I don’t post often about America’s insane gun culture, because the lines have been drawn for a very long time, and the combatants’ feet are firmly in cement.

I could share innumerable facts: how many people die by gun each year, the margin by which the thousands domestic gun deaths exceed deaths in war, how guns facilitate suicide…on and on. It wouldn’t matter to the relative minority of gun owners who stockpile weapons and foam at the mouth at any suggestion that we withhold firearms from wife-beaters, crazy people or people on the terrorist watch-list.

Unfortunately, the foaming-mouth folks can rely upon the congressional GOP to ignore any and all facts, and block efforts to fund research into gun violence.

Research does exist, however, and rational people will find it persuasive. The Guardian recently reported on data from an experiment in the Bay Area.

For each new millionaire household the San Francisco Bay Area has produced, there are at least four new people living below the poverty level. San Francisco’s property crime rate has spiked to the highest in the nation. Many people – tech newcomers and longtime residents alike – complain of feeling unsafe.

At the same time, with little fanfare, the Bay Area has seen a dramatic drop in its homicide rate, driven by a considerable decrease in deadly shootings.
Across the region, the overall gun homicide rate has dropped 30% in the past decade, a Guardian investigation of homicide data across more than 100 cities has found.

The study analyzed homicide data across California’s Bay Area from 2007 to 2017. During that time, gun homicide rates fell across all racial groups, but the decrease was largest for black residents.

What was particularly striking about these findings was that the dramatic drop came at the same time as criminal justice reforms in California reduced the number of people in the state’s jails and prisons.

The reduction came as cities like Oakland and Richmond did what a number of scholars have recommended: they changed their approach to the problem, investing tens of millions of dollars in public health approaches to gun violence.

The study considered–and dismissed–the possibility that gentrification was the reason violence subsided.

Three cities that are undergoing intense gentrification saw the biggest drops in gun homicides. But outlying suburbs – the towns where many residents forced out by gentrification have moved – did not see a corresponding increase in violence…

The Bay Area still sees nearly 300 gun homicides each year. But these changes are profound. The majority of America’s gun homicide victims are black, killed in everyday shootings in segregated, economically struggling neighborhoods in cities such as Oakland and Richmond. It’s this everyday toll of violence, not mass shooting casualties, that drives America’s gun homicide rate 25 times higher than those of other wealthy countries.

The article noted that cities that once ranked among the nation’s deadliest have seen enormous decreases, and emphasized that these decreases spanned a decade– they weren’t single-year drops. The declines persisted over the years.

California has the strongest gun laws in the country, and it has enacted more than 30 new gun control laws since 2009 alone. The Guardian credited those constraints, together with the change in approach to violence prevention, for the reduction in gun homicides.

There’s early evidence that local violence prevention strategies – including a refocused, more community-driven “Ceasefire” policing strategy, and intensive support programs that do not involve law enforcement at all – were a “key change” contributing to these huge decreases.

As the article concedes, there are still plenty of problems in the Bay Area. (Police shootings haven’t declined, for example.) But there is a lesson here.

Of course, lessons are lost on people determined not to learn them.


  1. There is not a good answer. We have a natural right to defend ourselves and that right is ensconced in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. There are, however, people who shouldn’t be allowed to be anywhere near a firearm due to mental illnesses, sociopathy or histories of uncontrollable violent tendencies. We can’t trust government to do the right thing, even were we to reach a consensus on firearms; banning certain types of weapons can set dangerous precedents; there is no good, universal definition of “Assault” weapons, e.g. Yet we have gut-wrenching examples of schools and places of worship being shot up by psychopaths. We have a President who fans the flames of hatred on a daily basis and too many people who feel empowered to commit violence because of this. Too many people who have been kicked to the curb and have no hope of ever having a decent life have little concern for anyone else. Yet, through permits, background checks and firearm registration gives government access to personal information that can be used to arrest those who oppose government policies not necessarily related to firearms. I’m not sure it’s possible to legislate an answer. Maybe if we adopt policies that help people have hope in a better future and take away an almost cavalier attitude towards violence will reduce the threat of violence to innocent people.

