The California Model: Twenty Years of Putting Safety First


The Law Center’s latest publication, The California Model: Twenty Years of Putting Safety First, examines the history of success in enacting smart gun laws in California and how those laws have contributed to a significant drop in gun death rates in the state.

As the publication describes, gun violence is not a problem without solutions. We know what works,
we’ve seen the difference it has made in California, and we are already seeing the same success in states around the country.

Download a PDF Copy of The California Model

Two Mass Shootings that Changed California

In 1989, a catastrophic event changed the perception of gun violence in California. A gunman took an assault rifle to Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton, where he killed five children and wounded 29 others as well as one teacher.


In the early 1990s the toll of gun violence in California rose to unprecedented levels – at one point 15% higher than the national average.1

The parallels between the Stockton shooting and the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut are startling. As one news report observed, “Except for the fatal scale of the Connecticut shooting[,] the assault at Cleveland Elementary School here featured near-identical and tragic themes: young victims, a troubled gunman and a military-style rifle.”2

The Stockton shooting shocked California and the nation, igniting calls for change.  Then, as now, change was not quick to come from Congress. Instead, it was California’s legislature that responded to the demand for action, adopting the first assault weapons ban in the country that same year.

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  1. U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Web-Based Injury Statistics Query & Reporting System (WISQARS), 1981-1998 Fatal Injury Report, 1981-1998, (accessed on July 11, 2013). ⤴︎
  2. Stockton school massacre: A tragically familiar pattern, USA Today (Apr. 1, 2013), ⤴︎