Amid American gun crisis, California leads with solutions

Second Amendment

In the aftermath of a school shooting last month that left children as young as 9 years old dead in the state he represents, a Republican congressman from Tennessee publicly declared that Congress “is not going to fix” gun violence.

This statement is infuriating, especially because gun violence kills over 100 Americans a day. But with his sentiments shared by his colleagues in the majority party, for now at least, he may be right.

While congressional Democrats will never stop fighting for national reform, the Republican resistance pushes the struggle to the state level. And there, states can and should look to California and the success we have had in reducing gun violence through commonsense, evidence-based measures. Replicating them across the United States would save lives.

Opponents of gun safety reform — including congressional Republicans whose subservience to the NRA renders them unwilling to fix the problem — tell Americans that laws are not the solution. But California tells a very different story, and numbers don’t lie.

California has implemented the nation’s strongest laws, including universal background checks, extreme-risk protection orders, safe-storage requirements, an assault weapons ban and a prohibition on high-capacity magazines.

As a result, compared to the average for citizens of all other states, Californians are about 25% less likely to die in mass shootings, according to the Public Police Institute of California. California has earned an “A” rating from Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. By contrast, Tennessee has received an “F” rating, and residents there are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by guns than in California.

Despite California’s demonstrated success in reducing gun violence and death, gun-safety opponents point to recent tragedies such as the shootings in Half Moon Bay and Monterey Park to attempt to undermine the effectiveness of our laws. But these bad faith arguments do not hold up under scrutiny.

In fact, when enforcement of California’s laws is hindered and results in tragedy, it is often due to federal challenges to our state laws. Take for instance the ammunition used in the Monterey Park shooting. While this specific type of extended large-capacity magazine is illegal in California, due to an ongoing lawsuit in federal court, police are not able to enforce the ban on possessing them. Our laws work when gun-safety opponents do not block our ability to fully enforce them.

Time after time, devastating mass shootings have sparked efforts in Congress to finally take meaningful action to reduce gun violence. But each time, hopes are dashed when Republicans, beholden to the NRA, refuse to pick people’s lives over profits and block even the most commonsense reforms that have been proven to save lives — and, by the way, do not infringe on the Second Amendment. California, like Tennessee and every other state, is home to plenty of responsible, law-abiding gun owners who would not be unduly impacted by the reforms we are advocating.

In the last session of Congress alone, hundreds of bills and amendments were introduced that all shared the goal of implementing reforms to make our communities safer from gun violence. From an assault weapons ban to safe-storage requirements to improving the safety of guns themselves, one by one these bills were proposed and then promptly shelved without enough Republican support to get them across the finish line. Meanwhile, we are seeing these same provisions save lives in California.

Until we can count on Republicans to value Americans’ lives over the NRA, we will have to rely on states and even local governments to pick up the slack. To do so, they should look to California.

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, represents the 10th Congressional District, mostly in Contra Costa County.

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