Back-to-back shootings in California are not proof that gun laws have failed

California has just been rocked by two gruesome mass shootings less than 48 hours apart, leaving 11 dead in a shooting at a Monterey Park dance hall on Saturday and seven farmworkers massacred in Half Moon Bay just two days later.

The tragedies are two of 39 mass shootings in the US that will take place in the first few weeks of 2023 alone. That number is higher for this point in the year than for any other record, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which defines a mass shooting as one that injures or kills at least four people.

Those numbers should be the wake-up call Congress needs to pass tougher gun legislation, Democrats and gun control advocates said after the shootings. The “scourge of gun violence across America requires stronger action,” President Joe Biden said after the Half Moon Bay shooting, calling on Congress to send him a federal assault weapons ban.

A woman who lost several friends in Monterey Park mourns at a makeshift memorial outside Star Dance Studio in suburban Los Angeles.

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

But it’s a different story playing out in the headlines on Fox News and other conservative outlets, which have been eager to point out that these two mass shootings took place in the state with the strictest gun control legislation in the country. It’s in line with the talking point Republicans often throw up after such tragedies: that shootings in places that have tried to clamp down on gun access, including California and Chicago, are proof that such laws really do. They don’t stop gun violence.

Despite stricter gun regulations in California, “apparently that didn’t work in this situation,” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Tuesday in his first remarks on the shootings.

But it’s not that simple.

Although this week’s shootings took place in California, the state still has one of the lowest rates of gun deaths in the country, a statistic gun control advocates attribute to the state’s gun control measures. in the last decades. The state’s mass shooting death rate is also below the national average, with Californians 25% less likely to be killed in a mass shooting than the average American.

In Mississippi, Wyoming and Missouri, three states with some of the most lax gun laws in the country, the rate of deaths from firearms is about three times that of California.

“We can’t do this alone, and with all due respect, we feel like we are.”

– California Governor Gavin Newsom

But for all that California has implemented — universal background checks, a red flag law, an assault weapons ban — it still exists in a country with the most lenient federal gun rules in the world. It’s easy to carry firearms across state lines, federal judges citing the Second Amendment have cracked down on some of California’s gun restrictions, and gun manufacturers have discovered loopholes to circumvent state regulations and sell very similar guns to AR-15 semi-automatic rifles in California.

“We can’t do this alone, and with all due respect, we feel like we’re doing it,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said Tuesday of the state’s efforts to limit gun violence.

The gun used by the Monterey Park shooter is generally illegal in California. Authorities say they are still trying to piece together the gun’s origins and whether it was purchased legally out of state or illegally from a gun dealer. Police say they found a semi-automatic handgun in the Half Moon Bay shooter’s vehicle and confirmed it was legally purchased and possessed.

Republican Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas was among those who rejected calls for tighter federal restrictions on firearms in the wake of the California shootings.

Mourners attend a candlelight vigil for the victims of a mass shooting in Monterey Park, a suburb of Los Angeles.
Mourners attend a candlelight vigil for the victims of a mass shooting in Monterey Park, a suburb of Los Angeles.

“Chicago has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, but the highest murder rate,” he said on CNN after the Monterey Park shooting, though that oft-repeated claim is mostly false.

“In each of these cases, and I guarantee you’ll see this one as well, the shooter had warning signs along the way. We just didn’t respond or pick it up,” McCaul continued. He then proposed a bill that would “take public information on the Internet, have an algorithm to stop the threat before it happens. That’s a smart approach rather than violating Second Amendment rights.”

But when McCaul had the chance to support such interventions, he didn’t. Like many other Republicans, he voted against last year’s bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which includes federal funding for states’ red flag laws, a program that has already begun to see success in California, background checks stricter regulations and funding for other crisis intervention strategies.

The law passed, but only after Democrats agreed to weaken some of those elements. Although universal background checks are popular with the vast majority of Americans, Republicans would only pass a background check policy that applies to people under 21, expires after 10 years, and prohibits the use of data older than 21 years. 16 years. The Republicans also blocked the Democrats. ‘ Red flag proposal, which would allow a gun to be taken from anyone a federal judge determines is dangerous.

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