California's gun control laws aren't stopping a rise in violent crime

AP Photo/Ethan Swope

California Gov. Gavin Newsom loves to claim that the dozens of gun control laws enacted over the past 30 years has made the state a far safer place, pointing to large drops in violent crime since the early 1990s. Never mind that most states that haven’t followed California’s lead have also seen major reductions in violent crime over the same period. According to Newsom, if violent crime is trending down, it must be because of California’s crackdown on legal gun owners.


So what do you think the governor will say about a new report from CalDOJ’s Criminal Justice Statistics Center that shows violent crime has actually been increasing across the state for almost a decade? And not just violent crime, but crimes involving guns as well?

“It is particularly in the last few years that we have seen an increase in violent crime involving firearms,” said Magnus Lofstrom, policy director of criminal justice and a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.

In 2020, homicides using firearms increased by 40.6% and assaults with firearms went up by 29% from the previous year, according to a Times analysis of Department of Justice data.

The trend continued in 2021, with each category of crimes increasing 8% before dropping off by about as much in 2022, the most recent year for which data were available. But the rate for 2022 remains noticeably higher than pre-pandemic figures. Guns were used in 71.2% of homicides and 21.8% of assaults in 2022, compared with 68% and 16.9%, respectively, in 2019.

After a precipitous climb, it is “a little bit encouraging that it came back down” last year, Lofstrom said.

The last time firearms were involved in such a high percentage of violent crimes was “at the peak of our violent crime wave” in the early 1990s, Lofstrom said. Though the rate of gun use in crimes was similar, far more crimes were committed in that era, he said.


California wasn’t the only state to see an increase in violent crime starting in 2020, though thankfully the crime spike appears to be trending downward in most U.S. cities, at least when it comes to homicides. And even in California, crime rates (and the use of guns in the commission of those crimes) can vary wildly from county to county. Interestingly, the Criminal Justice Statistics Center’s new report shows that some of the counties with the highest prevalence of guns used in crime are also some of the most restrictive places in California when it comes to legal gun owners.

Nearly 40% of violent crimes in San Joaquin and Alameda counties involved firearms in 2022. In Orange and San Diego counties, the rate was 14%. In Los Angeles County, the rate was relatively high at 27%.

About 90% of homicides involved guns in San Joaquin and Alameda counties, compared with 38% in San Mateo County.

In Alameda County, nearly half of the robberies involved firearms, whereas in San Diego County, 15% of robberies involved guns.

As Second Amendment attorney Kostas Moros detailed on X/Twitter earlier this year, Alameda County “was perhaps the most overtly hostile to permit issuance of all, besides maybe San Francisco” in the pre-Bruen days. The county is now issuing concealed carry licenses, though not as quickly as Moros and the CRPA would like to see, but for years it was almost impossible for an average citizen to obtain a permit. Violent criminals, meanwhile, aren’t concerned about lawfully carrying (or using) their guns, and the crackdown on lawful gun owners hasn’t made the county any safer.


If California’s unconstitutional gun control regime was really effective at combatting violent crime, then we wouldn’t have seen the increase in gun-involved homicides, carjackings, armed robberies, and other violent offenses that have taken place over the past ten years. The laws have had a much bigger impact on reducing legal gun ownership than quelling violence… which is a bonus, not a bug, for anti-gunners like Gavin Newsom.



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