The Alarming Effects of Trump’s Republican Gun Policies, Part II: Florida vs. California

The presidential candidates’ gun policies have hardly been discussed in this election. Yet the choice between them could be a life-or-death matter for many Americans. Fortunately, their core policies have already been tested, for example, in Florida and California. How have they worked out? (In another article, I compared Ohio and California.)

The candidates’ contrasting policies are essentially those of their parties.

Trump wants “to empower gun owners to defend themselves.” He favors concealed carry and wants to expand Stand Your Ground laws which allow someone to shoot another person if he feels seriously threatened, even if a safe way to avoid the confrontation is available. Trump is against expanding background checks beyond the sales made by federally licensed gun dealers, even though up to 40% of gun sales are not made by dealers.[1]

Hillary Clinton, in contrast, supports expanding background checks[2] and other measures to keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals.[3]

Florida has some of the gun laws Trump advocates. In 1987 it allowed law-abiding residents who pass a training course to obtain a concealed carry permit.[4] Florida’s concealed carry law became a cornerstone for researcher John Lott’s claim that such laws reduce violent crime (subsequently invalidated with additional data and research by John J. Donohue of Stanford and others[5]). After 1999, when Republicans won control in Florida, they passed 38 gun-friendly laws including the 2005 Stand Your Ground law.

California has implemented policies Clinton advocates. Since 1990 it has required background checks on all gun sales, not just those by licensed gun dealers. Also, in California, if someone legally buys a gun but then is convicted of a felony, the state Department of Justice recovers his guns, since felons cannot legally possess guns. Finally, unlike Florida, California allows local law enforcement discretion to deny people concealed carry permits, and applicants must generally show why they need one.

Both sets of policies were promoted for “protection” and public safety. But which ones provided it?

In Florida, after Stand Your Ground became law in 2005, the firearm homicide rate rose rapidly. By 2007 it had risen 42% (3.8 per 100,000 in 2005, to 5.4 in 2007). It is still 18% higher than when Stand Your Ground became law, according to the latest data.

Meanwhile, California’s systems of comprehensive background checks and removal of guns from criminals who possess them illegally continued to help reduce the gun homicide rate. By 2014 Florida’s firearm homicide rate (4.5) was 41% percent higher than California’s (3.2) even though Florida is less urban and has fewer large areas of inner-city gun violence.

If Trump and the Republican supporters of his policies running for House and Senate seats are elected, the gun lobby may enact them nationwide. That would mean more dead bodies, more funerals, more grieving Americans and more fatherless children — but on a national scale.

Griffin Dix, Ph.D., taught Cultural Anthropology at Santa Clara University, was Research Director at MacWEEK and founded a computer industry research and consulting business. He is the Co-Chair of the Oakland/Alameda County Brady Campaign Chapter.

[1] Trump’s web site says, “What we don’t need to do is expand a broken system.”




[5] Aneja, Donohue and Zhang found evidence that violent crimes are likely to increase after passage of “right to carry” laws. (The Impact of Right to Carry Laws and the NRC Report: The Latest Lessons for the Empirical Evaluation of Law and Policy, Abhay Aneja, John J. Donohue III, Alexandria Zhang, Stanford University, Dec. 1, 2014, available online. See for example, pp. 80–81. And see: Shooting Down the “More Guns, Less Crime” Hypothesis, Ian Ayres and John J. Donohue III, Stanford Law Review, Vol 55:1193, 4/16/2003. See p. 1202 and 1214.)