders?

That is what gun-control advocates maintain. Since the Ohio legislature wiped away dozens of urban gun control laws in 2006, gun homicides are up 60 percent in Ohio’s six big urban counties and 39 percent in the rest of the state.

Eleven people died in Pittsburgh last week in a mass shooting that ranks as one of the deadliest attacks on the Jewish community in U.S. history. The shooter’s weapon of choice was the AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle dubbed “America’s most popular rifle” by the National Rifle Association. It’s also the most popular rifle among mass shooters. The AR-15 made appearances in mass shootings at a school in Parkland, Fl., a church in Sutherland Springs, Tx. a country music festival in Las Vegas, an Orlando, Florida night club, and a workplace in San Bernardino, Ca., reports Cleveland.com.

In Ohio, the state’s rural legislators in 2006 rewrote the laws for urban areas where most of the gun murders occur. In doing so, they wiped away dozens of municipal ordinances enacted by cities like Cleveland. Since then gun homicides are up 60 percent in Ohio’s six big urban counties, and 39 percent throughout the rest of the state. The state law change cannot directly be linked to the increase in gun deaths (which are also up nationally), but it leaves local leaders powerless to experiment with laws that might make their communities safer. The change banned local laws more restrictive than state gun laws. The Ohio Supreme Court in 2010 upheld the new state law, wiping out about 80 local gun laws, including assault-weapons bans in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, and Toledo. To advocates like the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, changes in gun laws –  from the ban on local ordinances to a loosening of concealed weapon restrictions – are tied to the increase in gun deaths: “The reason to me is that they (guns) are more accessible,” founder Toby Hoover said. To the Buckeye Firearms Association, local ordinances are burdens to law-abiding citizens traveling from one city to another, and did little to deter crime.

from https://thecrimereport.org

In Shift, Gun-Control Groups Spend More Than NRA

The National Rifle Association has put $11 million into midterm races this year — less than half what it spent four years ago in an election that gave Republicans full control of Congress. Everytown for Gun Safety, founded by ex-NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, is spending more than $30 million.

The National Rifle Association — long a kingmaker in Republican politics — is taking a lower profile in this year’s midterm campaign, a sign of the shifting dynamics of the gun debate as the GOP fights to maintain its grip on Congress, the Associated Press reports. The NRA has put $11 million into midterm races this year — less than half what it spent four years ago in an election that gave Republicans full control of Congress. This year’s totals are far below the $54 million the group spent in 2016 on both the presidential and congressional races. The shift comes as spending to support tougher gun control measures has surged. Everytown for Gun Safety, a group founded by ex-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, pledged $30 million for this year’s election and has continued to put new money into competitive races in the final days. A political action committee formed by ex-Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) is spending nearly $5 million.

It’s the first time under current campaign finance laws that the NRA might be outspent by gun control groups, though the organization often ramps up spending late in the campaign. That money won’t show up in federal reports until after Election Day. The spending shift underscores a changing political landscape on guns after a series of election year mass shootings, including the February massacre at a Parkland, Fl., high school that left 17 people dead, and Saturday’s attack at a Pittsburgh synagogue. “The politics of guns has changed,” said Jim Kessler, the senior vice president for policy at Third Way, a centrist think tank. “The groups supporting more gun safety restrictions are smarter than in the past and have more resources, both in terms of people and money, than in the past.”

from https://thecrimereport.org