Data Show Massive Growth in Gun Sales Since 2008, Increasing Geographic Concentration
SACRAMENTO - Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the unprecedented release of firearms sales data in California on OpenJustice, the first-of-its-kind open data initiative she launched last September. The new firearms data section of OpenJustice shows how firearms sales have changed over the last two decades and includes a county-by-county breakdown. It also sheds light on what types of guns are purchased in California and how guns change hands. The data, along with analysis and charts, is available at https://openjustice.doj.ca.gov/firearms/.
“The dramatic spike in gun sales over the last ten years reflects the continued need for smart and sensible gun safety laws,” said Attorney General Harris. “Today's release is a continuation of my commitment to transparency and the implementation of informed data-driven public policy. This unprecedented release of firearms sales data will allow us to better understand trends and to keep our communities safe.”
The data show that gun transactions grew significantly – over 250% – from 2008 to 2013, then leveled out in 2014 and 2015. In addition, the total number of guns in the state is quickly rising: total gun transactions includes both new guns sold as well as the transfer of used guns (e.g., sales between private parties); data for 2014 and 2015 show that about 75% of handguns sold were new, whereas in 2007, new handguns accounted for just over 60% of all sales.
The sales of firearms are increasingly concentrated, both geographically and in terms of firearms dealers. Gun purchases have been increasing in every county, with a few counties—Sacramento, San Bernardino, Ventura, Riverside, Kern, and Orange counties—having particularly high growth rates. A small number of dealerships (5%) account for over half of total sales. From 1996 to 2007, the number of gun dealerships dropped by almost two-thirds while gun sales stayed relatively flat. The dramatic growth in gun transactions from 2008 to 2015 was not accompanied by similar growth in the number of licensed gun dealerships, which only increased by 40%.
While the so-called “gun show loophole” has received national attention, as buyers in other states are largely able to avoid background checks when purchasing a firearm at a gun show, California law requires background checks for sales at gun shows. Nationally, it is estimated that 20-40% of gun sales occur at these types of shows while in California, fewer than 2% of gun transactions take place at gun shows.
Attorney General Kamala Harris announced the launch of OpenJustice in September 2015, making available unprecedented criminal justice data in an easy-to-use format, with a Dashboard that spotlights key criminal justice indicators with user-friendly visualization tools and an Open Data Portal that publishes raw data from the California Department of Justice’s statewide repository of criminal justice datasets. The Department plans to release additional firearms data before the end of this year.
Attorney General Harris’s commitment to reforming our criminal justice system and reducing disparities extends beyond the release of this unprecedented open data initiative. Attorney General Harris has also convened a 21st Century Policing Working Group with law enforcement leaders from across the state, created the first-ever course for law enforcement infusing procedural justice tenets with information about confronting and overcoming implicit bias, a training which is now certified by the Commission on Peace Officers and Standards Training (POST), and directing a 90-day review of the California Department of Justice’s policies and practices around implicit bias, which led to a body-worn camera pilot program for DOJ special agents.
Attorney General Harris has also prioritized implementing effective gun safety measures in California. She and the Attorneys General of 12 other states and the District of Columbia sent a letter to the leaders of both houses of Congress in May 2016, urging them to immediately direct funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to research causes and prevention of gun-related injuries and deaths. She also backed Senate Bill 1006, authored by Senator Lois Wolk, to urge the University of California Regents to establish a California Firearm Violence Research Center. This center was established in June 2016 as part of the 2016-2017 state budget, and will be housed at the University of California, Davis.
Since November 2013, Attorney General Harris has brought the number of individuals in the Armed Prohibited Persons System (APPS) database to a historic low of under 11,000, the lowest level it has been since 2008. If not for the work of Attorney General Harris and the California Department of Justice Bureau of Firearms’ Special Agents, the number of individuals in the system would be at 38,000. Attorney General Harris has effectively brought the number of prohibited individuals down by 29,000 prohibited individuals and increased the number of investigations per month by nearly 400 percent.
To view all the data released today, visit OpenJustice (https://openjustice.doj.ca.gov/firearms/).