A new UC Berkeley study has shown that gun violence in certain areas of California spike immediately following the opening of a gun show in Nevada. For about two weeks following a Nevada gun show, the occurrence of gun-related injuries and deaths sees an increase of up to 70% in towns "within convenient driving distance" of the border, says the study.
Researchers suspect that this has to do with Nevada's looser gun control laws, which, at the time of the study (2005-2013), didn't require background checks for "private sale" gun purchases. California requires background checks for all gun purchases made in the state, regardless of the type of sales. NBC Bay Area notes that since then, Nevada has passed a law requiring background checks for all sales, but it hasn't gone into effect quite yet. The study's lead author, Ellicott Matthay, wrote about the findings and their implications: "The study suggests that travel to less-restrictive states may threaten the effectiveness of firearm laws within California. When a less-restrictive is next to a state that is more restrictive, there may be spillover effects." Matthay continued: "Better understanding the long-term effects of gun show policies, and the patterns of acquisition and use of firearms, would provide important evidence to inform future efforts to prevent firearm injuries."
This study comes merely a few weeks after terrorist Stephen Paddock opened fire on Las Vegas concertgoers, killing 59 people and injuring 527 others. A few of his firearms were legally acquired, according to NBC News, who spoke to employees at two Nevada gun shops, where they attest that he passed the required background checks when he purchased weaponry them. It's unconfirmed whether the guns he purchased from those Nevada shops were used in the mass shooting, or if they were from the other gun shops he patronized New Frontier Armory in North Las Vegas and Guns and Guitars in Mesquite, writes NBC News.
Last year, Governor Jerry Brown signed six gun reform bills into law, tightening restrictions and outright banning the sale of certain weapons in California. But just before the holiday, right before the laws were scheduled to take effect, the state saw a spike in the sale of semi-automatic rifles, with 364,643 rifles sold, as compared to the 153,931 in 2015.
What's clear is that while state law can only do so much, that doesn't reduce or eliminate the importance of having those laws in the first place. The LA Times spoke with Drs. Ali Rowhani-Rahbar and Frederick Rivara, who are both pediatricians and epidemiologists at the University of Washington, Seattle. They told them, "Laws regulating access to guns matter and do make a difference." Without federal law controlling the sale of guns, California's regulations could easily be circumvented. "It does not reduce the importance of the laws but does reduce their impact."