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Number of Californians Killed by Guns Increases 32% Since '89

October 20, 1994| From Staff and Wire reports

SACRAMENTO — The number of people killed by guns in California increased by more than 30% between 1989 and 1993, a rate slightly higher than the national average over the same period, according to a new state study.

Although the human toll is great and well-documented, the study says gun violence is costing state taxpayers more than $18 billion a year, directly and indirectly.

The study, released Tuesday, estimates that California employees and businesses directly lost close to $4 billion last year in worker productivity, defined as the skills and efforts of slain and injured workers, because of gun violence. There were 47,888 gunshot victims in California last year and 5,000 of them died.

The study was done by the California Research Bureau, a nonpartisan policy research group of the California State Library. The report, Firearm Related Violence in California: Incidence and Economic Costs, was commissioned by the Assembly Committee on Gun Violence and its chairman, Louis Caldera (D-Los Angeles).

"Gun violence incidents in California are reaching epidemic proportions. Firearm homicide will soon overtake auto fatalities as the leading cause of death by injury in California," Caldera said.

He said he will not propose a handgun ban that would face daunting political opposition but instead wants to work toward goals such as curtailing sales of cheap handguns and forcing more gun owners to keep guns locked up. An Assembly panel he chairs has scheduled hearings, the first of which will convene at 9:30 a.m. today at the Los Angeles Central Library.

Firearm-related murders increased 32% in California between 1989 and 1993. The pace surpassed the increasing national average over the same period by 4 percentage points. All other types of murders in California decreased slightly between 1989 and 1993.

The costs cited by the report included $1 billion to provide medical care to gunshot victims in 1993.

More than 80% of the direct medical expenses to treat gunshot victims, nearly $900 million, was passed on to California taxpayers.

In addition to lost worker productivity, there was a $225-million loss to California's economy because of the decrease in Japanese tourism after the recent killings of Japanese nationals in California, according to the study.

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