Despite ratcheting up restrictions on legal firearms and limiting the field of available options, the number of gun transactions in California has been growing in recent years.
According to data released by California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris’ office last week, gun sales ballooned by over 250 percent between 2008 and 2013 and have remained at historically high levels.
The lowest gun sale rates in the past 20 years came in 2003 when President George W. Bush was in the White House. In that year, which also saw Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger elected state governor, just 126,000 new and used guns were reported sold in the state. This figure started a slow climb afterward until it doubled to 242,000 in 2009, the year President Obama took office.
Sales skyrocketed in the years after, as Obama remained in office and Democrats Gray Davis and then Jerry Brown replaced Schwarzenegger, until the figures more than doubled again to 520,000 guns crossing the counter in 2014.
“The dramatic spike in gun sales over the last 10 years reflects the continued need for smart and sensible gun safety laws,” said Harris in a statement released with the data.
With the state legislature under firm Democrat control since 1995, gun control bills in the state for the past 20 years have flowed through Sacramento to the governor’s desk, resulting in the state building on its historic “assault weapon ban” even as the federal one expired. It also established a roster of handguns approved for sale by Department of Justice tied to a long-dormant microstamping requirement on semi-auto pistols. In response, citing the inability to comply with the new mandate, several firearms manufacturers including Ruger and Smith & Wesson have declined to submit new designs to DOJ for approval.
This has resulted in the roster constricting from 1,400 gun models in 2008 to just 770 today.
With the end of the single-shot exemption in 2014 which allowed some off-roster guns to be sold provided they were modified, a marked decline in the sales of new handguns — from 391,000 in 2014 to 351,000 in 2015 — is noted in the newly released figures.
Another noteworthy takeaway from the data release is that DOJ’s figures show on average only 10-20 percent of gun sales are between private parties. California has long mandated that private firearm transfers must be done through a licensed dealer acting as intermediary.
The figure contrasts sharply with the often-quoted claim that upwards of 40 percent of gun sales are conducted in private, used by supporters of expanded background checks as a principle reason for such laws. Similar findings were observed in Colorado where advocates used the 40 percent claim in justification of a new law there, only to discover after the first year of expanded checks that private transactions accounted for 7 percent of sales.
As further outlined by the new California statistics dump, there is a disparity in gun sales when comparing urban counties with strict local gun control policies and more rural counties with a liberal view towards gun rights. For example, Shasta County in Northern California has seen an average of 6,460 guns sold per 100,000 residents between 2000-2015 while San Francisco County has seen just 150 on average.
In 2015, the last legal gun dealer was forced out of San Francisco due to a host of new restrictions passed by the city council. The city over the past decade has set the bar for the toughest gun laws in the state, including mandatory locking requirements and city leaders have shown appetite to further tighten local ordinances. In additional comparison of data requested from DOJ by Guns.com, Shasta County has some 5,906 active concealed carry permits while San Francisco has just three despite having a population base five times larger.
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