This story is part of a KXAN series of reports called “Stop Mass Shootings,” providing context and exploring solutions surrounding gun violence in the wake of the deadly Uvalde school shooting. We want our reports to be a resource for Texans, as well as for lawmakers who are convening a month after the events in Uvalde to discuss how the state should move forward. Explore all “Stop Mass Shootings” stories by clicking here.
AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The day after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Gov. Greg Abbott said gun restrictions are not “real solutions.”
“People who think that maybe we can just implement tougher gun laws, it’s gonna solve it. Chicago and LA and New York disprove that thesis,” Abbott said at a May 25 press conference in Uvalde.
California has become a frequent foe of conservatives when pointing to gun control as ineffective means for reducing mass shootings and gun violence.
Dr. Garen Wintemute is an emergency room doctor and has researched firearm violence for 40 years. He said Abbott is “not doing his homework” when claiming gun restrictions haven’t prevented violence in California.
Wintemute — who also directs the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis, Medical Center in Sacramento — said it’s true that on paper, California has more gun-related deaths than any other state. It’s also the most populated state in the country, which is why Wintemute said it’s important to focus on the per capita rate.
When it comes to the rate of firearm deaths, California ranks among the nation’s lowest. California had 8.5 gun deaths per 100,000 people in 2020, compared with 14.2 gun deaths per 100,000 in Texas that same year. The national rate was 13.7 per 100,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“California embarked on a deliberate strategy of enacting multiple policies that would work in synergy,” Wintemute said. “Over the last 20 years, what we’ve seen is that decrease continuing in California, while rates have gone up in the rest of the country.”
Wintemute noted his state did see an uptick in gun violence deaths in 2020, as did the rest of the nation.
More Americans died of gun-related incidents in that year than ever before, with suicides accounting for more than half of the 45,222 gun fatalities, according to the CDC.
He said it’s difficult to determine which one of the laws has led to an overall decline in gun deaths, as many were enacted at the same time. Some of those policies include universal background checks, assault weapon and magazine restrictions, minimum age laws and a 10-day waiting period before someone can purchase a firearm.
“There are a number of things that Texas can do to reduce its violent crime rate, firearm violence. California provides examples for a number of those,” Wintemute said. “Don’t pick one thing. Do several things at the same time and get synergy.”
Without political will, he said, these results are not possible.
In a rare primetime address to the nation on Thursday, President Joe Biden laid out his wishlist for gun reform in America. He called on Congress to ban on assault rifles and if not that, to raise the age to be able to buy one from 18 to 21.
“How much more carnage are we willing to accept?” Biden asked. “This time we have to take the time to do something.”
His remarks came a day after a mass shooting at a hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma, one week after the school shooting in Uvalde, and a little over two weeks after a racist rampage in a Buffalo, New York, grocery store. In total, 35 victims lost their lives.
The president’s pleas called out the Senate, where 10 Republican votes are needed to pass legislation.
Texas’ conservative senior senator, John Cornyn, was tapped by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to lead bipartisan negotiations about “common sense” gun control. Cornyn told POLITICO “it will be embarrassing” if the Senate cannot agree on policy in response to the shooting in his home state.