Magali Gauthier

The Guns of Santa Barbara County

A Look at Gun Culture and Crime from Carp to Santa Maria

Thursday, July 11, 2013
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Convenient clichés aside, guns do kill people ​— ​especially in America, where about 30,000 people die every year from gun-related incidents. That statistic, of which suicides regularly account for more than half, has remained relatively similar for nearly two decades, as have the 70,000 other people who are shot and survive in the United States each year.

But recent high-profile incidents, such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, and the steady stream of bullet-riddled violence dominating our daily headlines are making Americans everywhere rethink our culture’s fascination with the loaded gun, which costs American taxpayers more than $100 billion per year in law enforcement, legal, and medical bills. As such, the country’s collective microscope is feverishly analyzing what can be done, from enacting stricter laws to criticizing a gun-glamorizing media to questioning whether we could have more effective means of dealing with mental-health issues.

Though gun violence is a fairly rare problem in Santa Barbara County, we are not immune. One man was murdered in the City of Santa Barbara earlier this year, there have been more than two dozen gun-related incidents in other parts of the county so far, and numerous illegally owned or suspiciously involved guns are confiscated weekly by the authorities. We also bore witness to our own mass-shooting incident in January 2006, when a deranged woman killed seven people in a postal facility on Storke Road in Goleta before turning the weapon on herself.

Given the national uproar following Sandy Hook, The Santa Barbara Independent decided to take a deeper look at the gun culture of Santa Barbara County. We queried every law enforcement office for records of gun-related incidents, interviewed top officials about what they were doing and why, and requested statistics from hospitals, the California Department of Justice, the U.S. Forest Service, and other entities. With very few exceptions, all agencies were happy and even eager to share their data. We also dove into the recreational side of shooting, and one of our reporters even went through the official process of purchasing a gun of his own.

What follows is a collection of articles, tables, and graphs about what we discovered. In short, Santa Barbara County appears to have a generally responsible population of gun owners as well as law enforcement leaders who respect those government-granted rights while working hard to ensure that firearms don’t wind up in the wrong hands. The serious incidents are few and far between, and we expect that continued vigilance should keep it that way.

Podcast episode

Guns and Poodles

Nick Welsh breaks down last weeks news, and Matt Kettmann, Tyler Hayden, and Jack Crosbie share on their cover story this week on guns.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Yes, and, convenient cliches aside, cars kill over 30,000 people a year also. What the media never discuss is how many crimes are prevented by citizens carrying legally in those 37 states that allow it.

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 8:08 a.m. (Suggest removal)

A customized community of guns

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 8:26 a.m. (Suggest removal)

If the Independent were fair and balanced there would be an expansive article on the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution. All broadcast and print media are required by the FCC to present both sides of an issue, but in direct conflict to US law, all I see coming from the Independent are favorable articles about local businesses that appear to be advertisements written by the local businesses' public relations team, masquerading as journalism, or letters and articles advocating rounding up the homeless population, and transporting them to another county. The Independent has gotten so shamelessly one sided and self absorbed that I almost miss the Santa Barbara News Press...

Rinconer (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 8:46 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I totally agree - the article lambasting Darryl Genis for his willingness to stand up to the good old boys of our "legal" system is a perfect example.

spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 9:01 a.m. (Suggest removal)

If all broadcast and print media are required by the FCC to present both sides of an issue, then why is Fox "News" still on the air?

discoboy (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 10:49 a.m. (Suggest removal)

History Time!
Before Reagan deregulated the FCC , broadcasters using the public airwaves were indeed required to present "both sides of the argument". However print media never fell under this rule because they don't use the public airwaves.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 10:52 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"Yes, and, convenient cliches aside, cars kill over 30,000 people a year also."

Interesting comparison, considering every driver is licensed and every vehicle registered in an effort to increase safety and responsibility. Are you suggesting we do the same with guns? Something makes me think you'd be opposed to that ...

FightWoo (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 3:14 p.m. (Suggest removal)

And MSNBC...
Chicago, in specific, had the most restrictive gun laws in the nation(at least since DC's were found unconstitutional) and yet under their current mayor the city is a shooting gallery. Some of those laws just got tossed.
And KV is correct, it was generally considered that print did not need regulation because there is the infinite ability to print up a paper and distribute it. Reagan's changes to a limited resource have led to the consolidation of media and into the mess we have today. Much like big government, whether left or right, big media generally just goes along with whatever perpetuates their own pocketbook and culture.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 4:13 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Big shooting spree in Chicago last weekend.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 8:39 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Let's look at what is really fueling the emotions behind this debate.

