California's state capitol building in Sacramento

California’s state capitol building in Sacramento

A study done by officials at the University of California-Davis Violence Prevention Research Program and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has uncovered the fact that the much-praised mandatory background checks in California – had no impact on gun deaths.

According to a report by the Foundation for Economic Education the result has left researchers puzzled.

“In 1991,” FEE explained, “California simultaneously imposed comprehensive background checks for firearm sales and prohibited gun sales (and gun possession) to people convicted of misdemeanor violent crimes. The legislation mandated that all gun sales, including private transactions, would have to go through a California-licensed Federal Firearms License dealer. Shotguns and rifles, like handguns, became subject to a 15-day waiting period to make certain all gun purchasers had undergone a thorough background check.”

Then-Gov. George Deukmejian said the laws would “keep more guns out of the hands of the people who shouldn’t have them,” and the moves were described as the most expansive state gun control agenda in the nation.

An estimated one million gun buyers were impacted in just the first year.

The new research, more than a quarter of a century after those changes, looked at yearly gun suicide and homicide rates, comparing them with 32 control states without such laws.

The result?

“No change in the rates of either cause of death from firearms through 2000.”

“Garen Wintemute, a UC Davis professor of emergency medicine and senior author of the study, said incomplete data and flawed criminal record reporting might explain the results,” explained the FEE report.

He explained in 1990, only 25 percent of criminal records were accessible in the primary federal database used for background checks, and centralized records of mental health prohibitions were almost nonexistent. As a result, researchers said as many as one in four gun buyers may have purchased a firearm without undergoing a background check.

“We know at the individual level that comprehensive background check policies work, that they prevent future firearm violence at this level,” said survey researcher Nicole Kravitz-Wirtz.

The FEE noted, “Perhaps unsurprisingly, the findings – which run counter to the conventional wisdom that gun control saves lives – have received almost no media attention.”

One exception was the Washington Post, but that establishment cited the study as evidence of the need for more such limits.

In that report, American Medical Association chief Barb McAneny added, “We see this as an epidemic and public health crisis and we think intervening as early as possible is smarter than just building more intensive care units for people who are either killed or damaged and badly hurt by the violence.”

“Essentially, the study’s authors, the AMA, and the Post appear incapable of seriously entertaining the possibility that sweeping gun control legislation might not have produced the results desired and expected: fewer deaths,” FEE reported.

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