An anti-violence vigil. (Photo by: Scott Olson/Getty Images)
An anti-violence vigil. (Photo by: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

California ranks ninth in the country for homicides of African-Americans. That’s according to a study released today by the Violence Policy Center which shows the state’s black homicide rate is four times higher than the national average. Most of the victims were shot to death.

“California, though it has comprehensive gun control laws, is at the mercy of other states that have more lax laws and guns are trafficked in to the state,” said Josh Sugarman, the study’s co-author and executive director of the Violence Policy Center. “Also, California has a gang problem and that issue does turn up in the data that we’ve looked at.”

Sugarman says 60 percent of the state’s homicides of black victims that were not committed in the act of another felony crime were between gang members.

“Now to be fair, that may be due in large part to the state’s reporting,” said Sugarman. “California is much more comprehensive in reporting gang involvements.”

The study relies on recently released figures from the Federal Bureau of Investigations for two thousand nine. That year, California had 548 black homicide victims at a rate of 22.3 per 100,000.

The report did not break down data by region.

Additional California Statistics:


Fifty-four homicide victims (10 percent) were less than 18 years old and 11 victims (2 percent) were 65 years of age or older.  The average age was 30 years old.


Out of 548 homicide victims, 486 were male and 62 were female.

Most Common Weapons

For homicides in which the weapon used could be identified, 84 percent of victims (450 out of 537) were…killed with guns.  Of these, 80 percent (361 victims) were killed with handguns.  There were 67 victims killed with firearms, type not stated.  There were 43 victims killed with knives or other cutting instruments, 22 victims killed by bodily force, and 17 victims killed by a blunt object.

Victim/Offender Relationship

For homicides in which the victim to offender relationship could be identified, 53 percent of victims (139 out of 260) were murdered by someone they knew.  One hundred twenty-one victims were killed by strangers.


For homicides in which the circumstances could be identified, 74 percent (291 out of 391) were not related to the commission of any other felony.  Of these, 31 percent (90 homicides) involved arguments between the victim and the offender.

Homicide Rate Among Calif. African-Americans Significantly Higher Than National Average 30 January,2012Mina Kim

  • Anonymous

    “Sugarman says 60 percent of the state’s non-felony related homicides involving black victims were reported as gang related.” So then, 60% of gang-related murders don’t qualify as felonies?  Smoking a cigar in a distant corner of a public park is practically a felony in California

    “For homicides in which the weapon used could be identified, 84 percent of victims (450 out of 537) were shot and killed with guns.” And the remaining 16% were shot and killed with WHAT??  Bows?  Cannons? Slingshots?

  • Anonymous

    So, even though our gun laws are some of the most stringent in the Nation our homicide rate is four  times the national average.

    Isn’t this a perfect example of stringent gun laws not working?

    Or is this an example of Anti-Gun Fundamentalism producing results that are ineffective and just plain stupid?

  • Jim Gallagher

    Once again, we have a “study” from the far left leaning, anti gun Violence Policy Center that makes no sense.  According to the study, black, gang related shootings are high in California.  Did we really need a “study” to tell us that?  According to the study, even California’s draconian, restrictive gun laws do not mitigate this black on black crime.  So what is the real purpose of these draconian laws that were promoted as reducing this very violence?  According to the study, it’s not California’s restrictive gun laws that are at fault but neighboring states with “lax” gun laws that are to blame.  If that were so, why is the black on black crime lower in those states?
    The Violence Policy Center has been presenting “studies” for years that don’t have a passing relationship with actual academic studies and the rigorous standards expected of such efforts.  VPC promotes the total ban on all firearms, every misguided effort they make is aimed (sorry
    for the pun) at disarming the American public. This “study” is yet another example of the lame attempt to mislead everyone into thinking “just one more anti gun law will do the trick”.  VPC and the Brady Bunch are not only blind to the actual facts, they are blind to the “handwriting on the wall” that says the American public has had enough of their pontificating and have relegated them to the same status as the Flat Earth Society.

    • Maybe the blacks in neighboring states didn’t go to California schools and got a better education.  This is why the black on black crime in neighboring states is lower. 

    • Anonymous

      Agree. They lost me at “Violence Policy Center.”

  • What a load of garbage. I am not going to reiterate the points made below me, but take a good look at VPC. A bigger group of deluded and frustrated gun grabbers cant be found. If the VPC said the sky was blue, I would stick my head out the window to double check….
    If anything can explain the higher rate of black homicide victims, I would look to the continual fostering of modern day slavery, or a culture of dependance on the poor in this country. A racist policy if I’ve ever seen one. A culture that breeds irresponsabilty, lack of accountabilty, lack of pride in things that are just handed to you, and an overall resentment of the hand that feeds you will always result in discontent and violence.Or we could blame inanimate objects


Mina Kim

Mina Kim is KQED News’ evening anchor and the Friday host of Forum. She reports on a wide range of issues affecting the Bay Area and interviews newsmakers, local leaders and innovators.

Mina started her career in public radio at KQED as an intern with Pacific Time. When the station began expanding its local news coverage in 2010, she became a general assignment reporter, then health reporter for The California Report. Mina’s award-winning stories have included on-the-scene reporting of the 2014 Napa earthquake and a series on gun violence in Oakland.

Her work has been recognized by the Radio Television Digital News Association, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Asian American Journalists Association.

Mina grew up in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Oak Park, CA. She lives in Napa.

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