The truth of Marin gun violence and Governor Newsom’s new measures

Governor Gavin Newsom signs 23 new gun safety laws into California law, with representatives from gun safety advocacy groups.
Governor Gavin Newsom signs 23 new gun safety laws into California law, with representatives from gun safety advocacy groups.
Courtesy of the Office of Governor Gavin Newsom

On Tuesday, Sept. 26, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed 23 new gun control measures into law. In the wake of nationwide shootings, Newsom’s new bills are intended to strengthen California’s gun safety laws and include measures that further enforce public carry laws, improve school safety, and increase the tax on firearms.

Everytown for Gun Safety, America’s largest gun violence organization, ranks California as number one in the nation for gun law strength and low gun violence rates. Newsom’s new measures reinforce these existing laws, continuing California’s leadership in gun safety activism.

Newsom also added additional restrictions on public carry laws, including an additional 11 percent tax that is expected to generate $160 million annually, which will fund school safety and violence intervention programs. 

Marin County is increasingly experiencing a higher rate of gun violence, according to a 2020 UCLA Health Survey, around 15 percent of Marin homes house firearms, a high rate compared to the rest of the state. Mayor Kate Colin of San Rafael has been an advocate for gun safety in Marin County and the state of California for years and looks forward to the impact of Newsom’s new additions on Marin firearm ownership rates.

“I’m really proud that California continues to have some of the strictest gun laws in the United States and these laws are not the same across the United States,” Mayor Kate said.

“I’m really proud that California continues to have some of the strictest gun laws in the United States and these laws are not the same across the United States,”

— Mayor Kate

Mayor Kate participates in the local Marin Gun Safety Collaborative (GSC) and in the national organization, Mayors Against Illegal Guns (Mayors Against). The GSC was launched in 2021 by a community of Marin residents promoting responsible gun ownership, and is currently run by Marin District Attorney Laurie Frugoli. Mayor Kate is the sole participating elected official, joined by a cross-sector of organizations, such as law enforcement and suicide prevention organizations.

“Here in Marin, we address gun safety through the Gun Safety Collaborative which is led by the Marin County DA’s office and composed of stakeholders,” said Mayor Kate. “San Rafael takes gun safety seriously and I am the only local elected official that consistently participates in the Collective along with San Rafael’s Chief of Police.”

Organizations such as the GSC and Mayors Against promote gun safety throughout the U.S by encouraging safe storage, gun responsibility, and school safety. Mayors Against is part of the umbrella organization Everytown for Gun Safety, a nationwide gun sense organization that also includes the Survivor Network, Students Demand Action, and Moms Demand Action (Moms Demand).    

Everytown and Moms Demand adopted the term “gun sense” in 2013, when “gun control” proved too polarizing. By utilizing the term “gun sense,” the organization sought to build a non-partisan movement towards nationwide safety. 

Janet Gennai-Rizzi is the Local Group Lead for the Marin group of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Moms Demand is a primarily female-led, nationwide gun sense movement, and also part of Everytown for Gun Safety. Created in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, it is the largest gun violence prevention organization in the U.S., with nearly 10 million supporters.

“[Moms Demand Action] started out as a grassroots effort, and grew,” Gennai-Rizzi said. “When I started going to meetings, there was a local group lead, and they needed a membership lead. So I became a Membership Lead… Then I moved into the role as a Local Group Lead a year and a half ago.” 

Gennai-Rizzi has led the Marin group for almost two years, but has been taking action against gun violence since 2012 after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Starting in March 2023, Gennai-Rizzi, alongside other members of the Marin group, traveled to Sacramento multiple times, to push for the bills that Newsom signed in September. 

“We went to the legislators’ offices, gave them information…” Gennai-Rizzi said. “Our job, [as an organization] was to say, ‘We’re from Moms Demand Action… this bill is coming up, we would like your support.’”

Both Mayor Kate and Gennai-Rizzi believe there is a misconception that Marin is exempt from firearm activity. According to a 2020 UCLA Health Survey, around 15 percent of Marin homes house firearms. Additionally, a 2020 Marin County Civil Grand Jury Report states that there are estimated to be around 100,000 guns in Marin alone, 18 percent of which are stored unlocked and loaded.

