Bill Requiring California to Track Gun Deaths Passed by State Senate

June 1, 2016

SACRAMENTO – A bill authored by Dr. Richard Pan and principle co-authored by Senator Bill Monning, which would allow California to partner at the federal level to reduce gun violence, was passed by the State Senate today on a vote of 28 to 5. 

SB 877 will require California to establish and maintain a data-tracking system on violent deaths in the state, including gun deaths. 

“Researchers cannot fully confront the crisis and save lives because we lack research and tracking,” said Dr. Pan, a pediatrician and Senator representing the Sacramento region. “As a doctor, I’ve seen the horrors of gun violence first-hand and central to preventing such violence is data-centered research.”

"Gun violence constitutes a public health epidemic, and SB 877 is vital to enable California to gather data and to inform a public health response,” Senator Monning (D-Carmel) said.  “State and national policymakers have access to very little research that would help us make informed decisions about how to address this issue.  Because Congress has not acted, the State of California must take action.”

Prior to 2008, California participated in the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS), a federal program to collect data on violent deaths.  Unfortunately, California was unable to obtain federal funding to continue the program because the state did not obtain law enforcement records required by NVDRS. SB 877 would require the California Department of Public Health to collect such data. 

In addition to providing the data to the NVDRS, the data could be used to assist state policy makers and communities as they determine appropriate prevention and education efforts as well as

Researchers point to the difference in how guns and vehicle fatalities are tracked. In 1975, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration started a national database called the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).  State, local and federal entities work together to update the database with detailed datasets for every car death in the nation. By contrast, a unified and complete database for gun deaths is virtually non-existent. Researchers and policy makers have used the information to create safety mechanisms that have drastically reduced vehicle fatalities through the years. Meanwhile, gun deaths persist and in 21 states and the District of Columbia, gun deaths now outnumber vehicle deaths.