There have already been 38 murders in Oakland this year, according to police statistics last updated on June 22. When it comes to aggravated assaults with a firearm, there have been 176, and robberies with a firearm have numbered even higher, at 683.

Reading those numbers off a screen may be startling, but for many Oakland residents, dealing with such reality has become normal. Oakland historically suffers one of the highest crime and homicide rates in the country, and shootings around the city are still serious news, but they aren’t necessarily anything new. So why reignite the discussion?

Earlier this month, news on school violence proliferated the media. A controversial report from the group Everytown for Gun Safety said there have been 74 school shootings in the U.S. since the Newtown elementary school incident. Gunfire near the UCSB campus killed six and injured thirteen, with the troubled shooter taking his own life at the end. A couple of weeks later, a shooting at Seattle Pacific University killed one and left three wounded, and less than a week after that, a shooting erupted at a high school in Oregon, where the gunman killed a 14-year old and wounded a teacher before taking his own life.

Such tragedies call to mind the 2012 shooting at Oikos University, a small Korean Christian college in Oakland, where an alleged former student opened fire, killing seven and injuring three. The shooting became the third-deadliest university shooting in U.S. history.

In the wake of these shootings, should gun violence be reevaluated in Oakland? Where do guns in Oakland come from?

Oakland’s high number of shootings is even more startling since assault weapons are actually banned in the city, and throughout the state. Stores in Oakland aren’t allowed to sell guns, yet they have been reported to be trafficked illegally from neighboring states that don’t have bans on assault weapons, like Nevada.

Elected officials have made various efforts to address this issue, like Assemblyman Rob Bonta and Councilmember Libby Schaaf, who co-authored the bill AB 180. Its aim was to help cover illegal trafficking in the city through legislation that would have required the licensing and registration of gun owners: regulations that no other California city has.

However, Governor Jerry Brown, Oakland resident and former Oakland mayor, ended up vetoing the bill, and in his veto message said that “allowing individual cities to enact their own more restrictive firearm regulations will sow confusion and uncertainty.”

Schaaf said she doesn’t think every city should be held to the same standard when it comes to gun regulations.

“Oakland, California has a unique problem and we should be allowed to have stricter laws,” Schaaf said.

However, Schaaf mentioned, “a number of us are interested in trying something along those lines again” and thought a more specific proposal on licensing and registration laws might be better received the next time around.

Outside of legislative efforts, there have been organizations that have attempted to remove guns from Oakland streets, such as the non-profit GunByGun. They conduct gun buybacks through crowdfunding, and strive to make an impact on reducing guns in communities.

GunByGun had a campaign in Oakland last December, where co-founder Ian Johnstone said there were around 146 guns were collected. Johnstone noted how it’s difficult to draw a statistical correlation between gun buybacks and gun violence.

“You’re never really sure when you do a gun buyback,” Johnstone said. “There are so many factors that impact the rate of gun violence in the community.”

However, based off the organization’s survey data, a majority of participants in GunByGun are not using their compensation money to buy more guns. Additionally, for a vast majority of cases, around 70% of people are gun-free in their homes after participating in GunByGun. Also, Johnstone noted how studies show that for every one percent reduction in the rate of gun ownership, there’s a translation to a similar reduction in homicide and suicide rates.

Johnson said GunByGun plans to have another campaign in Oakland this December.

The answer to preventing gun violence is difficult to define. The physical presence of guns in generating violence is undoubtedly a significant component, but there are other factors in the equation.

“I think attacking illegal gun trafficking is important, but attacking the mindset where people think it’s okay to resort to violence is even more important,” said Schaaf.

14 Responses

  1. R2D2II

    More gun laws for Oakland are mere political posturing and counterproductive. Every poorly-conceived additional gun control law only sets legal challenges in motion from the heavily-lawyered 2nd Amendment people.

    Guns for those who are likely to commit violent acts with them are already as illegal as they can be in Oakland.

    It would be useful, however, to have a functional, federal, national database for all gun sales and transfers. This is a real and useful part of the answer–so that guns sold legally in neighboring states like Idaho or Nevada will be in the database and can, ultimately, be traced when they are illegally transferred to Oakland criminals and used on the streets.

    Long-term, rational thinking required here. Not the usual Oakland pol kind of thing.

  2. Oakie

    Diverting attention to legislating yet more gun ownership restrictions or these happy news gun buybacks that make great eye candy for the evening news have zero relevance to our out-of-control gun violence problem.

    Jerry Brown was, as always, the Yoda, vetoing yet another useless piece of posturing legislation because he is not an ordinary, pathetic useless politician like Shaaf and Bonta.

