“There would have been nearly 140,000 fewer firearm-related deaths”

“There would have been nearly 140,000 fewer firearm-related deaths”

On August 15, California Attorney General Rob Bonta released the first-ever data report from the Office of Gun Violence Prevention (OGVP). The report summarizes gun violence data in California and throughout the U.S. and has the potential to guide policy and strategy discussions related to reducing gun violence.

No mean feat

Releasing the report is a pretty big deal, even for a state like California, which prides itself on common-sense gun legislation.

After all, it was only a year ago, in September 2022, that AG Bonta established the OGVP with the mission of reducing and preventing gun violence, firearm injury and related trauma. The OGVP supports the California Department of Justice in gun-violence reduction efforts by:

• promoting research and data collection

• increasing awareness about effective legal and policy strategies

• collaborating with federal, state and local partners

Favorable data points

From the press release, here are data points that will reassure you when you watch the nightly news and wonder whether your and our work is paying off or not:

• Over the last 30 years, California has reduced its gun violence rate from 50% above average among the rest of the United States to 33% below average.

• Between 2006 and 2022, California’s gun-homicide rate among youths fell by 50%. Over that same time horizon, those rates rose by 23% in Florida and 48% in Texas.

• Between 2015 and 2021, the number of unserialized firearms (ghost guns) recovered as crime guns in California jumped from 26 to over 12,000. Mercifully, from 2021 to 2022 the number decreased by 7%.  Thank heaven for small favors – not to mention enforcement actions, affirmative litigation and legislation.

AG Bonta’s office points out that “if the firearm mortality rate in the rest of the United States had matched California’s between 2013 and 2022, there would have been nearly 140,000 fewer firearm-related deaths nationwide in that decade alone.” (emphasis theirs)

That’s a lot of people who would still be alive. It’s a lot more people who would not have had to grieve them. And it’s a lot of time that family and friends could have spent attending their graduations, birthday parties and weddings. Instead of wishing they were still alive.

Find out more

Take a look at the complete data report. You’ll find additional information and data on gun violence in California including:

• Additional comparisons of California and national data

• Analysis of Gun Violence Injuries in California by intent, lethality, and county

• Analysis of gun violence factors, disparities, and recent challenges

• Domestic violence and firearms

• Data on mass shootings

• Strategies for breaking the cycle of violence

Have a look also at the Mandated Crime Guns in CA Report, with exhaustive details about firearms in California: who sells them, who manufactures them, who isn’t serializing them, and where (city/county) they’re being used in crimes.

Not every state in the union publishes this kind of data. (In most states, it’s prohibited.) Phone the attorney general’s office at (916) 210-6000 and let them know that gun-violence prevention is important to you.

And tell your friends in other states.

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Here’s What 2 County Supervisors Said “No” To

Here’s What 2 County Supervisors Said “No” To

TL;DR: Important races for county supervisors are in progress right now, with more in 2024. If gun-violence prevention is important to you, then get ready to vote!

On Tuesday, July 18, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors heard the Final Report on the Community Needs Assessment about Gun Violence Reduction in the county. The assessment, performed by the independent organization HARC in 2022-23, included an analysis of secondary data, countywide community and professional surveys. It also included listening sessions to collect the first-hand experiences and beliefs of residents, and a review of best practices identified in the research literature.

Among the report’s many findings, there were over 1,300 firearm deaths and 1,300 firearm injuries in the county over recent five-year periods. Of those deaths, 70.9% were suicides and 28.9% were homicides.

During the listening sessions conducted by HARC, people just like you and me, from all over the county, showed up, called in and commented on how gun violence affects them. They jumped at the chance – as we do – to have their voices heard by elected representatives who could finally start to fix everything that’s broken and do something about gun violence.

What two Supervisors voted against

At the Supervisors’ meeting, some of the findings and recommendations contained in the Final Report were outlined. The recommendations in the Work Plan included:

  • Develop and share educational content related to safe storage of firearms, behavioral treatment access, and other suicide prevention education, focusing on the highest-risk populations.
  • Partner with agencies to promote gun lock distribution programs, including offering gun locks at no cost.
  • Monitor state and federal actions for opportunities to improve safe gun ownership and investment in communities most impacted by gun violence.

Those (and other) recommendations for the current fiscal year INVOLVED NO ADDITIONAL COST.

So why, when it came time for the board to vote on accepting the Final Report and adopting the Work Plan, did Supervisors Anderson (District 2) and Desmond (District 5) vote no?

Why did they vote “no?”

Had they not heard about the fatal shooting in Fallbrook the day before? A three-year-old found an unsecured handgun at home and accidentally shot their one-year-old sibling. Seems unlikely that the Supervisors had missed the news, given that the Democratic Supervisors and several people making and submitting public comments at the meeting mentioned it in tragic detail. Did Anderson and Desmond not believe it was a preventable death? Did they not see the connection between a tragedy like that and the Work Plan they were asked to vote for?