  2. From the areavibes web site, Frontpoint statistics, no date given: “According to the annual crime data, the crime rate in Indianapolis, IN is 104% higher than the average of the whole of the state of Indiana, and when compared with the national average, is 109% higher than. When looking at violent crimes, Indianapolis, IN has 234% higher than violent crime rate than Indiana average, while remaining 248% higher than the national average.”

    Each morning I watch local news for weather forecasts and the daily Indianapolis shooting report. The state of Indiana is well known for its lax gun controls; per President Obama his last year in office, while visiting Chicago he was confronted with the high murder rate in that city. He reported that approximately 50% of the guns confiscated from crime scenes had been purchased in Indiana.

    “Three cities that are undergoing intense gentrification saw the biggest drops in gun homicides. But outlying suburbs – the towns where many residents forced out by gentrification have moved – did not see a corresponding increase in violence…”

    Gentrification here is an issue that I keep returning to; it would be interesting to know if the three California cities provided assistance to those removed from homes to move to the suburbs. The above statement could question the if drop in gun homicides in those areas is attributed to new residents with higher incomes and better home security or that the residents who were relocated were not responsible for gun homicides. Crimes, like violent protests, are often caused by “outsiders”.

    Indiana’s lax gun control, the NRA convention held here, the morning shooting reports here in Indianapolis are evidence of Sheila’s final comment: “Of course, lessons are lost on people determined not to learn them.” My uncle; Don Davis of “Don’s Guns”, lobbied for years for the same background checks on all long guns as Indiana required on hand guns. Instead Indiana lowered the requirement for background checks on handguns so Uncle Don returned to selling guns and made a few more million. As always it is FOLLOW THE MONEY.

    Some interesting financial statistics from Department of Numbers: in 2017 the median income for the United States was $60,336, for the state of California $71,805, San Francisco $101,714, Indiana $54,108 down from $55,355 in 2005. Income has dropped and violent crimes have escalated.

  3. Unfortunately, few people who use the 2nd Amendment to justify owning guns for personal protection have never read the Amendment carefully. It is one sentence, with one “subject,” namely, national defense. The Founding Fathers, were educated men, who understood the rules of grammar. The subject of the sentence is national defense. The predicate of the sentence is the existence of weapons. If the two were not strongly coupled, and uniquely coupled, the guys who wrote the sentence would have put a semi-colon after the word “state.” A semicolon links related but independent clauses. But they put a comma there, indicating that what followed the comma was not independent of the subject (security to a free state). Check with an English teacher if you don’t believe me.

  4. I can’t “edit” what I just posted, so I’ll mention here that in the first sentence of my post, the word “never” should be “ever.”

  5. Neal, I assume you must be part of a “well regulated militia” and read the whole of the second amendment to know that you personally can possess and carry an item which the only purpose is to kill people. It is your attitude or the well orchestrated marketing and lobbying campaigns of certain special interest groups that spirals the US into this crazy culture of gun ownership, no matter the cost.

    The US has been banning certain types of weapons for many years. If the NRA convinced Americans owning a Bazooka or anti aircraft weapon would validate their “man card”, than I am sure people in the US would be lining up to own one of these weapons. But, they are not, because these arms are banned, to all except well regulated militia.

    I sure hope you or anyone in your household never suffer from depression. In the words that even a Trump supporter can understand, there is a “Huge” chance someone will commit suicide with a firearm in their home.

    Honestly tell me you are willing to kill someone or even yourself and I then honestly tell me that you need unfettered access to guns.

  6. “Unfortunately, the foaming-mouth folks can rely upon the congressional GOP to ignore any and all facts, and block efforts to fund research into gun violence.

    “Of course, lessons are lost on people determined not to learn them.”

    With German history in mind, why would a fascist or, better still, a group of fascists not want a gun?

  7. We have a dog eat dog culture. The dogs being eaten are going to act out, and who can blame them? It’s all part of the friction caused by an intensely capitalist society, and the human losses are acceptable to those who believe in judgmentalism and prosperity as proof of worthiness in God’s eyes.

