Commentary: Gun Control Laws Backfiring in California

by John R. Lott Jr.


After the three public shootings over the last two weekends in California, Democrats are again clamoring for even more gun control laws. To California Gov. Gavin Newsom, the solution is to ban more places where people can carry permitted concealed handguns. Unfortunately, the proposal has nothing to do with stopping these attacks, and more gun-free zones only encourage these attacks. Other heavily Democratic states such as New YorkNew Jersey, and Maryland are making similar pushes.

Concealed handgun permit holders didn’t commit those or other mass public shootings. Permit holders are also extremely law-abiding, being convicted of firearms-related violations at 1/12th the rate of police officers.

With the country’s strictest gun control laws, California probably shouldn’t hold itself out as a model for the rest of the country to followThe periods after 2000, 2010, or 2020 show a consistent pattern: The per capita rate of mass public shootings in California is always greater than the rate for the rest of the country. The rate is also much higher than for Texas, which gun control groups give an “F” grade for its gun control laws. Since 2010, California’s mass public shooting rate per capita is 43% higher than for Texas and 29% higher than for the rest of the U.S. From 2020 on, California’s rate was 276% higher than Texas’ and 100% higher than the rest of the country.

But while California is moving to create more gun-free zones, the problem is that it has already been virtually impossible to get concealed handgun permits in the parts of California where the attacks occurred. In Los Angeles Country, where two of the attacks occurred, there is only one permit for every 5,660 adults. In San Mateo County, where the other attack occurred, there is one permit per every 24,630 adults. By comparison, there is one permit holder for every nine people in the 43 right-to-carry states.

Unsurprisingly, concealed handgun permit holders don’t stop mass public shootings in California. But they do make a difference in the 43 states where there are a lot of permit holders. Indeed, people legally carrying guns stopped at least 31 mass public shootings since 2020. And when Americans are allowed to legally carry concealed handguns, they stop about half the active shooting attacks in the US.

It is hard to ignore that these mass public shooters purposefully pick targets where they know their victims cannot protect themselves. Yet, the media refuses to discuss that these mass murderers often discuss in their diaries and manifestos how they pick their targets. For example, the Buffalo mass murderer last year wrote in his manifesto explaining why he chose the target that he did: “Areas where CCW are outlawed or prohibited may be good areas of attack” and “Areas with strict gun laws are also great places of attack.”

That is a common theme among mass murderers. These killers may be crazy, but they aren’t stupid. Their goal is to get media coverage, and they know that the more people they kill, the more media attention they will receive. And if they go to a place where their victims are defenseless, they will be able to kill more people.

Even if an officer is in the right place at the right time, a single uniformed police officer has an almost impossible job in stopping mass public shootings. An officer’s uniform is a neon sign saying, “Shoot me first.” Once the murderer kills the officer, the attacker has free rein to go after others. But where concealed carry is allowed, the attacker will have to worry that someone behind him is also armed.

Take school shootings: Twenty states, with thousands of schools, have armed teachers and staff. There has not been one attack at any of these schools during school hours since at least 2000 where anyone has been killed or wounded. All the attacks where people have been killed or wounded occurred in schools where teachers and staff can’t have guns.

Newsom’s approach contrasts sharply with another country that faces constant terrorist attacks. After a Jan. 27 mass public shooting in Israel left seven people dead, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared: “Firearm licensing will be expedited and expanded in order to enable thousands of additional citizens to carry weapons.”

Unfortunately, California’s strict gun control laws create fertile ground for successful mass public shootings. But the new push in some states for more gun-free zones is guaranteed to give mass murderers and other criminals even more hunting grounds.

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John R. Lott Jr. is a contributor to RealClearInvestigations, focusing on voting and gun rights. His articles have appeared in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, New York Post, USA Today, and Chicago Tribune. Lott is an economist who has held research and/or teaching positions at the University of Chicago, Yale University, Stanford, UCLA, Wharton, and Rice.
Photo “Gavin Newsom” by California Governor.




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