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[Gun Violence]
Former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords: "A society that fails to protect our communities, our families, and our children is a society in a moral crisis."
Photo: YouTube

On Sunday afternoon, a shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Northern California left three people dead and more than 15 injured.

A gunman fired into a crowd of families, killing a six-year-old boy, a 13-year-old girl and a young man in his 20s. Police believe the shooter bypassed metal detectors by cutting through a fence before opening fire with a military-style assault rifle.

“My son had his whole life to live and he was only six. That’s all I can say,” said Alberto Romero, father of 6-year-old Stephen Romero. (NBC News)

"It's one of the scariest feelings. I think this is all like a nightmare. I don't believe this is reality right now,” said Miquita Price. (CNN)

On Saturday evening, a shooter opened fire on a crowd singing “Family Reunion” during the 56th Old Timers Day in Brownsville, Brooklyn, killing one man and injuring 11 others. The victims ranged in age from 21 to 55. The annual block party, which brings together neighbors spanning several generations, had taken place since 1963 without incident until Saturday, when 56 consecutive years of peace were shattered in an instant.

“It was pandemonium,” said Bill Blount, 42, who took cover against a wall with his 5-year-old daughter, London. “She was crying. People were screaming and running.” (New York Times)

“We were told to run and when I turned around to see, I was hit in the back,” recalled Daniesa Murdaugh. “I was so scared.” (New York Post)

We are 210 days into 2019 and there have already been 246 mass shootings. This past weekend, a rash of major shootings took lives and tore apart communities across the country. Between Saturday, July 27 and Sunday, July 28, seven mass shooting incidents were reported in California, New York, Illinois, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, and Kansas. In the city of Chicago alone, 8 were killed and 40 were wounded over the weekend.


Background on State Gun Laws

It is not yet clear whether the sale of the rifle in Nevada, used to commit the shootings in California, was lawful. Whether the gunman was a California or Nevada resident, though, it is generally illegal to import assault weapons into California, or carry or possess assault weapons in the state, without a special weapons permit.

If the gunman was a California resident, he would have been prohibited by federal law from obtaining an assault weapon in Nevada, since interstate rifle sales must comply with the laws of both the buyer and sellers’ states. He would also have been prohibited from transporting any firearm across state lines without having it shipped first to a California dealer. As explained below, that California dealer would not have been able to deliver any firearm to a minor under 21, or an assault weapon to anyone without a special weapons permit.

Federal law generally requires people obtaining rifles outside their state of residence to conduct the sale or transfer of the firearm through a federally licensed dealer, and requires that the sale, delivery, and receipt of the firearm comply with the laws of both the buyer and sellers’ states. California law also prohibits state residents from acquiring firearms in other states and directly transporting the guns back into California. To obtain a firearm from another state, California residents must have the firearm shipped to a California-licensed firearms dealer to complete delivery of the firearm. California law bans the sale and possession of most assault weapons, including SKS rifles with detachable magazines, prohibits dealers from delivering firearms to minors under 21, requires a 10-day waiting period to obtain a firearm, and requires purchasers pass a written gun safety test to obtain a firearm safety certificate prior to the sale.

As a result, if the gunman was a California resident, he would generally not have been able to legally acquire his firearm in Nevada and transport it into California, or to receive it from a California dealer.

If the gunman was a Nevada resident, he would not have been required to pass a background check to obtain a firearm from a private seller, and would likely have been able to acquire firearms—including assault weapons—from both licensed or unlicensed gun sellers in Nevada. Nevada does not place restrictions on the sale of assault-style weaponry or weapons equipped with large-capacity magazines. Nevada strengthened its gun safety laws this year and will, effective January 1, 2020, require gun sales to occur through a federally licensed firearms dealer pursuant to a background check in a manner similar to California law. Nevada will also authorize law enforcement and concerned family or household members to petition courts for extreme risk protection orders to temporarily disarm people found to pose a significant danger to public safety.

It is not yet known what types of firearms were used in the mass shooting this weekend in Brownsville, New York, nor is there information on how they were obtained and whether they were legally purchased and possessed. New York gun laws require all private firearm sales to be processed through a licensed dealer who conducts a background check. New York also bans most assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines, and requires anyone purchasing or possessing a handgun to obtain a license, after passing a background check, and requires the license to specify all the handguns owned by the license holder.

Far more crime guns are trafficked into New York than out of the state. In 2017, New York had the second lowest rate of crime gun exports and the 18th highest rate of crime gun imports. According to a report released by the Office of the Attorney General, 74% of recovered guns with a known source state originated outside of New York, which is above the national average.

Federal law prohibits individuals from obtaining a long gun from a seller or transferor in another state unless:

(1) Both parties meet in person to conduct the sale or transfer.

(2) The sale or transfer is conducted by, or through, a licensed dealer, pursuant to a background check and other requirements.

(3) The sale, delivery, and receipt of the long gun fully complies with state law in both parties’ states of residence.