  8. Unfortunately in DC v Heller, the Supremes decided that the first part wasn’t particularly relevant, but even Scalia didn’t believe the right was unlimited. There is a gun for every man, woman, and child in America in the possession of approximately 1/3 of all American households. They aren’t all right wing gun nuts, but enough of them are to give us pause. It’s one of the biggest reasons why 45 needs to be soundly defeated in 2020. If it’s close, he won’t go.

  9. Dear Folks, as someone who worked Security and was trained by LE, and now owns a few guns, and my pistol; It is easy for me to see what the main problem is with most people’s thinking – they watch a news cast about a nut with a gun (white supremacist or otherwise) and say guns are ‘evil’. Well Guns are what bought this nation’s freedom. And mark my words – if it comes down to it – they will do so again. We live in a day where everyone is screaming – but I don’t see YOU in the streets stopping the Nazi’s from marching and beating people while the cops stand and watch! If you truly have a beef then get out there and make it known! See that is fulfilling what Benjamin Franklin spoke and wrote of at his address to the Continental Congress – ” I believe this nation will continue for a time, and eventually fall to corruption… when the people shall only KNOW CORRUPT GOVERNMENT.” (my paraphrase – you should look his speech up!) Being someone who knows and studies history – I will keep my gun thank you very much. Better it be in my hands than some nut who wants to ‘just kill’. You think that anyone who owns a gun is just some NRA nut – NO. I do not belong to that worm-eaten fetid mass of mindless idiots. I don’t go looking for trouble – but if it comes to my face, to my door – I will end it. Now if you want to ban me and my comments – please feel free. This is my stance. If you want to surrender all your guns and make it so no one owns a gun – then you DAMN WELL BETTER MAKE SURE NO ONE – POLICE INCLUDED – has a gun! And good luck with that. But if you want to stop the gun crimes than the States should do what Itasca County does and the State of Minnesota – when you buy you undergo a background check by direct phone call to the BCA (Bureau of Criminal Apprehension) if you get a NO-GO you don’t get a gun. No matter what you put down as answers on the federal paperwork. And you have to pass a safety course – for the time that the state has allowed I have undergone such a test each time I need to renew the license. I have had the privilege of attending classes sponsored and put on by a man who was 23 time (last time) State Pistol Champion and his sidekick was the Dean of the Range Law Enforcement Academy. IF this kind of watchfulness were implemented nation wide and the Sheriff had to sign off on each one – or the City Police Chief – we might see a different situation. But then people are people – if they want to do something good or bad – they find a way… Sorry I just don’t see it getting any better – so I will keep my guns thank you.

  10. Many factors were involved in this country’s obtaining independence from Britain. Guns were involved, but distance, expense of supply lines and maintaining control over colonies over that distance, and the French Navy were major factors. The firearms then were far more simple. Today, to try and fight the government w/relative pop guns when the government via dt would deploy tanks, drones, military personnel in (virtual) armor, and jam our computer systems, it’s beyond absurd to claim personal ownership of firearms is meaningful. That approach is simplistic, at best. In the long run, many people will die, as they do now, from lax gun laws.

  11. Peggy Hannon. Scalia referred to the first phrase of the amendment as a “prefatory phrase,” without explaining why it existed if it were not important. But because he had an agenda, he ignored the distinction between a semi-colon and a comma, as I mentioned above.

  12. Rev. Manuel,
    I didn’t see you at the protest against ICE at their “jail” for brown skinned families. And none of my fellow protesters needed to carry a gun. It is obvious that you and the other “gun nuts” on this blog want your cake and to eat it too as in wanting to be able to kill another person but also wanting everybody to believe you are some peaceable soul forced to arm yourself against some imagined future danger. Really????

  13. If the goal is staying alive, I assume the gun carriers are even more careful with diet, exercise and other healthy lifestyle habits. Heart disease and cancer are for sure out to get you. Those concerns being taken care of, you should stay off the roads. If you are curious about causes of death, check this out.

