After a shooter attacked attendees at the Gilroy Garlic Festival on July 28, it was reported that the 19-year-old murderer, Santino William Legan, had purchased his firearm legally in Nevada prior to the attack. This prompted news outlets to criticize states bordering California with loose gun control laws. The Trace reported they had become “hotspots for gun traffickers and criminals eager to bring weapons into California.”
However, according to a recent study (pdf) by the Department of Justice, 56 percent of convicted criminals across the United States purchased their weapon off the street or on the black market, stole it, or found it at the scene of a crime. Around 25 percent received their weapon from a friend, family member, or as a gift.
Only 7 percent purchased the gun under their own name from a licensed dealer.
In an interview with The Epoch Times, firearms expert and 2nd Amendment advocate Sam Maizlech of Gunivore said the claim that border states have turned into hotspots for criminals is “completely unfounded.”
Pointing to records released by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), Maizlech said the data indicates that “California contributes a higher percentage of firearms to Nevada crime than Nevada does to California.”
ATF data shows 238 out of 3,165 guns recovered from crime scenes in Nevada in 2014 had come from California, while 774 of 34,890 were trafficked from Nevada to California. The Nevada-sourced guns made up 5 percent of California’s recovered crime weapons, while California-sourced guns made up 16 percent of those recovered in Nevada.
California is a “major exporter of crime guns” to other states as well, reported Business Insider, despite the state’s strict gun laws. And according to a 2016 study published in “Social Medicine,” nearly 80 percent of gun crimes were committed by a perpetrator who didn’t legally own the gun.
Maizlech said there is little incentive for traffickers and criminals to cross the border to legally purchase firearms.
“Once somebody is committed to illegally buying a firearm, there is simply no need to cross state lines, since they can’t procure them by the books,” he said.
However, many others claim the real problem is insufficient gun laws, and more gun control is the answer.
Gun Control’s Shortcomings
Shortly after the Gilroy shooting, the hashtag #GunControlNow started trending on Twitter, with users calling for strict federal gun laws.
“My heart breaks for all of our Bay Area neighbors who attended the Gilroy Garlic Festival,” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) wrote in a tweet. “We need gun reform and we need it now.”
Unfortunately, the pro-gun control push stemming from these reports can end up leaving innocent Californians at risk, California attorney Scott Sanborn told The Epoch Times in an email.
“It is inherent that California’s strict gun laws are prejudicial to law-abiding citizens only, not criminals who have little regard for the laws,” he said.
“As a practical matter, California’s strict gun laws have the effect of disarming the general public [and] making them soft targets, more vulnerable in the event of an active shooter scenario or another violent crime.”
Maizlech agreed, adding that the media hype surrounding mass shootings often masks the reality of gun crime in America.
“Gun violence is continuously falling precipitously while firearm sales continue to skyrocket,” he told The Epoch Times.
“In fact, 2018 witnessed the second-highest year in NICS firearm background checks in recent history.”
Maizlech pointed to the town of Kennesaw, Georgia, as an example of what happens when more people own guns. The town outside Atlanta saw a significant drop in the local crime rate after passing a measure mandating that every household own at least one firearm passed in 1982, he said.
“Instead of crime skyrocketing, the burglary rate dropped by almost 90 percent,” he told The Epoch Times. “This is because guns don’t have to be used to stop crime. The simple knowledge of the presence of firearms is often enough to scare off criminals.
“This is precisely why cities with the strictest gun control are the most dangerous.”
To Sanborn, the only option legislators have when it comes to keeping constituents safe is to actually loosen gun laws, whether this sounds counterintuitive or not.
“[The state] should spend their efforts on firearm safety, training, and education. That would be a much more productive use of resources [than gun control],” he said.
But loosening restrictions and encouraging people to be safe gun owners may not be enough to make the Golden State safer.
Jacob Rieper, editor of “Gun Politics New York,” told The Epoch Times that the state will only see a difference in gun-related crime rates by “[scrapping] most of the gun control laws and [giving everyone] the right to carry.”
Furthermore, he said, news outlets should “stop making these killers into celebrities by broadcasting their names and faces on TV all the time.”