Were they not paying attention during the many public comments in support of the Work Plan, including when Elizabeth and Carlos Muñoz spoke? The Muñozes created Jr’s Trauma Care Initiative in honor of their son Juan Carlos Munoz Jr., who was murdered with a gun in San Diego County in a random act of violence. These grieving parents appeared in person to tell the Board of Supervisors how badly gun violence devastates a family.

Did they not see the three dozen e-comments submitted by constituents in favor of adopting the Work Plan? Did they not at least skim the dozens of quotations in the Final Report about the ways guns are connected to suicide, domestic violence and life in low-income communities?

Or did the rambling, incoherent, conspiracy-theory-laden comments of a few citizens at the meeting appeal to their sense of fairness and good government? Does that kind of wild, exorbitant rhetoric resonate with them?

Supervisor Desmond’s comments focused on a belief that shootings are about mental health and he claimed that the plan didnt do enough to address mental health. It is a NRA-driven myth that gun violence is primarily caused by mental health. But most violence is not causally linked to mental illness. A focus on mental health as “the” cause of gun violence distracts from the real issue with guns and mental health: suicide. And the very steps that Desmond voted against would start to address that very real issue.

Furthermore, just a few weeks prior, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the new 2023-24 County budget, which incorporates a new, three-year, $848-million Mental Health Services Act plan. The plan increases spending for programs to help children, youth, families, adults and older adults who suffer serious mental illness or crises. The first year of this mental health plan represented a 20% increase in spending over 2022-23. What more, specifically, was Supervisor Desmond looking for?

Supervisor Anderson just voted “no”, without any explanation whatsoever.

The cost of voting “no”

Gun violence costs not only lives but money. As with any public health issue – influenza, smoking, air pollution, COVID-19 – there are costs associated with voting “no” on incremental proposals aimed at addressing it.

In 2022, the Public Health Department of Santa Clara County published a report on the cost of gun violence. It found that the average annual public-sector costs – police, courts, jail, parole/probation, etc. – of firearm violence were $72.5 million in the county. Of course, that does not include medical and mental health, lost wages, quality of life and total costs for firearm deaths, hospitalizations and emergency department visits.

We don’t know of a similar study for San Diego County, but annual gun deaths here are almost three times higher than in Santa Clara County. San Diego’s non-fatal hospitalizations or emergency department visits are 25 percent higher than in Santa Clara. So, a conservative estimate would be that our public-sector costs are at least double those in the Santa Clara report, or roughly $145 million per year.

In other words, voting “no” on incremental but meaningful changes that cost no additional money carries not only a cost in lives lost or forever altered, but in public dollars. How much of the cost of voting “no” do these Republican Supervisors want their constituents to incur?

Finally, there is the cost of growing cynicism among the County residents most impacted by violence. As one listening session participant said, prior studies about disparities resulted in no changes. How do we trust change will happen with this study, they asked? How, indeed, when the simplest of actions are not supported by these Supervisors?

The next vote is yours

Supervisor Lawson-Remer held a press conference immediately after the vote. Naturally, the hope was that she could announce acceptance of the Final Report and adoption of the Work Plan. But the final tally was 2-2, which meant that the action has stalled.

She made her displeasure known. She denounced the Republicans’ “no” votes as blocking “even the smallest, most common-sense reforms” and pledged to continue fighting for gun safety in our communities.

Several other people spoke at the press conference, including the Muñozes and the Olivers. The Olivers are the parents of Joaquín “Guac” Oliver, who was killed in the shooting at Margery Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, five years ago. The Olivers stopped in San Diego as part of their nationwide “Guac’s Magical Tour” of cities affected by mass shootings. Manny Oliver was indignant. He said refusal to take meaningful action – such as the Republican Supervisors’ refusal – is the reason for their tour. He cited the importance of voting local, which is where most of the progress in gun-violence prevention is occurring.

There’s a race on right now for the vacancy in District 4 of the Board of Supervisors, where two candidates are responsive to gun-safety issues: Monica Montgomery-Steppe and Janessa Goldbeck. The other two candidates are decidedly NOT focused on gun violence prevention: one is endorsed by the San Diego County Gun Owners PAC that fought against this Work Plan, and the other has made no public statements that we could locate regarding gun violence.

If you want to prevent gun violence (and avoid another mess like the one last week), do your homework on Montgomery-Steppe and Goldbeck, and cast your vote for one of those candidates by August 15. Let all the candidates – this year and next year – know that ending gun violence in San Diego is important to you.

Therese Hymer is a board member and leads the Legislation and Advocacy Team of San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention.