  14. Sheila writes another thought provoking piece for critical thinking friends to debate and exchange open dialogue. Pascal (above) offers an important observation to diagram the sentence structure of the Second Amendment. I support the amendment in context with original intent. I do not support interpretations to rationalize the wildly personal armament of American society. The spread of personal ownership of all variety of weapons and ammunition among American people has become a chronic disease threatening the long term welfare of our perceived free society. Within the ‘gun ownership culture’ are winners, losers and saveables. To caste a large shadow to demonize folk for owning a gun does not offer the possibility of civil discourse to work toward moderation. The results of sound public policy in California came as a result of leadership. I lived in Los Angeles and for a time appointed by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to chair the local crime commission. We did not waste time casting blame on the other for rising crime. We studied the facts on the ground and attacked incidental root cause and effect. And as we earned credible influence, we influenced public policy. As active citizens we might not feel responsible for the other killing others. As active citizens, gun owners and disarmed alike, we are all accountable to means of moderation.

  15. Crime and poverty are irretrievably linked. Guns in the hands of criminals is the tool of choice for doing their criminal business, venting their anger or “defending” their way of life. Work on ending poverty, and crime will follow the trend line. Yes. It’s about the money. But our capitalists and corporatists who wag the GOP don’t give a single crap about the poor.

    One part of the solution to gun violence problems is to get rid of the Republican party.

  16. When the Second Amendment was adopted the primary firearms were one shot muskets and one shot pistols. By the end of the Civil War 1865, the primary infantry weapon was still a single shot musket.

    Between the end of the Civil War 1865 and the end of WW 2 1945, there were vast technological advances in small firearms. Machine guns, sub-machine guns, carbines and assault rifles were in mass production. These weapons were designed and manufactured for the military to Kill the Enemy (other humans).

    Some how, here in America weapons designed for military use found their way into the hands of civilians. The paranoia of the late 18th Century of Native Americans resisting the theft of their land and slave uprisings, has been replaced with some others to fear.

    One thing the Gun Lobby has been highly effective at is creating an atmosphere of fear. Pick your group to fear: Black Panthers, Latino Gangs, or Big Government.

    Weapons Violence is not limited to the streets of America. We have since 1945 invaded and/or attacked more countries than any other country on the face of the earth.

  17. It’s just plain common sense that there is a tug of war between the NRA and common sense. The NRA is a advertising agency selling guns for the industry. Both they and the industry are pursuing simple make more money now regardless of the impact on any others ever. Common sense knows that the more guns there are around the more people will die from gun deaths seeing as most of the guns have no other purpose but to kill people.

    Both the NRA and politicians have the same tools to use in determining any legal policy mitigation to the problem of people dying by gun violence, namely advertising and campaign donations. Of course the NRA is on the giving side and the politicians on the taking end.

    This is a real life experiment in Democracy and the only way that improvement through policy can come about is to determine who the majority are, those voting for politicians based on common sense or those voting for politicians and buying guns.

    Politicians supporting common sense solutions to this vexing and deadly problem are mostly Democrats. Politicians supporting the NRA due to their donation largess are mostly Republicans.

    Let your conscience be your guide on Election Day and I believed that we will determine which is the majority opinion.

  18. The original necessity for, and wording of the Second Amendment was written as a sop to the slave states so they could arm themselves against slave rebellions and form “militias” to hunt down fugitive slaves. Without these provisions, they weren’t going to sign on to the ratification of the Constitution. It was incidental to these states that they might be asked to defend the country.

    All the rest is about politics and money. Typical American….

  19. There is progress waiting to be made (gotta start somewhere)…substantial majorities of Americans, including NRA members support: (1) “No fly, no buy (2) under domestic violence decree, no buy.

  20. It is also worth noting from the study:

    “But the Bay Area has long been racially and ethnically diverse, and diversity has increased over the past decade as more Latin American and Asian immigration moved in and more white residents moved away, census data shows. About 600,000 current Bay Area residents were born in Mexico, according to the most recent estimates. And over the past decade, the number of people immigrating from the Central American nations of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, has increased.

