A new study suggests that little confirmed data is available on the problem of youth gang violence and firearms in California. The 57-page study the Violence Policy Center, a Washington-based advocacy group, reviews California databases containing gang and gun information. The study, funded by The California Wellness Foundation, says that firearms were used in 94 percent of the 626 gang-related homicides in California in 2006, and more than nine in 10 of those shootings involved handguns. Yet, the study finds, “despite the clear and pervasive role that both firearms and gang violence play in homicide in California, little is known as to how these two factors interact.”
The report continues, “Despite California’s comprehensive reporting on both homicide as well as firearms ownership and use, the discrete nature of the databases involved, coupled with limitations of the databases and a lack of integration, leave many basic questions unanswered and hinder the development of more effective prevention policies.” The report points out disparities in how data is collected by various California law enforcement agencies. For example, only 66 of the 136 respondents stated that they collect information linking specific firearms to use or possession by individuals involved in gang violence.