Exceptions apply for a transfer through a dealer in the recipient’s state of residence, inheritance, and a temporary loan or rental for lawful sporting purposes.

The shooter in Gilroy, California, was 19 years old and, therefore, at an elevated risk of committing gun violence. Individuals age 18 to 20 comprise only four percent of the population but commit 17 percent of gun homicides. Based on data from the FBI, 18- to 24-year-olds also account for a disproportionate percentage of arrests for homicide and violent crime in general.

Young adults ages 18 to 25 also experience the highest rates of serious mental illness, and suicide attempts that result in death or treatment in a hospital peak between ages 16 and 21. It is well-documented that the biological processes that take place during late adolescence and young adulthood predispose individuals to riskier and less controlled behavior.

Following the shooting in Parkland, Florida, in 2018, four states tightened minimum age laws, specifically addressing the ability of people under 21 to access firearms: California, Florida, Vermont, and Washington.

As temperatures soar, so do rates of gun violence, particularly in concentrated urban areas. Over Fourth of July weekend alone, 68 people were shot in Chicago, five fatally. With school out, longer days, oppressive heat—and easy access to guns—conflicts turn more violent more quickly, and lives end too soon.

Year after year, violent crime reaches its highest levels in the summer. The relationship is not all that surprising: warm weather encourages people to spend more time outside, where more social interactions occur. There are more chances for violence to break out on hot days, especially when employment opportunities or summer programs for high-risk youth are not readily available. Young adults, particularly males age 15–24, are disproportionately the victims and perpetrators of gun violence, and many shootings occur in public places where young people gather.

Gun homicides and nonfatal shootings in America are disproportionately concentrated in cities, particularly in lower income neighborhoods and against young people of color. Violence is the leading cause of death for young black men between the ages of 15 and 24. While Black men constitute just 6% of the US population, they comprise more than 50% of all gun homicide victims nationally.

Through community intervention strategies and efforts to stop the violence at its root source, multiple cities have achieved significant successes at reducing rates of gun violence and saving lives. New York State and New York City have both been national leaders in investing in these lifesaving programs, yet additional targeted funding could save many more lives.

In response to the shooting in Brownsville on Saturday, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams urged an increase in funding support for violence intervention and prevention programs. Gun violence also has enormous economic consequences on impacted communities, leading to lowered property values, shuttered businesses, and increased healthcare and law enforcement costs. Gun violence is estimated to cost US taxpayers over $229 billion each year. Economic suppression in afflicted neighborhoods in turn drives gun violence, creating a deadly cycle.

Gun Violence in California

In 2017, California had the 7th lowest gun death rate among the states, with a gun death rate of 7.8 gun deaths per 100,000 persons—roughly 34% lower than the national average.

Gun violence claims the lives of 3,086 Californias each year. Someone is killed with a gun every 3 hours in the state.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, the Gilroy, California, shooting marks the nation’s 245th mass shooting in 2019 (incidents in which four or more people were killed or injured by a shooter). This incident also marks the 32nd mass shooting in the state of California since January 1, 2019.

Gun violence costs the state of California more than $6.5 billion in directly measurable costs. When indirect costs that impact families and communities, such as pain and suffering, are factored in, the overall estimate of the economic cost of gun violence rises to $18.3 billion per year.

Gun Violence in New York

In 2017, New York had the 3rd lowest gun death rate among the states, with a gun death rate of 3.7 gun deaths per 100,000 persons—roughly 69% lower than the national average.

Gun violence claims the lives of 852 New Yorkers each year. Someone is killed with a gun every 10 hours in the state.

The shooting on Old Timers Day marks the 5th mass shooting in the state of New York and the 3rd mass shooting in Brooklyn since January 1, 2019.

The shooting resulted in the highest number of people shot in a single incident in New York City in 2019, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which began tracking mass shootings in 2013.

Gun violence costs the state of New York more than $2 billion in directly measurable costs. When indirect costs that impact families and communities, such as pain and suffering, are factored in, the overall estimate of the economic cost of gun violence rises to $5.6 billion per year.

Statement from former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords on recent mass shootings:

July 28, 2019: “We know this feeling of heartbreak and horror too well. My heart is with the victims, their families, and friends. A society that fails to protect our communities, our families, and our children is a society in a moral crisis. We’re 210 days into 2019 and there have already been 246 mass shootings. Just this weekend alone, there were 7 reported mass shooting incidents. This reality is horrifying. It’s heartbreaking. And the fact that our nation’s leaders continue to fail to protect us should fuel outrage in every American. This must stop–we must stop this.”

Giffords is a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving lives from gun violence. Founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Navy combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, Giffords inspires the courage of people from all walks of life to make America safer. For over 25 years, the legal experts at Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence have been fighting for a safer America by researching, drafting, and defending the laws, policies, and programs proven to save lives from gun violence.

For more information on the Giffords Law Center logon to:

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