    Nor have policies to shield undocumented immigrants led to violence, as Donald Trump and some of his Republican allies often warn. San Francisco saw a 49% drop in its gun homicide rate as it held to its pro-immigrant law enforcement policies.”

  21. There isn’t much more to be said since the battle lines have long since been drawn, other than to note that I didn’t know every man, woman and child was in the militia. Uh. . . .

  22. We have a militia. The Republican Militia recruited by the NRA and paid for by Republican Donors for Power. Like the Gestapo, their prime mission is to sow fear and anger among those opposed to those desperate to return to the past that left the station decades ago taking the entitlement of white, Christian, heterosexual, wealthy American born men with it.

    They are desperate to seal the deal to conquer American democracy once and for all by crowning a Saddam Hussein like dictator to head American government as a wholly owned subsidiary of American corporatism.

    We have 2020 to finish the job taken from us in 2016 by the unholy alliance of Trump and Putin but reaffirmed in 2018 as a step towards our 2020 goal; re-instituting our Constitution and our right of freedom in stark contrast with the Republican quest for power.

  23. A fascination with violence and guns? Why wouldn’t American have such a thing? We are the world’s police-force/enforcer.

    Americans who squeal about Trump being an aberration both miss the point (your system allowed him) and are wrong: Bush attacked Iraq based on lies, and everyone knows it. Hilary Clinton promised the Russians that Qaddafi would not be removed, then removed him and gloated about him being killed after being raped by a knife. Madeline Albright gleefully applauds the deaths of 500,000 children. We are a demented and depraved bunch. That is the truth.

    And we wonder why we’re the way we are?

    As an infantry platoon leader in Vietnam, I was surprised to learn about my men that some of them were so afraid that at night, and sometimes in broad daylight, they would see apparitions, hallucinations, delusions of hoards of Chinese soldiers attacking our position. And they would open fire, expending all their ammo, and then break down into blubbering babies. How could I take my platoon on an ambush patrol and include these crazies? It would be a dereliction of duty and likely get the whole platoon wiped out. Once their fears were revealed to me, I put these dudes on permanent KP, where they were disarmed to a handgun and eight bullets…and watched closely. Every platoon leader I have met had to deal with the problem.

    Flash forward to 2019:

    So, now, the 120-million-man American platoon is infested with maybe 75 million of these petrified, cowardly crazies seeing specters of brown-skinned hoards invading our nation, our cities, our neighborhoods and our homes; and, as with my platoon, the armed presence of 75 million cowards with military weapons endangers the good work of our good nation as well as the lives of all of us. They weaken us immensely. All 75 million of them should be disarmed to a handgun and eight bullets, and put on permanent KP.

  25. As far as I am concerned, the right to hunt is NOT abridged by the enforced absence of a rifle. Great White Hunter kill with bare hands: live up to the myth. Give up the privileged advantage of a rifle and go after your trophy on equal footing with your prey. Seeing who really is superior, the hunter or his prey, would be a useful learning/humbling experience.

  26. I know men who are proud to say they have more money invested in weapons than they would spend on their children’s education. I wonder just how much and how many families suffer deprivations of this or that because the little man of the house must have his man-crutch weapons?

  27. A suggested edit for Lester:
    “No fly, no buy (2) under domestic violence decree, no buy,” (3) under the influence of cowardice, no buy.

  28. Sheila, thanks for addressing this, my single voter issue, in your blog. I used to think the issue was complex and required intricate and subtle orchestration of laws to bring about safe use of weapons. I was wrong. It is simple. We love guns and the only way to reduce gun violence is to regulate the shit out of it. Sandy Hook and the murder of 5 and 6 year old children set us on the road to this choice, Parkland gave us the youth to put a voice to that sea change.
    This will never mean that anyone will have their right to own a gun removed but it will allow us to reduce the 3500 deaths per year like we have with smoking, automobiles, ladders, baby carriages, and aspirin. It is the gun and this change is on the NRA.

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