Statistics from the San Rafael Police department depict the rise in crimes involving a gun from 2013/2014 to today, the most drastically rising in the last two years. (Courtesy of the San Rafael Police Department)

“Marin County has some of the highest gun ownership rates… [in comparison to] other counties in California…. What we’re trying to do is prevent guns used in [both] crime and in suicides…” Colin said. “How do we ensure that gun access is limited to folks?”

In September alone, San Rafael had three violent incidents where gunfire occurred, two of which took place on the night of Sept. 16. According to data from the San Rafael Police Department (SRPD), the number of crimes that involved the use of a firearm has increased by an estimated 318 percent since 2014. SRPD Police Lieutenant Scott Eberle has dealt with recent events involving firearms, citing an influx in gang activity. 

“Gun use is definitely on the rise…specifically the past couple of years. A lot more gang members are involved in assault with deadly weapons that involve guns…” Eberle said. “We used to not have as many shootings [in San Rafael] as we do [now].”

Eberle, who has been in law enforcement since 2000, hopes to notice a significant impact from Newsom’s new measures. However, with over 20 years in law enforcement, he finds that sometimes bills passed don’t make a significant difference in his line of work.

“I’m all for ways to prevent gun violence and save lives. I’m 100 percent a supporter of that,” Eberle said. “But you [have to ask], are these working?… They’re great if they work, but [there’s] frustration in law enforcement [when they don’t],”

After the Defund the Police movement in late 2020, many police departments experienced extensive budget cuts that forced them to cut staff. Eberle partially attributes the increase in shootings nationwide to such budget cuts, as there is less law enforcement to combat them. 

“In the past two or three years, there’s been a major decrease in the amount of police officers staffing our departments. If you don’t have the cops to enforce the laws, to be in the specialty units, then how do they expect to enforce the laws that the legislature is enacting?” Eberle said.

Eberle has removed hundreds of guns from the San Rafael streets and hopes that some of the new legislature will reduce the amount of guns in the streets, impacting the amount of gun violence. A 2023 study from MarinHealth found that firearm injuries treated in their hospitals increased by 240 percent from 2018-2021, and gunshot wounds now account for an estimated 36 percent of penetrating traumas to enter MarinHealth hospitals. 

Dr. John Maa, author of the MarinHealth study, has been a gun sense advocate for years. He joined Moms Demand Action, on behalf of the American College of Surgeons, when they traveled to the California state capital to promote Newsom’s bills. 

“I applaud Governor Newsom for his efforts in firearm safety. California really does lead the nation in passing new legislation… We should be proud that our per capita firearm injury rate is among the lowest in the country,” Maa said. 

Maa works as a staff surgeon at the MarinHealth Medical Center and has witnessed the recent influx of patients with firearm-related injuries as well as the results of the recent shootings in San Rafael. 

“I was the on-call surgeon recently one night when there were several shootings, stabbings, and drownings in the Marin canal [district]…” Maa said. “I say this to raise awareness that there is both a firearm and violence problem here in Marin County as well.”

Maa says there’s an unheard impact of those affected by shootings, hospitals and families alike. 

“If there’s [multiple shooting patients], it can really stretch the hospital’s resources thinly… But by far the most difficult thing we do in medicine is to inform a loved one that their family member, sibling, neighbor, friend, has been lost to firearm injury, yet another tragic statistic,” Maa said. 

Maa has been a gun sense advocate for around a decade, and has written numerous letters to the editor in the SF Chronicle, as well as having an article featured in the Desert Sun, advocating for a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to modernize and update the Second Amendment. Along with the state legislature passed in September, Newsom officially proposed the 28th amendment in June, to try and combat the issue of gun violence on a nationwide scale. 

“I was very grateful in June of this year when Governor Newsom announced his intent to craft a 28th Constitutional Amendment to amend the Second Amendment,” Maa said. 

Maa, who also served in the military, wants to see the idea of “gun sense” spread nationwide, while also respecting the rights of gun owners. 

“I understand the importance of firearms in the defense of our nation, but I also believe we need to highlight the principles of safe storage and responsibility and accountability of firearm ownership. I believe that there are ways to both honor and protect gun rights, but also emphasize and restore the balance with public safety,” Maa said. 

Maa and others are proud of Newsom’s actions and California’s strengthened laws. Although it is still too early to see the full impacts of the bills, activists and law enforcement alike anticipate their arrival, and hope to see their ideas carried out across the country.

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    North BayNov 6, 2023 at 11:26 PM

    I would ask where you obtained your statistics? Please state your sources.