California leads the nation when it comes to strongest gun safety laws and innovative programs to reduce gun violence, according to a Juvenile Justice Information Ex-change article.
Giffords Law Center compiles an annual Gun Law Scorecard that ranks California at the top. A significant factor is the decline in overall gun deaths and homicides at the state level.
Nationwide gun homicides remain the leading cause of death for Blacks between the ages of 15 and 34, followed by Hispanics of the same age, the story reported.
Gun violence’s greatest im- pact is on people of color, but all California residents pay the cost. Giffords Law Center estimates that $6.5 billion is spent in costs associated with gun violence, including medical care, lost wages and the price of operating criminal justice agencies.
More than 50% of all gun violence in California occurs in 24 cities, prompting officials to try various solutions.
One such solution is called “Operation Ceasefire or “Focused Deterrence,” which creates a partnership between the community and the police.
Oakland experienced a 52% reduction in fatal and non-fatal shootings between 2011 and 2017 credited to the program, according to an evaluation by Northwestern University.
According to the article, this strategy reshaped the Oakland Police Department’s approach to policing. Police arrested 60% fewer people in 2017 than in 2019, while the number of solved homicides grew from 29% to 80% as of 2018.
Another partnership in Los Angeles with the Los Angeles Mayor’s office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development, the Los Angeles Police Department and Urban Peace reduced gun violence in that city by 70% over the last 15 years, the story reported.
A partnership in Richmond implemented by the Office of Neighborhood Safety (ONS) used cutting edge outreach and an intervention model.
That focuses on a small group of young men involved in the majority of shootings in Richmond, reducing gun violence by 66%.
California has increased funding for local community based organizations from $9 million to $30 million a year.
States are following California’s lead. New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut all in- creasing the amount of money dedicated to these types of programs.
All three states have experienced reductions in violence and cost savings.
California’s shift in major public policy is an effort to decrease mass incarcerations with the Public Safety Re- alignment and propositions 47 and 57, which resulted in the release of 40,000 people, though some were transferred to county jails.
The Vera Institute credits California’s policy changes for the 40% of the national decline in prison populations, but efforts are already under- way to reverse these reforms due to the perception among law enforcement and the pub- lic that the reforms have led to an increase in violent crime.
The article’s author, Vaughn Crandall, co-director of the California Partnership for Safe Communities, writes that the twin policy goals of reducing prison populations and increasing public safety must be obtained before any conclusions can be made on the overall success of these new programs.
According to Crandall, changes in prosecutorial practices, sentencing laws and police arrest practices all play a part in large numbers of men of color who are not involved in serious crime being swept into the criminal justice system, with no public safety benefit. Community leaders must work together to spend the funds now avail- able on programs that actually reduce violence and incarceration.