A guy shoots up a theater in Colorado and the fire starts, then the fire ignites full on when twenty-six are killed in the schoolyard shooting. Of course, the media kept harping on the twenty children that were killed. "The children...what about the children?" (As if the six adults killed were inconsequential) Politicians love to talk about "our children". All lives are equally sacred. Next..

The capability to shoot people has always been with us. Even though the people who focus on gun violence point to the prevelance of high-caliber weapons, anybody a few decades back could have got a couple of six shooters and killed a dozen people. Why weren't we hearing about this back then? A media cover up?...I have no reason to think so.

We live in a more violent, stressed out culture, and using the argument the gun control people are using we'd have to ban all guns because after all, the capability for mass killing has always been here, but now we can't be trusted with the 2nd Amendment.

Guns, like marijuana, offend people because of their cultural ties. Just as people freak out about (re-) legalizing pot because it conjures up images of irresponible brain-dead hippies corrupting the morals of "the children" a la some Cheech and Chong skit, guns offend people because the assumption is that those who dare to point out the fallacy of gun control are mono-dental cretans with I.Q.'s somewhere around the speed limit.

Anti-gun laws, gang injunctions, and drug laws are just band-aids that are the result of a society too busy with itself to sit down and think about *why* they feel these moves are needed.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 8:58 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Well, Woo, I have stated in these discussions many times my support for reasonable regulation, which includes training and licensing of all gun owners and making mental health and crime data available to the background check system. A national registry, no thanks. Read the history of Russia and Germany after legally-owned guns were confiscated from the public. For a more recent example, read about what happened in New Orleans after Katrina. It CAN happen here, and did.

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
July 12, 2013 at 8:51 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Since we now know that the NSA can effectively "hack" anything, how could there be licensing of all gun owners without a de facto national registry?

As for mental health issues, the fact is that despite media hype, the mentally ill are statistically no more likely to commit violent crime than the general population.

As many others have pointed out, the really important factor in mass shootings is the use of psychotropic drugs, not mental illness - depression has been around pretty much forever, but the epidemic of mass murder comenced with the age of Prozac, Zoloft etc.

The mere fact that someone is having trouble facing the deplorable condition of our economy and American society in general, is not a valid reason to strip them of their constitutional and natural right of self defense.

spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
July 12, 2013 at 9:29 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Thank you, spiritwalker.

Prevention of a national registry requires one to believe that one's government will not capture and save data entered during a background check. Supposedly, the law prohibits saving the data at present. So, two things to consider: 1) the gov changes the law, 2) the gov breaks the law. Both are easily imaginable. Either case would result in a national registry. Which is why some people are adamantly against universal background checks.

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
July 12, 2013 at 11:20 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"the epidemic of mass murder comenced with the age of Prozac, Zoloft etc"

Oh, brother. That's a whopper.

The only people opposed to universal background checks have a financial interest (the NRA) or are conspiracy mongering.

FightWoo (anonymous profile)
July 12, 2013 at 12:39 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Actually the age of mass murder DOES seem to coincide with the dereugaltion and mass marketing of pharmeceuticals. Remeber when they couldn't advertise on TV?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 12, 2013 at 12:59 p.m. (Suggest removal)

A whopper? Why don't you get a clue? Columbine, Sandyhook, the Batman shooting, the shooting of congresswoman Giffords - the list goes on and on, and in almost every case the perpetrator was on some sort of mind altering prescription medication.

Conspiracy? The only conspiracy is the conspiracy of silence by the main stream media to protect big pharma. And no, I'm not a member of the NRA - I'm just not willfully blind like some people.

spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
July 12, 2013 at 1 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I agree Bog Pharma is a huge corrupter of our country, our science infrastructure and medical industry. Study AIDS activists of the 80s and 90s and you will see how corrupt the pharmeceutical industry is, hasn't gotten better.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 12, 2013 at 1:09 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I used to read about about Dr. Peter Duesberg's skeptical view of HIV/aids theory and think, "that's just preposterous, if AZT is saving lives, of course HIV causes aids." But then I found out that Magic Johnson has apparently never taken any anti virals and seems to have maintained good health for 20 years - now I'm not so sure.

spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
July 12, 2013 at 1:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Johnson is taking antiretroviral medications, else he'd be dead. Ask him!

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 12, 2013 at 1:32 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Actually, although Magic publicly claims to be on the antiviral program, there's quite a bit of skepticism that he actually does - mainly because he doesn't seem to present any of the obvious side effects.