    If you want to get serious about gun violence in Oakland then you have to get serious about detaining and charging those individuals on our streets who walk around or drive around or bike around with loaded weapons that they illegally possess. It’s exactly the sort of thing that made Bill Bratton a miracle worker. We need a miracle but we have zero political will to implement policing policies that work. Instead we have fools like Shaaf and Bonta making unserious laws that make them look good to unserious citizens of our city.

  3. Mt. Crunk-suvius

    “Stores in Oakland aren’t allowed to sell guns, yet they have been reported to be trafficked illegally from neighboring states that don’t have bans on assault weapons, like Nevada.”

    ….So, how did that ban work out? Oh, right. It Didn’t.
    And now, we’re looking in to “requiring the licensing and registration of gun owners: regulations that no other California city has.” Now, I’m not one of the yahoos that thinks going to the mall or Chili’s with an AK-47 on your back in the name of “freedom” is the best idea in the world. But isn’t it about time we get real? Criminals GET guns….Illegally. you can go so far as to ban every gun in the history of forever, but no politician is ever going to go on record and promise your safety from criminals because of it. When an innocent dies at the hand of a criminal, it will just be an “unfortunate tragedy.” And no politician who writes these pieces of legislation designed to keep guns out of the hands of criminals will step up to the plate and take accountability for the gun that ended up on the street doing the killing.

  4. jdberger

    How is it that communities adjoining Oakland (and even surrounded by it) don’t have the same level of crime and violence as Oakland? It can’t be the guns, can it? Alameda averages less than one murder a year, yet has 3 gun stores, while Oakland has none….

    Maybe it has nothing to do with guns at all…..

  5. Joe

    this is a good idea to someone that believes that the war on drugs is it good idea and given almost 40 years hindsight in that it’s simply made for a more lucrative black market…

  6. Captain America

    Where do guns come from?.. Are you freaking kidding me?!?

    Did we forget about Senator Leeland Yee? Or how about the “Fast and Furious ” scandal? Or what about the ATF “accidentally loosing” thousands of automatic weapons?

    Its funny how the government has been trying to disarm its citizens while selling guns out the back door to drug cartels and street gangs. How soon do we forget about their actions while they are so quick to pass more legislation to further control the law abiding people.

    So where do guns come from? Maybe you should ask Yee, who somehow got 300,000 votes from the last election while under federal investigation.. Maybe it was those dead people voting again,, Remember? The same ones who voted for the president..

  7. jKelly

    I wish the article spent more time on the question posed by the headline? Where ARE they coming from?

  8. Seamus

    If Oakland adopts more gun regulation, what’s the worst that could happen?

  9. A


    If we limited your civil rights, what’s the worse that could happen? Also, please do some critical thinking to consider that more regulation does not equal more compliance from criminals.

  10. Joe

    the worst that could happen is debatable (the most damaging aspects are hard to quantify), the positives would be to the great benefit to those already involved in illegal arms dealing. Regulations are what causes black markets to be so profitable (prohibition being a clear example).

  11. Joe

    Well the worst that could happen is debatable (the most damaging aspects are hard to quantify), the positives would be to the great benefit to those already involved in illegal arms dealing. Regulations are what causes black markets to be so profitable (prohibition being a clear example).

  12. seamus

    You’re equating low regulation of firearms with civil rights? Pardons, but I don’t see the connection you are implying. That is, restricting the number of bullets in a mag, and restricting concealed weapon permits to those who show direct need, and banning the sale of bullets in Oakland doesn’t seem to inhibit as much as my right to vote or my right to write.

    Even with Oakland’s strong restrictions, I can still get ammo for my m-9 or 92fs. I can also go to the outdoor range in the hills or the indoor range on the flats to practice. It doesn’t bother me at all & I’m a gun owner. Why would it? The regulations don’t hinder my shooting practice at all, except I have to go to a neighboring city to pick up 9mm.

  13. A


    Those regulations are already in place right? What has it done to drive down gun violence in Oakland? NOTHING. Are you suggesting that placing additional restrictions on law abiding citizens is somehow going to convince criminals to give up their criminal activity??

    By your very own account, you state that having these additional restrictions doesn’t affect you because you can go to another city. So are you suggesting that we just create these restrictions even though they are very easy to circumvent? Are we creating laws just for the sake of creating them so we can say we’re doing something (even though it’s really nothing)?

    BTW, why should I care if LGBT people can marry? It doesn’t affect my ability to vote or my right to write. I mean, heck, why care about anyone’s rights as long as it doesn’t affect me personally.

  14. Madeline

    I was under the impression that all gun owners in California had to be licensed and insured. If I’m mistaken, then at the least Oakland is definitely not the only city that does it. I’ve legally purchased a firearm in another Bay Area city and had to undergo a waiting period, background check, and take a safety exam to get my license and get registered.


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