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California earns high score for laws
to prevent gun violence

By Angela Hokanson, Bay City News Service

March 13, 2006

California earned a high mark in the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence's annual report card, which grades state gun laws, the Brady Campaign reported this week.

Earning a grade of "A-", California scored significantly better than the 32 states that received grades of either "D" or "F". California was among only 10 states that received grades in the "A" and "B" range.

The Brady Campaign, a national organization working to prevent gun violence, started grading state gun laws nine years ago.

"California has really great gun laws, to sum it up. We've had more than a decade of really sensible legislation," said Karen Shah, executive director of Women Against Gun Violence, an advocacy group working to prevent gun violence.

"California has passed a series of gun laws that are a model for the rest of the nation. These laws have helped California reduce rates of gun homicide, gun suicide, and total gun deaths in California much faster than in the rest of the nation," said Griffin Dix, president of the California Million Mom March Chapters, which is part of the Brady Campaign.

California has several pieces of existing legislation that contributed to the state's high score on the report card. For example, the state has legislation on the books that: limits handgun purchases to one per month per person; holds gun owners criminally responsible for leaving guns accessible to children; requires background checks on people purchasing guns, even when the purchases are made at gun shows; and prohibits the sale of guns to juveniles.

In contrast, states such as Arizona, Nevada, and Wyoming do not require background checks when people purchase firearms at gun shows. As a result, guns make their way into "illegal markets" at these events, Shah said.

According to Dix, California's gun laws are effective, and gun homicide and suicide rates dropped faster between 1994 and 2003 in California than in states that have weaker gun laws.

Dix cites data from the National Center for Health Statistics that indicates that the rate of gun homicides in California between 1994 and 2003 fell by approximately 43 percent, whereas the rate of gun homicides fell by approximately 37 percent in the other 49 states in the U.S. during the same time period.

Shah credits California's robust legislation related to preventing gun violence to state legislators who have championed the cause, advocacy groups that have conducted public awareness and education campaigns about gun violence, and a general political climate in which Californians are receptive to viewing guns as a public health and safety issue.

The California legislature has generally done a good job in passing legislation to prevent gun violence, Dix said. Dix would welcome additional legislation like New Jersey's law that requires handguns to have childproofing technology so that only the gun's owner can fire the weapon.

The California Million Mom March Chapters and Women Against Gun Violence also both support Assembly Bill 352, which would mandate microstamping on new semiautomatic handguns. Microstamping is a technology that would replace the accidental markings made on bullet casings with serial numbers.

Proponents of microstamping say it will help law enforcement trace bullets to the guns that fired them, and therefore help solve gun-related crimes.

The bill is expected to return to the Assembly for a vote later this year, according to Dix.

Copyright © 2006 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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