California has a well-earned reputation as one of the most anti-gun jurisdictions in the United States, with its state and local codes crammed with virtually every cockamamie scheme to suppress firearm ownership conceived within the last 50 years. The state’s current governor, Gavin Newsom, is not only determined to cement this reputation statewide, he’s trying to bring California-style gun control to the country at large by promoting an ill-conceived amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would impose draconian gun control coast to coast. But actual data shows California holds another dubious distinction that puts a lie to the efficacy of its highly-touted “gun safety laws”: it is the state with the highest number of mass murders committed with firearms.
Now, it’s important to understand from the outset that so-called “mass shootings” are not – despite what the media might have citizens believe – a primary driver of firearm-related mortality in the U.S. Indeed, they are among the rarest of firearm-related crimes. Suicide and the largely ignored phenomenon of retaliatory violence among crime-involved individuals are the main sources of fatal firearm incidents.
Yet highly-publicized mass shootings play an outsized role in influencing gun control policy in the U.S. because they create the (grossly distorted and exaggerated) impression that ordinary, law-abiding people are at a high risk of being killed with a firearm at the places where they learn, work, and play. They also receive breathless media coverage that seeks to exploit the public’s grief, fear, and outrage over these events to give impetus to hastily-pushed gun control, before details inevitably emerge that show these measures would have been useless in stopping the crime. Where this manipulation prevails, however, it results in overreaching policies that intrude on Second Amendment rights with virtually no effect on either “mass shootings” or the more anonymous forms of firearm-related deaths.
California is a case in point, as revealed by data compiled on the website Statista.com.
The Statista survey looked at data between 1982 and October 2023 concerning episodes of a single attack with a firearm in a public place that resulted in four or more fatalities between 1982 and 2012 or in three fatalities from 2013 onward (definitions that track a database compiled by MotherJones.com).
Those figures show that California had by far the most such incidents during the survey period, at 26. This is as much as the combined amount of the next two states with the highest totals, Florida and Texas. It is also more than the combined total of the 20 states with the lowest frequency of such events (excluding states with no such incidents at all).
It is true that California is the most populous (38.9 million) of the U.S. states, so it is not necessarily the deadliest state for mass shootings per capita. But the strongly pro-gun states of Florida (22.6 million) and Texas (30+ million) have a combined population that exceeds that of California by some 13.7 million people. Thus, whatever California thinks it is doing with regard to countering mass public murder committed with firearms, it is working no better at a population level than what is occurring in two of the most gun-friendly states of the Union.
Another Statista survey also debunks another popular gun control talking point, that AR-15 or other semiautomatic rifles are the “weapon of choice” for mass shooters. Over the same period, Statista found that handguns were used 115 “mass shootings,” while rifles of any sort (semiautomatic or not) were used in 65.
None of this is to diminish the fact that any firearm-related murder is a terrible event, no matter where or how it is committed.
But along with gun control, Gavin Newsom also likes to promote what he insists is a “science-based” approach to “public health.” In that vein, any honest assessment of California’s notoriously strict gun control regime has to acknowledge that the numbers don’t add up to success when it comes to preventing “mass shootings.”