As Californians begin the process of recovering from the string of tragic mass shootings in the state last weekend, anti-gun politicians wasted no time in coming out of the woodwork to complain about civilian firearm ownership. Chief among them, as always, was Governor Gavin Newsom, longtime opponent of Second Amendment rights in his own state and nationwide. In a profanity-laced speech in Half Moon Bay this past Tuesday, Newsom complained about Republican politicians’ refusal to support new gun control laws. The problem is, of course, that his apparently genuine expressions of sympathy for the victims were interspersed with lies and self-contradiction.
Anyone who has been paying attention to the political situation in California knows Newsom’s history of anti-gun demagoguery, and this speech was no different. Despite many of his claims being highly questionable at best and outright false at worst, popular media sources repeated these statements largely uncritically. In the interest of educating and informing the public, this blog post will attempt to dispel some of the whoppers Newsom told.
Quote: “Only in America. Number one in gun ownership, number one in gun deaths, it’s not even complicated.”
Rating: Mostly False
Explanation: While the U.S. has both the highest rate of civilian firearm ownership and the largest number of civilian owned firearms, it ranks ninth in firearm-related death rate and eighteenth in firearm homicide rate. According to available statistics, there is no discernible correlation between firearm ownership and firearm homicide between the countries of the world or even between U.S. states.
Quote: “[A] few decades ago, we didn’t experience these kind [sic] of things.”
Explanation: The U.S. is relatively safe, with a firearm homicide rate far lower than during the crime waves of the ‘70s and ‘90s. If we are to take Newsom at his word that California specifically experiences more mass shootings now than it did in the past, that would suggest that the state’s restrictive gun laws have been ineffective. You can’t have it both ways.
Quote: “I got [sic] no ideological opposition to someone owning a gun responsibly…”
Explanation: The gun control laws Newsom supports disproportionately affect sane, trained, and law-abiding citizens.
Quote: “…but what the hell is wrong with us that we allow these weapons of war and large-capacity clips [magazines] out on the streets and sidewalks?”
Rating: Pants on fire!
Explanation: The Half Moon Bay shooter was identified as having used a pistol, which are commonly owned for self-defense. Newsom was probably referring to the Monterey Park shooter, who reportedly used a Cobray M11/9 with its standard 32-round magazine and a homebuilt suppressor—a configuration which is already highly illegal in California! Furthermore, Newsom’s continued failure to use proper terminology, saying “clip” instead of “magazine,” betrays his contempt for the gun-owning public.
Quote: “Gun safety saves lives.”
Rating: True, but not in the way he means it
Explanation: Anti-gunners have begun using the term “gun safety reform” instead of “gun control” because they understand on some level that most Americans support civilian firearm ownership. By cloaking the same tired talking points in a pretense of safety, anti-gunners try to sanitize their image so they aren’t dismissed outright. Actual gun safety does save lives, but you can be sure Gavin Newsom and his cadre aren’t educating and mentoring new gun owners on how to safely handle their firearms.
Quote: “The modern gun safety movement started with a guy named Ronald Reagan. [The] Republican Party should look that guy up.”
Rating: Somewhat True
Explanation: Again, gun control is not gun safety, despite what the anti-gunners would have the world believe. As the Governor of California, Ronald Reagan signed the Mulford Act, one of the state’s most historically significant anti-gun laws, in 1967. This law made it illegal to carry a loaded firearm in public places without a permit; it was written and passed in a targeted attempt to disarm the Black Panther Party. Later in his political career, as President of the United States, Reagan ran a conspiracy within the Federal government to traffic weapons to the Iranian government and Nicaraguan terrorists. One can only hope that Newsom’s brand of “gun safety” does not include racially motivated laws and support of international terrorism like the historical predecessor he references.
Quote: “The great leadership here in 1989 with the assault weapons ban… a few years later… the 1994 assault weapons ban that worked.”
Explanation: I already debunked this in a previous blog post. Based on publicly available FBI crime statistics, the Federal Assault Weapons Ban did not bring about a reduction in firearm murder rates. Furthermore, as mentioned above, the Monterey Park shooter used a pistol that is already illegal under California’s “assault weapon” ban!
Quote: “We’ve seen a 55% reduction in gun deaths when we initiated those progressive reforms from 1993 to 2017.”
Explanation: The raw data from which Newsom derives this figure is available on his website and apparently combines homicide and suicide data. The firearm-related death rate in California peaked in 1993, then decreased rapidly—as it did in the rest of the country—throughout the 1990s. Another less rapid decrease took place between roughly 2005 and 2014. Neither of these periods of improvement were chronologically correlated with the passage of major gun control laws in California. More data is needed to determine whether these laws were responsible for the reduction in firearm death rate. Interestingly, California falls near the middle of the pack in overall murder rate.
Quote: “Where has the Republican Party been on gun safety reform? They’ve blocked it every step of the way. One state can’t do it alone.”
Explanation: Politicians in fiercely anti-gun states often like to blame their urban crime problems on other states’ governments. In this case, Newsom conveniently ignores the fact that these recent mass shooters purchased their firearms in California!
I’m sure I speak for every member of the gun community when I say my heart goes out to the people affected by these recent tragedies. Most of us can only imagine how terrible it must feel to lose a loved one so violently and unexpectedly due to the evil actions of a deranged individual. That being said, Governor Newsom is not helping the situation when he stands up and lies his pants off in front of a grief-stricken crowd. He has shown in the past and continues to show that he is not open to a good-faith dialogue with firearm owners and is only interested in restricting their innate right to self-defense. We can only hope for the day he’s ready to have that conversation.