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California Gun Crime Data Thin, And No Moves Afoot to Improve It

The California Attorney General report on firearms used in the commission of crimes has very little data.

The California Attorney General report on firearms used in the commission of crimes has very little data.

At a time when public furor over mass shootings is peaking, Alameda residents are petitioning to halt the sale of semi-automatic rifles at the local sporting goods store, and the President of the United States is calling for more statistical research into the cause and effect of gun crimes, nothing is being done by California politicians about the paucity of data in a legislatively-mandated annual report on the use of guns in the commission of crimes.

Under California State Law, the Attorney General is required to provide an annual report to the legislature on the specific types of firearms used in the commission of crimes. The most recent report available from the Attorney General’s website is the 2010 edition, which evaluates just 175 firearms reported, in a year that California saw 1,257 murders committed with firearms, according to FBI data. Of those murders, 953 were committed with handguns, 59 with rifles, 44 with shotguns, and 201 with a type of firearm not known or reported.

The problem is that although state law requires the Attorney General to produce the report, local police jurisdictions and crime labs are not legislatively required to provide data for the report.

Indeed, the 2010 report notes that it includes only firearms linked to violent crimes that were examined by the California Bureau of Forensic Services, which primarily services rural areas in the state. As a result, “the data in this report may not represent gun-use trends within urban areas or within California as a whole.”

City of Alameda officials confirmed for Action Alameda News that the Alameda Police Department does not provide data to the State for the report.

To be sure, Alameda has a low rate of violent crime compared to other nearby cities. Alameda Police Department data reveals just one murder in 2010, and 40 weapons offenses.

By comparison, nearby Oakland saw 90 murders and 6,267 violent crimes in 2010, according to FBI data, which is compiled from local agency submissions.

Oakland Police Department data for 2010 shows over 900 aggravated assaults connected with a firearm that year, and almost 700 weapons (carrying/possessing) offenses.

Just this week, California Democratic Assemblymembers released a statement touting nine bills intended to curb gun violence.

The bills range from tightening restrictions on the sale and resale of guns, or the sale of ammunition, to forcing CalPERS and CalSTRS, the State’s massive public employee and teachers, respectively, pension funds, to divest any investments in companies that sell firearms or ammunition.

None of the announced bills address the question of collecting statistics on firearms use in the commission of crimes.

Representatives for California Assemblymember for the 15th district, Nancy Skinner, declined to comment for this article.

Staff for Rob Bonta, Assemblymember for the 18th district, representing Alameda and neighboring cities, did not respond to a request for comment.

3 comments to California Gun Crime Data Thin, And No Moves Afoot to Improve It

  • I was always taught to look at both sides of an issue and not be blinded by personal opinion. I am pro gun, but only to law abiding citizens who understand how to use a weapon safe and wisely. I work in Oakland and live in Alameda, ironically the only time I was actually robbed at gun point was in front of my house on a Monday night at 9:30pm a couple years ago. During the Rodney king riots in LA as looters were moving up into other neighborhoods to loot some more, homeowners were coming down to local gun stores to purchase weapons to defend themselves, they could not get because of waiting period and were pissed. I am for waiting period and just tell people to think ahead. Most logical example of us ever having to defend our property is from a major natural disaster where emergency services are exhausted and looters are running wild. It is an historical fact that when people are desperate they will do anything to survive or take advantage of others. This is where limiting rifles and other guns to certain amount of ammunition is not wise. Key is we don’t need rocket launchers or AUTOMATIC weapons but 30 rounds in a small caliber 223 can go real quick when you really need it. Criminals used to buy semi-auto weapons from gun store and not automatic because illegal and federal offense, now both would be illegal and criminals will now use fully auto weapons from black market because penalties and risk are the same. Criminals will go for the big guns and citizens will not be able to defend if the time actually comes. Here in the Bay area I have witnessed helpless people be robbed and beaten during the earthquake and hills fire. It is depressing to see everything taken from the elderly right in front of them and no police around to stop it. Think ahead and hope the day will never come you will have to defend yourself and family.

  • The data show that handguns were used in the overwhelming number of crimes in 2010, on the order of 90% (75% for murders in California per the FBI data.)

    D.C. v. Heller ensured that there would be no new laws restrict handgun ownership.

    Given the widespread use of handguns in the commission of crime, it’s not clear to me that restricting semi-auto rifles and high-cap mags will necessarily drive criminals to full-auto weapons via the black market.

  • Understood. Original assault weapons ban did this for awhile, although manufacturers still produced modified weapons with alterations to skirt the ban. Same weapon different look etc. Criminals were still able to purchase through legal means with straw purchasers (the clean record guy in the gang) if they are banned completely once and for all you will see many of the fully autos coming back. History shows that when you make something illegal you immediately create a Black market, cigarettes, drugs, alcohol. If both are illegal semi & auto with same penalties and you are a criminal at the back alley black market and have a choice, which one would you pick?
    It gets so confusing trying to weed through all the data and what law/restrictions will actually go into effect. It is all over the news for awhile and then six months down the road you hear something passed and then you try to figure out what the end result is. I think they need to do extensive background checks and link to DMV. If I get a ticket today for DUI and try and rent a car tomorrow, it flags my record in real time and I can’t rent the car. The technology is there and if they connect the dots I believe they can prevent a lot right off the bat. The laws already have restrictions on people with restraining orders, mental health etc. Just link data in real time.

    They say they won’t ban hand guns, but if hand guns are the major weapon used, what do you think they will do eventually? I don’t know if there is a perfect answer, but as you pointed out the statistics don’t back up the philosophy behind the gun band on the table now but it sounds good to those who don’t really know what is out there.

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