Bill Requiring California to Track Violent Deaths Passed by State Assembly

SB 877 Requires California to Create a Data-Tracking System to help Researchers Confront Gun and Other Violence Head-On

August 23, 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 Assembly today and will be heard next in the State Senate. 

SB 877 is sponsored by the Union of American Physicians and Dentist and would require California to establish and maintain a data-tracking system on violent deaths, including gun deaths. 

“We can help prevent violence and save lives when we have the data to understand its causes,” a pediatrician and Senator representing the Sacramento region. “As a doctor, I’ve seen the horrors of gun violence first-hand and prevention begins with collecting and analyzing the data.”

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.

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.