“In the three years since California implemented the nation’s first law allowing guns to be taken from individuals who pose an extreme risk,” Cathie Anderson reports in the Sacramento Bee, “the so-called red flag orders have prevented at least 21 mass shootings.”
The news comes from “researchers from the University of California, Davis,” specifically Dr. Garen Wintemute of UC Davis Medical Center. Wintemute is a big supporter of the red-flag measures that allow police to remove guns from people making deadly threats against others or themselves.
The physician, recently profiled in Sactown Magazine, also finds the orders useful “in cases where no crime is committed” and “where mental illness is not involved.” That covers just about everybody and recalls the origins of Wintemute’s project.
The Firearm Violence Research Center at UC Davis dates from 2016, when Gov. Jerry Brown ponied up a $5 million grant from his budget package. Dr. Wintemute claimed to be “driven by data, not by a policy agenda,” and told reporters the first project would be “a survey that looks at who owns guns, why they own them and how they use firearms.”
In 2018, Wintemute sought to extend the prohibition on gun purchases to misdemeanors such as assault and battery. He also supports taking firearms away from “persons who purchased them legally, but then became prohibited from owning them.”
The firearms research project comes wrapped in the white coat of medical science and public health. Californians might find a more basic issue in criminality.
On November 13, 2015 in Sacramento, Kaymonte Lindsey, 15, shot and killed Jaulon “J.J.” Clavo, a Grant Union High School football player he didn’t know. As it emerged in court, the shooting was a service to the Strawberry Manor Bloods gang. Senate Bill 1391 was applied retroactively and Lindsey was tried as a juvenile. On August 5 Lindsey was found guilty of murder but he will be freed at the age of 23.
Under SB 1391, signed by Jerry Brown last October and effective since January 1, anyone under the age of 16 can use a firearm to murder 5, 10, 20 people or more, and if found guilty serve only until they are 25. Criminals do not obey gun laws, so they would escape Wintemute’s state-funded quest to know who owns guns why they own them. The red-flag measures would also be ineffective in their case.
Law-abiding Californians might note that outrage over mass shootings tends to vary according to the shooter. On November 5, 2009, U.S. Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan, a self-described “soldier of Allah,” gunned down 13 unarmed American soldiers and wounded more than 30 others. It was the worst terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11 but the president called it “workplace violence,” not even “gun violence.”
Law-abiding Californians might also consult Gun Control in the Third Reich: Disarming the Jews and “Enemies of the State” by Stephen P. Halbrook. As the author shows, the Nazis also wanted to know “who owns guns” and they ruthlessly suppressed firearm ownership by disfavored groups.