The U.S. has more than 30,000 gun deaths per year. Mass shootings, including 4 deaths, occur at least weekly in this country. Countries with stricter gun control laws, such as the U.K., Japan, Canada and Australia, have come close to ending gun violence, with strict rules on the possession of guns.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, has proposed a ballot initiative that can set the gold standard for meaningful reforms in Cailfornia, creating a model that could be applied in other states. It's called the Safety for All Act; it would require on-the-spot background checks when buying ammunition, ban the possession, not just the sale, of large-capacity magazines with 10 rounds or more, and require police reports when guns are lost or stolen. This measure would make California the first in the nation to implement point-of-sale background checks for ammunition purchases, giving them the same level of scrutiny as gun purchases.
The recent deadly shooting in San Bernardino happened in a state with some of the nation's toughest gun laws: California already bars assault weapons, blocks the sale of large-capacity magazines and requires universal background checks for all gun purchases. Authorities say they believe suspected gunman Farook and wife Malik had legally obtained two handguns and that two rifles were also legally purchased in California. Federal officials say the attackers had large-capacity magazines that violate California law in their SUV. Since the attack, the state's strict laws and the apparent legal purchase of the weapons have set off a debate over the effectiveness of gun measures and whether getting tougher would help prevent more violence.
"Strong gun laws do prevent gun deaths. Not every law can prevent every gun death," said Allison Anderman, a staff attorney with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence in San Francisco. "They work most of the time."
The gun-control advocacy group rates California's gun laws No. 1 in the nation; the state ranks 42nd in its rate of gun deaths. Louisiana's gun laws were ranked 50th and it is No. 2 in deaths, according to the group's 2014 rankings.
Gun laws vary dramatically state-to-state, even city-to-city. The patchwork of regulations means it's often easy for determined gunmen to acquire weapons by skirting laws in their home state, they say. Untraceable weapons can be built from scratch using parts bought online.
As a result, gun control advocates in the days since the shooting have called for more stringent laws in California and nationwide.
You can support Gavin Newsom’s ballot initiative by making a contribution to the Courage Campaign, at couragecampaign.org. Sign the ballot initiative, which will require 366,000 certified signatures, when you see it outside your market or post office next year
Sadja Greenwood MD, MPH