But, as I said, I'm not sure what to believe - having read that most "AIDS" patients seem to die from liver failure caused by extemely toxic drugs like AZT, as opposed to the cancers and opportune infections that killed people before antivirals.

One interesting fact to note is that AZT was originally a chemo therapy drug, and due to its extreme toxicity was never intended to be taken for a prolonged period of time. In any case, knowing other things I've learned about the pharmacutical industry, I would be very skeptical about taking ANY drug long term. YMMV.

spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
July 12, 2013 at 1:52 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Does anybody use AZT anymore? Maybe it's an element in what they call combo drug therapy, but you are right- the toxicity of some of the drugs- especially the older ones is or can be as harmful as HIV. Some patients have cut their dosages in half with the same positive results and less of the negative. Of course the companies will encourage over prescription. And one can't reasonably expect a doctor, especially one on generally medicine to know everythingf. Do your own homework as well. Be partners with your doctor, don't just surrender to drug companies no matter your ailment.

More coffee please.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 12, 2013 at 2 p.m. (Suggest removal)

KV, don't know if anyone's still taking AZT or not, but how can you watch Bono tell everyone that "40 cents a day is all it takes", then look at the prices in this country and think the pharmacuetical industry is anything but a huge swindle?

But the real problem I have with pharma is all the drugs that have been taken off the market after killing huge numbers of people. They were ALL approved by the FDA as safe and effective, and it just isn't so. Maybe you are better off just drinking your coffee.

spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
July 12, 2013 at 2:39 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Ken is correct. What he says is true.

I have taken antivirals and a few other anti-HIV meds for the past 20 years, but never AZT. NEVER. That particular drug was one of the worst drugs ever foisted on a helpless populace. I saw its victims. Learn AIDS history, which I know backwards, and in which I had a very small role.

Today in 2013 cynicism demands that AZT's use to treat HIV before 1996 could be considered as pure opportunism on the part of its Big Pharma maker, for it eventually killed the cancer patients it had been intended to treat, and this was known at the outset of the AIDS epidemic. A good example of "kill or cure." I never knew anyone whose survival had depended on AZT alone.

It had horrific, unimaginable side effects. But one could see in retrospect that, thanks to ACT UP and other kinds of worldwide activism from 1986-1996, AZT had been deemed "at hand" by The Powers That Be. It was a discredited cancer drug that seemed to have some effect on HIV. It came from a company now known as Glaxo/Smith/Kline.

It's easy to see that it was initially deemed "good enough" for the HIV/AIDS patients that were known about at the time, most of whom were socially despised, but as it became clear soon enough, it wasn't much good at all. It is still used, but in combination with less problematic meds.

Hence my permanent cynicism about the use of AZT, though I do not deny the good will of the scientists from many disciplines who became involved in the fight against this fiendishly complex disease, this horrendous viral infection and its endless complications.

AIDS also bequeathed to all of us the current standard approach to a "cure" for a wide range of maladies, which now consists of endless, daily medications throughout one's remaining life, and on a highly rigorous schedule. This is now the standard treatment model for almost everything, and it's obvious that is a very profitable one for Big Pharma and its minions, no matter what their degree of compassion is for those of us who suffer, sympathy that is increasingly hard-won politically. As always.

geodel23 (anonymous profile)
July 12, 2013 at 2:40 p.m. (Suggest removal)

How did I not say the pharmeceutical industry is corrupt? Lorenzo's Oil!

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 12, 2013 at 3:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Well, I'm certainly not going to argue with anyone who's actually had to live with HIV. All I have to go on is what I read on the web - I'm highly skeptical of pretty much everything, especially modern medicine, and when I read things like "it's impossible to detect the actual HIV virus in the human body" or "we don't know how HIV actually makes people sick", I really have to wonder WTF.

But no, I certainly would never advise anyone to stop taking any meds they think are benefficial. Do you mind if I ask if you ever felt ill before beginning antiviral treatment?

spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
July 12, 2013 at 3:40 p.m. (Suggest removal)

No, my friend, I never felt ill. That is certainly the most insidious aspect of HIV infection. You can be absolutely feeling fine for up to two decades.

You will NEVER know if you are infected before you come down with something enabled and encouraged by HIV infection. You must take the now-ubiquitous HIV blood test. It is a long, long disease, and clearly most of us want a quick cure; there is none (yet), unlike even many cancers today (which I've also suffered, and which HIV does encourage).

