By Sam Paredes
***Editor’s Note: The following article is one viewpoint on gun laws in California, the topic of the Treasurer’s Head to Head feature for October. On Oct. 19, an opposing viewpoint was published in the article “Gun Violence Prevention in California: Successful, But More to Do.”
When asked to write that things are “fine the way they are” regarding gun laws in America, I agreed; it’s necessary to present a different narrative than what makes headlines.
Let me be frank: things are not even close to being fine. So long as people exploit the tragedy of human loss — as has happened since the Las Vegas tragedy — our nation will have a tough time healing and moving forward. We are experiencing crushing sorrow, and our collective anger is palpable, understandable, but sometimes it’s very misplaced.
The truth is, more guns in the hands of people who respect the law does not equate to more gun violence. Conversely, the opposite is true.
It’s foolish not to be statistically and intellectually honest on this contentious issue. We must acknowledge whether deaths and injuries are from suicide, homicide or accidental — these sub-categories are critical in making policy decisions. To do otherwise incites needless fear: consider that most Americans (56%/Pew Research 2013) think gun crime has escalated over the past 20 years, but truth be known, it has significantly declined. Further, most have no clue that a full 60% of gun deaths are from suicide.
In 1993, the Center for Disease Control reported there were 7 firearm-related homicides for every 100,000 Americans. By 2013, the gun homicide rate had fallen by nearly 50% to only 3.6 homicides per 100,000. During the same 20 years, however, the number of firearms in private hands has grown considerably — by 56%. This quashes the argument that more guns means more crime.
And then there are reports that vast numbers of American kids are shot daily, but this, too, is entirely misleading because “kids” includes children up to 18 years of age. Again citing the CDC, 77% of gunshot injuries happen to teenagers between 15 -17, and the majority are from male-on-male gang-related shootings, which turns the narrative flat on its head.
Statistician and writer Leah Libresco recently addressed the issue in a Washington Post article entitled “I Used to Think Gun Control Was the Answer. My Research Told Me Otherwise.” It’s worth reading.
Sam Paredes is the Executive Director of Gun Owners of California. The opinions in this article are presented in the spirit of spurring discussion and reflect those of the author and not necessarily the Treasurer, his office or the State of California.