25% of New California Gun Buyers Had No Background Check: Survey

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Photo by Matt Watts

About 25 percent of California adults who purchased firearms recently did not have a background check, according to a survey released Sunday.

The 2018 California Safety and Wellbeing Survey also found that some 25 percent of Californian adults live in households with firearms—and 40 percent of those households included children aged 12 and younger.

The survey, conducted last month by the University of California-Davis Violence Prevention Research Program (VPRP), was released on the heels of the California gubernatorial election won by Gavin Newsom, who has promised  tougher gun regulations, and the mass shooting  that  left 12 dead at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, Ca.

The survey represents the first major exploration of firearm ownership in the state in over 40 years, said Nicole Kravitz-Wirst, a researcher who led the survey.

“Much remains unknown about the details surrounding firearm violence,” Kravitz-Wirtz said in a press statement accompanying the report. “Accurate and up-to-date information that could be used to develop effective policies and programs to decrease deaths and injuries from firearms is critically needed.”

According to the survey, 14 percent of California adults—roughly 4.2 million people, personally own firearms; and five percent of the firearms are assault rifles. Handguns are the most popular purchase and “were most often obtained for the purpose of protection,” the statement said.

The state already has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation.

“We alsdo found, unexpectedly, that roughly 25 percent of those who purchased their most recent firearm in California reported that they did not undergo a background check,” said Kravitz-Wirtz.

After a mass killing in 2014, California passed a law that let police officers and family members seek restraining orders to seize guns from troubled people. A year later, a shooting rampage in San Bernardino led to voters outlawing expanded magazines for guns and requiring background checks for buying ammunition.

The state has also banned assault weapons, all part of a wave of gun regulation that began 25 years ago with a mass murder at a San Francisco law firm.

Gun control activists and politicians are already weighing what more can be done, and whether existing measures could have prevented the killing, the New York Times reports.

Newsom has signaled he will introduce even tougher regulations.

“The response is not just prayers,” he said last week. “The response cannot just be excuses. The response sure as hell cannot be more guns.”

In an interview with the Sacramento Bee shortly after the vote, he promised to “raise the bar” on gun control, suggesting he would have signed bills that Brown vetoed in recent years, such as .expanding California’s gun violence restraining order law, which allows police and family members to seek the temporary removal of firearms from someone they believe is a danger to themselves or others.

California has had the most deaths from mass shootings since 1982: 128.

Florida, with roughly half the population of California, has the second most, 118. Most gun deaths are not from mass shootings, and the focus of the gun control movement is on reducing overall gun deaths, in homicides, suicides and accidents. By that measure, California has been successful: It has cut its gun-death rate in half over 25 years, and is among the states with the lowest rates, with 7.9 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2016.

The survey was presented Sunday at the American Public Health Association in San Diego.

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