By Larry Keane
Californians had a decision to make as they endure a two-year span of increased criminal violence, pushes to throttle law enforcement’s ability to protect communities and prosecutors going soft on criminals. They could choose to lawfully purchase a firearm to protect themselves or be a victim. They choose the former.
That’s got gun control peddlers worried. An opinion column in The Los Angeles Times pleaded with readers, “Thinking of buying a gun for self-defense? Don’t do it.”
Californians instead took up their Second Amendment rights. They weren’t alone either as millions of law-abiding Americans from coast-to-coast purchased a firearm last year, including more than 5.4 million first-timers.
Pleading Their Case
The Los Angeles Times’ opinion writers have had their heads buried on California’s beaches. Californians on the other hand have been feeling unsafe. The Los Angeles City Council cut $150 million from the police department budget in the aftermath of riots that followed the murder of George Floyd. A police shortage, including $47 million in owed backpay for overtime, has left criminals emboldened.
That led to a short-staffed LAPD issuing an unthinkable warning to city residents: if you’re the victim of a crime, just “cooperate and comply.” The LA Times-endorsed, George Soros-funded County District Attorney George Gascon has been on the receiving end of public outcry, and a recall effort, for his continued soft treatment of violent criminals, including murderers.
Criminals noticed. In 2021, Los Angeles saw a 12 percent year-over-year increase in murders. Violent crimes and property crimes were both up 4 percent. The Los Angeles Times opinion page, instead of condemning the crime, clung to fear.
“Choosing to have a gun in your home, because it will keep you safe, is a myth. And a deadly one at that.” The column urged readers to practice “common sense” and “safety,” stating, “Be responsible and be wise. Don’t buy into the myth of owning a gun for self-defense. The life you save may be your own.”
Law-abiding Californians are tuning out “be a good victim” advice and instead are choosing lawful firearm ownership. In 2021, nearly 1.5 million verifications were run through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) for Californians purchasing a firearm. The year before the figure was even higher at 1.6 million.
The owner of the only Los Angeles firearm retail store said business was booming and he wasn’t surprised.
“This morning I sold six shotguns in about an hour to people that say, ‘I want a home defense shotgun,’” Russell Stuart said. “Everyone has a general sense of constant fear, which is very sad.”
Debbie Mizrahie lives in Beverly Hills and described why she chose to purchase a gun. She’s “always been anti-gun” but changed her mind. She wanted to, “get myself shooting lessons because I now understand that there may be a need for me to know how to defend myself and my family. We’re living in fear.”
Geneva Solomon owns Redstone Firearms in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Burbank. Her firsthand experiences contradict the “advice” and “data” from the Los Angeles Times opinion page.
“Years ago a gentleman was charged with home invasion on my home. He forced his way into my home and I walked downstairs with a gun,” Solomon described. “I believe that my firearm deescalated what could have happened if he felt we were unarmed.”
Solomon encourages all gun owners new and old in her store to seek more training and education to be confident and safe gun owners.
Californians buying firearms aren’t outliers. They are part of a larger firearm-owning community that’s growing by the day. NSSF retailer survey data from 2021 revealed more than 5.4 million law-abiding Americans purchased a firearm for the first time. That’s on top of the more than 8.4 million in 2020. It’s not just white males stockpiling guns either, as the media and national gun control groups often portray.
Women accounted for more than 33 percent of first-time buyers in 2021, only slightly lower than the 40 percent from 2020. A full 44 percent of retailers saw an increase of African-Americans purchasing firearms in 2021; nearly 40 percent of retailers saw an increase of Hispanic-American buyers and over 27 percent of retailers saw an increase of Asian-American buyers. On top of purchasing their first firearm, buyers were looking for training. Retailers said that almost 47 percent of first-time buyers inquired about training and education courses and more than 43 percent of them signed up for classes.
Americans from all walks of life, including Californians, aren’t listening to the fear and loathing from newspaper opinion pages. They’re thinking, and acting, for themselves.
Larry Keane is Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association.