Sacramento – Today, Assemblymember Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento) announced introduction of legislation which would help address the issue of gun violence in California. AB 760 would impose a five cent ($0.05) tax on each bullet sold in California. Further, the bill would dedicate the revenue collected to an existing program to screen young children for mild to moderate mental illness, and intervene with strategies to address their problems.
“Screening young children for signs of mental illness and addressing any issues early on is the key to a healthier and more productive adult life. A limited tax on ammunition is a small price to pay for better mental healthcare for children in our state,” said Dickinson.
AB 760 seeks to reduce the incidence of mental illness by re-funding the School-Based Early Mental Health Intervention and Prevention Services for Children program (EMHI), which has been operating since its enactment in 1991. The program provides screening and prevention services to K-3 grade students who exhibit school adjustment difficulties. Funding for the program was cut in the 2012-13 Budget.
According to the Department of Health Care Services, systematic early detection combined with prompt intervention, as offered by EMHI, has been effective in reducing later adjustment difficulties in 79% of students. Reducing student adjustment problems at an early age may reduce violent behavior by students later in life.
AB 761 would require CalPERS and CalSTRS to divest any existing pension fund investments from companies that manufacture, sell, distribute or market firearms or ammunition. It would also prohibit future investments in such companies as long as these actions were found to be consistent with the Funds’ constitutionally prescribed fiduciary duties.
“Companies who manufacture, sell, distribute or market firearms and ammunition have no business receiving investment funds from the State of California – it’s just common sense. There are plenty of other worthy investment options,” said Dickinson.
At a time when the state’s public treasury struggles to supply funding to cover CalPERS and CalSTRS’ retirement and health care cost liabilities, it is inconsistent public policy to allow those taxpayer-supported pension funds to be invested in companies that are responsible for producing weapons that are implicated in violent acts and which are a drain on that same public treasury.
Nationally, lifetime medical costs for gunshot injuries total an estimated $2.3 billion, or $6 million/day. U.S. taxpayers pay for almost half of those lifetime costs ($1.1 billion). California accounts for more than 12% of gun violence in this country and medical care associated with gun violence is a burden upon state taxpayers and upon the costs of medical insurance. According to research, 80% of the medical costs for firearm injuries are borne by taxpayers.
Recently, CalSTRS divested from companies making firearms banned in California and on February 19, 2013, CalPERS voted to divest in two makers of firearms that are illegal in California. AB 761 would go a step further by requiring divestment in companies that manufacture, sell, distribute or market all firearms or ammunition, not just products illegal in California.
Dickinson has previously introduced AB 169 which would keep non-rostered, unsafe handguns out of the hands of people who don't have a legitimate and lawful reason to own them. AB 169 will be heard in Assembly Public Safety in the coming months.
Recent reports find that there have been almost 2,000 gun-related deaths in the United States since December 14, 2012 when 20 children and seven adults were massacred in Newtown, CT. Over 13,000 people have been shot in the U.S. in just the first seven weeks of 2013. According to the FBI, California had the highest number of total gun deaths out of any state last year, accounting for 68% of all gun murders in the United States.
AB 760 and 761 have not yet been referred to committee.
Contact: Taryn Kinney, (916) 319-2007