By Gavin Newsom
Gun violence destroys lives, families and communities. From 2002 to 2013, California lost 38,576 individuals to gun violence. That is more than seven times the number of U.S. soldiers killed in combat during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. Over this same period, 2,258 children were killed by gunshot injuries in California. The same number of children murdered in the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre are killed by gunfire in this State every 39 days.
In 2013, guns were used to kill2,900 Californians, including 251 children and teens. That year, at least 6,035 others were hospitalized or treated in emergency rooms for non-fatal gunshot wounds, including 1,275 children and teens.
Guns are commonly used by criminals. According to the California Department of Justice, in 2014 there were 1,169 firearm murders in California, 13,546 armed robberies involving a firearm, and 15,801 aggravated assaults involving a firearm.
This tragic violence imposes significant economic burdens on our society. Researchers conservatively estimate that gun violence costs the economy at least $2+9 billion every year, or more than $700 per American per year. In 2013 alone, California gun deaths.and injuries imposed $83 million in medical costs and $4.24 billion in lost productivit)’. . •.
California can do better. Reasonable, common-sense gun laws reduce gun deaths and injuries, keep guns away from criminals and fight illegal gun trafficking. Although California has led the nation in gun safety laws, those laws still have loopholes that leave communities throughout the state vulnerable to gun violence and mass shootings. We can close these loopholes while still safeguarding the ability oflaw-abiding, responsible Californians to own guns for self-defense, hunting and recreation.
We know background checks work. Federal background checks have already prevented more than 2.4 million gun sales to convicted criminals and other illegal purchasers in America. In 2012 alone, background checks blocked 192,043 sales of firearms to illegal purchasers including 82,000 attempted purchases by felons. That means background checks stopped roughly 225 felons from buying firearms every day. Yet California law only requires background checks for people who purchase firearms, not for people who purchase ammunition. We should close that loophole so that people who are unable to buy a gun are also unable to buy the ammunition that makes guns deadly.
Right now, any violent felon or dangerously mentally ill person can walk into a sporting goods store or gun shop in California and buy ammunition, no questions asked. That should not be allowed. We should require background checks for ammunition sales just like gun sales, and stop both from getting into the hands of dangerous individuals.
Under current law, stores that sell ammunition are not required to report to law enforcement when ammunition is lost or stolen. Stores should have to report lost or stolen ammunition within 48 hours of discovering that it is missing so law enforcement can work to prevent that ammunition from being illegally trafficked into the hands of dangerous individuals.
Californians today are not required to report lost or stolen guns to law enforcement. This makes it difficult for law enforcement to investigate crimes committed with stolen guns, break¬up gun trafficking rings, and return guns to their lawful owners. We should require gun owners to report their lost or stolen guns to law enforcement.
Under current law, people who commit felonies and other serious crimes are prohibited from possessing firearms. Yet existing law provides no clear process for those people to relinquish their guns when they become prohibited at the time of conviction. As a result, in 2014, the Department of Justice identified more than 17,000 people who possess more than 34,000 guns illegally, including more than 1,400 assault weapons. We need to close this dangerous loophole by not only requiring prohibited people to turn in their guns, but also ensuring that it happens.
Military-style assault weapon magazines-some capable of holding more than 100 bullets¬significantly increase a shooter’s ability to kill a lot of people in a short amount of time. That is why assault weapon magazines are common in many of America’s most horrific mass shootings, from the killings at 101 California Street in San Francisco in 1993 to Columbine High School in 1999 to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012.
Today, California law prohibits the manufacture, importation and sale of military-style assault weapon magazines, but does not prohibit people from possessing them. We should close that loophole to prohibit the possession of these deadly ammunition magazines in California. No one needs that many bullets to go hunting or defend themselves.
Although the State of California conducts background checks on gun buyers who live in California, we have to rely on other states and the FBI to conduct background checks on gun buyers who live elsewhere. We should make background checks outside of California more effective by consistently requiring the State to report who is prohibited from possessing firearms to the federal background check system.
Gavin Newsom is the Lt. Governor of California and the text was taken for the declaration submitted to the Secretary of State for the ballot initiative on gun control.