There has been almost an unconscionable amount of misinformation out there about HIV since its discovery in the early 1980s, and even more about its hapless victims, which, sorry, political correctness has insisted we not call "victims."

I think this is because victimology as such implies that in some way, and especially in this case, you are a "victim" of your own "bad" behavior, and in this way people collide and collude with good old American Puritanism; that is, fear of life's increasingly fewer pleasures, especially as we inevitably age.

Ignorance of the law--however "scientific" that law--is no excuse for some, I suppose. That's why one scientist claims that the great thing about science is that it's true whether or not you "believe" it. Yet scientific "laws" do indeed "change" over time, always building on past discoveries.

I have never understood how anyone could condemn another soul for indulging in any pleasurable behavior that leads to hidden and completely unknown, unfathomable risks. But condemnation happens all the time; this is what it means to be self-righteous.

So those of us who really "didn't know about HIV" in the 80s (ignorance that in all honesty I cannot completely lay claim to) do feel like traditional victims, but it was more properly a "leap of faith" to risk HIV infection during the mid-80s, if one had any inkling of the medical science.

I think we didn't count on the extraordinary stigma that surrounds HIV to this day. I am almost 68 years old, so I was 36 when HIV surfaced and I started to find out what little there was to find out, and I was almost 45 before there was any degree of certainty about exactly which behaviors can lead to HIV infection.

Thanks for asking. I almost never speak out about this anymore.

But as an old hand at journalism myself, I say do not believe everything you read! Some of the time, maybe even most of the time, but certainly not ALL of the time, as Lincoln indicated.

geodel23 (anonymous profile)
July 12, 2013 at 4:44 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Well, I definitely know what it is to live with one kind of stigma or another - but for reasons I'm not going to go into here, I've been forced to rethink virtually everything I ever believed in. Over the past ten years, due to both personal experience and things I've learned on the web, I am now proud to say that I am a medical luddite - if I don't actually feel some sort of symptoms of disease, there is no way on God's green Earth that I would let a doctor talk me into taking something like statins or an NSAID long term.

This is not meant as criticism to you in any way - I don't wanna hijack this thread any more than I already have - maybe if someone posts a medical related article we could talk about then.

spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
July 12, 2013 at 5:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Statins are now well-known to be dangerous, especially in certain cases. (There was an issue about this with my dad and sister)

billclausen (anonymous profile)
July 13, 2013 at 5:41 p.m. (Suggest removal)

As I recall, the issue is that someone with live disease cannot be taking statins. And as Geodel points out, someone can carry a disease (such as Hep-C) for many years and not know it.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
July 13, 2013 at 5:43 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Live disease? I don't know what you mean by that - I have no live desease (HIV, Hep, Herpes, nothing), point was that absent unbearable pain or a one time treatment to avoid eminent death, I'm NOT taking ANYTHING - especially long term - it's just not worth it!

(BTW, statins will be the next class of drugs taken off the market - the notion that cholesterol "causes" heart disease, is, and has been known to be disproven for some time now. If your doctor has you on them, you're getting hosed!)

spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
July 13, 2013 at 6:08 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Liver, not live. My mistake.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
July 13, 2013 at 10:29 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Clausen needs to be more careful. Looks like he got hosed by his own petard.

dolphinpod14 (anonymous profile)
July 13, 2013 at 10:33 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The guns of Naverone.

dolphinpod14 (anonymous profile)
July 14, 2013 at 1:57 a.m. (Suggest removal)

You might recall that in January, standing with little children, the president announced that he had issued 23 executive orders pertaining to gun control. Among those was one directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.

Has anyone noticed that study was done and it destroyed much of the administration's position on guns. It made many points that are of interest.

One, that the majority of deaths that take place annually by the use of a firearm are not related to crime, but to suicide.

Another point made that “defensive uses of guns by crime victims is a common occurrence, although the exact number remains disputed.” “Almost all national survey estimates indicate that defensive gun uses by victims are at least as common as offensive uses by criminals, with estimates of annual uses ranging from about 500,000 to more than 3 million per year.”

There is a lot more. It would be worthwhile for the Independent to do a follow-up article on the entire report.

art (anonymous profile)
July 15, 2013 at 9:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

70,000 injured, 30,000 dead, $100 billion cost to the taxpayer and people still argue against standardized registration, insurance and proof of proficiency. are you insane? if you pay your car registration, have a drivers license and insurance but advocate for a deregulated firearms industry you're a hypocrite.

StockiestCastle (anonymous profile)
August 7, 2013 at 12:07 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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