Gun Laws, State by State — California


Note: As mass shootings gain more media attention, more and more people are discussing gun control. While many seem to believe that registering all guns, requiring background checks for all purchases, and preventing identifiably dangerous people from purchasing guns are all good ideas, just as many seem to be afraid that any gun control law will mean the loss of all civilian guns. Organizations like the NRA play on these fears, telling people that guns are already too regulated and any further action will mean the loss of the much cherished 2nd Amendment (which is more for well-regulated militia than civilians, but that’s an argument for another day). 

So I wanted to see what exactly the gun laws are in each state. Are guns too regulated? Do states with tight gun laws have more gun violence or less? What does it even take to get a gun nowadays? With these questions in mind, I’ll be starting a new weekly series – Gun Laws, State by State. I will try to document the most up-to-date gun laws in each state as well as provide facts on gun deaths in each state. Hopefully, by the time I get to the last state, we will all be better educated on gun control and gun deaths. If you have any additional information on the state in question, add it in the comments.

 Previous post: Texas

The Summary:

Of the five states I’ve reviewed thus far, California has the strictest gun laws. Examples of this include:

  • Needing a permit to purchase a gun
  • Processing background checks for everyone, including at private sellers’
  • Registering your firearms
  • Limiting the destructive power of the firearms you can possess
  • Limiting the number of firearms you can buy at one time
  • Having laws prohibiting domestic violence and similar offenders from purchasing or keeping firearms

Overall, California seems to be safer than the other four states reviewed with

  • Only 21.3% of residents as gun owners
  • Ranking 43rd in the country in gun related deaths (per capita)
  • Ranking 46th in the country in crime gun exports

However, California is not a perfect state. Despite its lower rate of gun related deaths, on average slightly more people die of gun related deaths in California than Texas (It has a bigger population.), it is the US’ 4th largest supplier of crime guns to Mexico per capita (though it has less than one-third the rate of the top supplier), more guns come into California than go out, and it thus far had the most mass shootings of 2015 at 28 separate incidents that killed 38 people and injured 120 more.

The Verdict:

The biggest takeaway from this information is that while the overall gun statistics in California look pretty good, California still sees a fairly large loss of life and fairly high rate of mass shootings. There are many reasons for this that might have nothing to do with their strict gun laws. For example, California has the 22nd highest murder rate in the US (It is actually tied with Texas.). It is also a border state, has a wealth inequality problem (average income top 1% to bottom 99% ratio is 34.9 to 1; Texas has a 32.5 to 1 ratio), is home to several prominent gangs, and is much more urban than the other states reviewed. So the problem might not be that it’s too easy to get guns in California – it’s just that people are more inclined to use them there based on their social, economic, and global connections (Though this is just speculation. I’d be interested in seeing a better-informed article on it.).

That being said, I do want to emphasize California’s decreased amount of gun deaths and crime and the fact that, on average, it has one of the lowest rates of gun deaths in the country. So, no, its stricter laws haven’t eliminated gun related deaths, but the rate of gun related deaths is down. And that’s a start.

The Facts:

Gun Laws California 1

Gun Laws California 2

Gun Laws California 3

The Sources:


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