Tipping Point — One Mother’s Poem

Tipping Point — One Mother’s Poem


By Kristen Fogle

I love picking out your clothes for preschool
–Batman or Elmo shirts,
short sleeves, cuffs,
tidy stripes, retro paisley–
but lately I can’t decide…
Better to dress you in bright colors so the teacher will easily spot you
or muted ones so an active shooter can’t?


Kristen Fogle has been the executive director of San Diego Writers, Ink since 2013. She is also a theater director, producer and teaching artist, as well as a writing instructor and a former magazine editor. Her poem, “Untitled,” appeared in A Year in Ink, Anthology Volume 16 in 2023.
©2023 Kristen Fogle
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In Memory of a GVP Leader: Ira Sharp

In Memory of a GVP Leader: Ira Sharp

June is known as Gun Violence Prevention Month across the nation. As June comes to a close, we reflect on the life-saving impact of those who dedicate their hearts, minds and energy to the prevention of gun violence. This month we lost a true leader in GVP and a force for good in humanity. 

Ira Sharp inspired so many San Diegans with his dedication, his intellect and his kind, inclusive nature toward everyone he met. SD4GVP knew Ira as an invaluable partner and a well-respected leader. Individuals within the organization describe him as a tireless joy to work with, as well as a sincere, loving man who had the gift of connecting with people and befriending anyone. His work lives on. His humanity touched us all and will never be forgotten. 

On June 22, California State Senator Catherine Blakespear adjourned in memory of Ira Sharp and the powerful impact he has had on our state. As she remarked, “Ira understood the simple truth that we too often forget, which is, at the heart of every issue, of every policy and of every disagreement…are people. And people, however imperfect, have the capacity for good.”

National Safer Communities Summit

National Safer Communities Summit

It’s not often that you have the chance to attend a national summit on gun-violence prevention (GVP) with the President also in attendance.

Of course, it’s a sad commentary that we need a national summit on GVP in the first place. But if we do, it’s heartening to those of us in this never-ending struggle that the Chief Executive made time for a personal appearance.

I flew to Connecticut for the National Safer Communities Summit in West Hartford, commemorating the first anniversary of the passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA).

Accomplishments of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, one year on

Activists and legislators from across the country and keynote speaker President Biden emphasized that the gun-violence prevention movement is not only gaining momentum but is on course to restore a sensible balance between the rights of responsible gun owners and the rights of the public to be safe.

The Summit, hosted by Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), highlighted the one-year accomplishments of the BSCA. After three decades of federal inaction on gun-safety bills, the Act, passed in the wake of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in June 2022, has been saving lives. Senator Murphy pointed to a 10% decrease in the murder rate in many cities across the country.

Rep. Lucy McBath (GA), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT), Sen. Chris Murphy (CT), John Feinblatt (Pres., Everytown for Gun Safety)

Encouraged by the financial carrot ($750 million) to establish and implement Extreme Risk Protection Orders (also known as red-flag laws), twenty-one states now have laws that allow guns to be temporarily removed from persons at risk of violence to themselves or others. That number is up from nineteen states in 2021.

Domestic violence survivor Ruth Glenn applauded the expansion of protections for victims of domestic violence.  The BSCA now prohibits firearm ownership of abusers in dating relationships, not just those in domestic partnerships.

New Jersey Attorney General Mathew Platkin explained how the enhanced review process for gun purchasers under 21 has led to a 20% increase in denials, weeding out young men with histories of violence.  Mayor of Kansas City Quinton Lucas praised the fact that straw purchasing and gun trafficking is now a federal crime.

“What?!” you exclaim. “You mean it wasn’t a federal crime to traffic guns into high crime areas before?”

No. It wasn’t.

Now it is.

That’s the kind of evolution toward common sense for which you can thank the BSCA.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona praised the funding that is coming to schools for mental health services.  Students are suffering from depression and anger; they are fearful of being shot as they walk to school, while they are in school and as they are traumatized by active-shooter drills and real lockdowns.

Representative Lucy McBath (D-GA 6) pointed to the $250 million in funding for violence interruption programs (VIP) that “get to the root of the problem.”

Former Congresswoman (and gun-violence survivor) Gabby Giffords attended. Her organization has posted a link to the entire National Safer Communities Summit.

All of that and President Biden, too

President Biden praised the efforts of lawmakers and ordinary citizens who helped bring about BSCA last year. He also sounded a call for a ban on assault weapons at the federal level.

“We will ban assault weapons in this country,” he said. “It won’t be easy. . . Look what you’ve already done in Connecticut and around the country. . . We can get this done.”

It was genuinely reassuring to be in the same room with a president who is in our corner when it comes to ending gun violence.

“Every damn’ day in America,” said President Biden. “A lot of you are tired. I get it. . . We will never yield on this issue.”

Nobody in the audience seemed troubled at hearing the President say “damn.”

It shows he’s as sick of daily gun violence as the other 330 million of us are.

Carol Landale is vice president of SD4GVP.