Sacramento, California, November 19, 2021: The Folsom City Planning Commission voted 6 to 1 on Wednesday evening to continue to allow gun dealers to sell guns and ammunition from their residential homes. Commissioner Barbara Leary was the sole member of the commission to oppose the measure.
The city of Folsom is a bedroom community located about 15 miles east of Sacramento. There are currently 15 schools in Folsom, including three high schools, as well as a community college. The Folsom school district made the news in 2016 when it was revealed that school officials had been allowing an unspecified number of school employees to bring loaded guns to school during the previous six years without the knowledge of students or parents. This practice was halted the following year when a new California state law was enacted banning anyone from bringing a gun onto a school campus.
The city of Folsom is best known, though, for Folsom State Prison, and for the fact that it was within the prison walls that Johnny Cash resurrected his failing career in January of 1968 by recording a live album during his performance for prison inmates. Cash elicited the loudest roar of admiration from his captive audience when he sang the line from his song, “Folsom Prison Blues,” “I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.” The city of Folsom has a bike trail named for Johnny Cash and invites visitors to make a donation to “Be a part of Johnny Cash History.”
During the planning commission meeting on Wednesday, Commissioner Leary asked commission staff how many Folsom residents were currently selling guns out of their homes, how many and what kinds of guns they were selling, and how many of these guns had been used in crimes or in the commission of suicides. Commission staff responded that five gun dealers were currently operating from their residential homes, but they couldn’t answer Commissioner Leary’s other questions. Staff also acknowledged that no other surrounding city allows gun sales from private homes. Staff indicated that they had personally contacted the five home-based gun dealers to invite them to the meeting on Wednesday. Staff did not report making any special effort to personally contact other city residents, including parents of school children.
Americans Against Gun Violence president, Dr. Bill Durston, sent a letter to the Folsom Planning Commission in advance of the meeting in opposition to allowing residents to sell guns and ammunition from their homes, and the commission allotted him just three minutes to speak in person at the meeting. In his letter, Dr. Durston noted that there was no shortage of guns and gun dealers in our country or in the Folsom area. It’s estimated that there are currently approximately 400 million privately owned guns in circulation in the United States, which amounts to more than one gun for every man, woman, and child in the country. There are currently more than 50,000 federally licensed firearm dealers in the United States. Dr. Durston noted that a Google search of “gun stores near Folsom” came up with 16 stores where one can buy guns in and around the city. A Google search of “grocery stores near Folsom” came up with 19 stores where one can buy groceries. Dr. Durston noted during his brief talk that including the five home-based gun dealers, there are currently more businesses in and around Folsom where people can buy guns than groceries.
Dr. Durston noted in his letter to the Planning Commission that every year, approximately 40,000 Americans are killed by guns, and that two to three times this number of U.S. residents suffer non-fatal but often devastating gunshot wounds. He also noted in his letter, and re-emphasized at the meeting, that gun-related deaths and injuries are far more common in the United States than in any other high income democratic country in the world. For all ages combined, the rate of gun homicides in the United States is 25 times higher than the average rate in the other high income democratic countries of the world, and for high school age youth, the U.S. rate of gun homicides is 82 times higher.
In his letter, Durston noted that our country’s extraordinarily high rate of gun violence is not a result of Americans being more violent in general than people in other democratic countries. On the contrary, the U.S. rate of violent assault by any means is below the average for the other high income democratic countries of the world. The extraordinarily high rate of gun homicide in the United States is due to fact that because of the easy availability of firearms, guns are used in assaults far more frequently in our country, and guns are far more lethal than fists, knives, and other weapons commonly used in assaults in other high income democratic countries.
In his letter, Dr. Durston included a graph demonstrating that there is a direct relationship between rates of gun related deaths and rates of private gun ownership; and that the United States is an extreme outlier among high income democratic countries in both categories. (See appended Figure). Dr. Durston also noted that the extraordinarily high number of guns in circulation in our country is a direct result of our extraordinarily lax gun control laws as compared with the laws in other advanced democracies.
In his letter and during his live presentation, Dr. Durston emphasized that guns in the homes and in the communities of honest, law-abiding people are far more likely to be used to kill, injure, or intimidate innocent people than to protect them. In one of the best known studies on this subject, it was shown that for every one time a gun in the home was used to kill an intruder, there were 43 gun-related deaths of a household member. Another study showed that someone who was carrying a gun at the time of an assault was four times more likely to be killed than someone who was not carrying a gun. In 2018, the most recent year for which expanded homicide data are available from the FBI, guns were used by private citizens to commit murders 34 times more often than they were used to kill an attacker in self defense .
At the planning commission meeting, some of the gun dealers present spoke of their “Second Amendment rights,” implying that selling guns from their homes is an extension of such “rights.” Dr. Durston noted that the Second Amendment states, in its entirety:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Dr. Durston noted at the meeting that none of the gun dealers present claimed that their sales were related in an way to the maintenance of a “well regulated militia,” and that prior to 2008, there was no constitutional right, Second Amendment or otherwise, for any individual person in the United States to own or carry a gun unrelated to service in a “well regulated militia,” much less sell guns from a private residence. Durston noted that the Supreme Court had ruled in all four Second Amendment cases that it had considered prior to 2008 that the Second Amendment did not confer an individual right to own or carry guns. He quoted from the Supreme Court’s 1980 Lewis decision: