California to pick up the reins of gun violence research

California is picking up where the federal government left off regarding gun violence research.

A hearing is set this month for a bill recently introduced in the state Senate which will provide money for an issue long ignored by the Centers for Disease Control since it lost funding for the research in 1996.

Introduced by Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, the California Firearm Violence Act seeks to reduce the thousands of firearm-related deaths occurring in the state by establishing a research center at the University of California to study the effects of gun violence.

“It doesn’t matter which side of the gun debate you may lean toward. We will all benefit from finding out the facts, using real data and scientific methods, to discover which policies can be most effective and which ones may not produce the desired results,” Wolk said in a statement following the bill’s introduction in February. “Our researchers at the University of California are tops in the nation, and if Congress refuses to act responsibly, we need to step up and fill the void. We have the talent and the capacity to get this done.”

But gun rights advocates see this as yet another way for liberal government officials to implement gun control.

“The bill reads as a sole source contract to an anti-gun activist, written by an anti-gun legislator seeking research that supports her predetermined conclusion that guns need to be banned,” Craig DeLuz, legislative and public affairs representative for the California-based Firearms Policy Coalition, told Guns.com in an email.

In 2014, there were just about 2,950 firearm-related deaths in California, with more than half, or 1,570 of them, resulting from suicide by gun, according to Gunpolicy.org. Nationwide, there were 21,175 firearm suicides out of 33,636 total firearm deaths in 2013, according to the CDC.   

The firearm suicide rate has always been high, but started to increase in 2006, the gap between it and the gun homicide rate widening even as the latter decreased, according to researchers at UC Davis.

Garen Wintemute, a professor there and director of the university’s Violence Prevention Research Program, called the data vital to informing policy.

“The benefits of research on firearm violence are the same as they are for heart disease, or cancer, or motor vehicle crashes,” Wintemute told Guns.com. “We need to understand complex health and social problems in order to do our best at preventing them. Science is motivated by a desire to know, not a political agenda.”