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Two-Thirds of CA's Gun Homicides Occur in Rural Areas: Report
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By Anya Ellis, Berkeley Correspondent
Published 8 months ago on
August 11, 2023

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A nonprofit organization collecting gun violence data says that two-thirds of gun homicides in California happen outside urban settings.

“The broader message is that communities need plans that are not just crisis response to shootings.” — Refugio “Cuco” Rodriguez, Hope and Heal Fund

Recent maps, launched by Hope and Heal Fund in partnership with Romo GIS, show all gun homicide data from 2014-2022 in California.

The map allows viewers to survey statistics for the entire state or focus on a specific county. As users zoom in, the map becomes more specific, indicating the exact locations of each homicide. The map shows the date, city, county, and number of people killed at each incident when it is selected.

In the Central Valley:

  • Kern County (population 916,108) had 653 gun-related homicides, 214 occurring in Bakersfield.
  • Fresno County (pop. 1,015,190) had 580 gun-related homicide reports.
  • Tulare County (pop. 477,544) had 213 gun-related homicide reports.
  • Merced County (pop. 290,014) saw 147 gun-related homicide reports.
  • Kings County (pop. 152,981) had 52 gun-related homicide reports.
  • Madera County (160,256) had 43 gun-related homicide reports.

Gun Violence Between Intimate Partners

Trends revealed through the mapping highlight high rates of gun violence in rural, semi-rural, and suburban areas and the crucial need for support beyond urban areas. The mapping showed a significant increase in gun violence in 2020 and onward.

Refugio “Cuco” Rodriguez is Hope and Heal Fund’s Chief Strategist and Equity Officer. He said there’s a need to separate and examine the different types of gun homicide.

The data revealed a large amount of intimate partner gun violence, which Rodrigez says law enforcement agencies might have overlooked, leading to misconceptions about primary gun violence issues.

“It’s important to aggregate the data of what we are trying to illustrate because it can be misleading,” Rodriguez said.

Further mapping and analysis can help advance understanding of the unique challenges facing intimate partner violence and how to help combat it. Hope and Heal Fund is working toward this now.

The Stereotypes of Urban Violence

The mapping, originally intended to correct inaccurate stereotypes surrounding gun violence in urban areas, has allowed for the future development of strategic opportunities to reduce gun violence across the state.

“The broader message is that communities need plans that are not just crisis response to shootings,” Rodriguez said. He urged communities to focus on three areas: prevention, intervention, and aftercare.

Tracking guns and assessing the cost and success of current implementations are areas Rodriguez pushes communities to embrace.

“Tracking of guns and where they are coming from… it’s an important factor that you can and should control,” says Rodriquez. Tracking the origin of firearms can reveal patterns, such as if guns are obtained legally or illegally, and who might be the central suppliers of guns, thus illuminating how to reduce gun violence.

Communities must also evaluate the expense and effectiveness of their current initiatives.

“Gun homicide rates continue to rise despite funding,” Rodriguez said, referring to police funding. He noted that the aftermath of gun violence directly impacts local economies — investigation costs, hospital care, court cases, etc.

Kaiser Permanente, a hospital system that deals directly with the fallout of gun violence and helped fund this project issued this statement: “Far too often our clinical teams see the devastating effects of gun violence on individuals and families … we must do more to support evidence-based community interventions that prevent gun violence.”

What’s Next?

Hope and Health Fund plans to continue making statewide maps, including a map disaggregating intimate partner gun homicide data and a map layering gun suicides and homicides. The map will show the total impact of gun violence, adding suicides, the largest gun-related violence.

“It’s much worse in every community,” said Rodriquez.

On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that about 49,500 people took their own lives last year in the U.S. That was the highest number ever, according to new government data posted Thursday.

Suicide attempts involving guns end in death far more often than those with other means, and gun sales have boomed — placing firearms in more homes.

To explore the map and gain knowledge on gun violence in California, visit the CA Gun Homicides GIS Mapping Report.

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Anya Ellis,
Reporter/Researcher
Anya Ellis began working for GV Wire in July 2023. The daughter of journalists, Anya is a Fresno native and Buchanan High School graduate. She is currently at the University of California, Berkeley, majoring in film and media studies and minoring in creative writing. She plans to pursue her masters in screenwriting after graduating. You can contact Anya at anya.ellis@gvwire.com.

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