California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced Wednesday the launch of a new branch of the California Department of Justice aimed at addressing gun violence in the state.
The new branch, to be known as the Office of Gun Violence Prevention, will develop strategies and work with stakeholders across California to address gun violence. Bonta, who called the amount of gun violence in California an epidemic, also noted that a nationwide search for the first Director is now underway and that a new website for the Office of Gun Violence Prevention has been launched. A press statement for the new office even began with the words ‘Gun violence is a true public health crisis that requires immediate and proactive attention.’
AG Bonta, appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, gave a statement on the new office on Wednesday, noting, “This moment of crisis demands more than thoughts and prayers — we need action now. That is why as California Attorney General, I am doubling down on California’s gun safety efforts: I am defending our commonsense gun safety laws in court and cracking down on the surge of untraceable ghost guns. I am proud to lead a team of special agents that remove firearms from the hands of dangerous individuals. And today, I am establishing the Office of Gun Violence Prevention to advance a strong, statewide, public health-focused effort as we continue working together to put an end to this crisis once and for all.”
At a press conference in Oakland, Bonta’s wife, Assemblywoman Mia Bonta (D-Oakland) added, “Gun violence is a national crisis, a state crisis, a local crisis, and a public health crisis. This year, gun violence has hit close to home with mass shootings blocks away from the State Capitol, shootings in close proximity to my district office, and shootings that have personally impacted members of my staff. Each gun violence tragedy sits heavy in my heart. I mourn with the families of the victims and wonder, what it will take to finally end this gun violence epidemic. The establishment of the Office of Gun Violence Prevention is a testament to the Attorney General also recognizing the need to elevate this matter statewide to identify comprehensive and effective solutions. I look forward to working with this office on this matter and I will continue to push for gun violence to be recognized as a public health crisis to develop a health-based approach to ensure that our communities have the resources available to uplift them from the root causes of gun violence.”
Heavy opposition against new gun violence prevention branch
Despite support from gun control organizations, many others heavily criticized the new department on Wednesday, saying that it is not needed and would only further restrict second amendment rights. Opponents also said that Californians are least likely to die of a gunshot than in any other state in the U.S., with a mass shooting being 25% less likely than anywhere else in the country.
“Bonta is crazy for doing this,” explained Xavier Rowe, a gun violence statistician and legislation researcher in Dallas, to the Globe on Wednesday. “California doesn’t have the most restrictive laws, you’d have to go to others states in places like New England for that, but west of the Rockies, yeah, most restrictive.”
“And each year it tightens a bit more. In that past few years look at the new microstamping laws and Governor Newsom signing that gun law based on Texas’ abortion law. And now look. They’re trying to tie firearms in with public health. Through a new agency no less. They’re saying it is to reduce gun violence, but honestly, it seems like it won’t do anything.”
“Ask any responsible gun owner and they’re as horrified by the mass shooting incidents as any other person. But the thing to tackle is mental health here. Go to the root cause. Study these incidents. Look for early warning signs. Because, as we’ve seen in Europe and other places with restrictive gun laws, it doesn’t really stop these people. Look at how many prominent knife attacks and using a vehicle and, like with Shinzo Abe’s assassination in Japan, just building a gun out of things you can buy in a hardware store there have been. More government offices and red tape aren’t going to do much, if anything. We need real tried and true ways to reduce this via mental health services and studying these issues. But Bonta obviously isn’t doing the smart thing.”
As of Wednesday, there is currently no timetable in finding a new Director for the new agency.
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