A manager at Big 5 Sporting Goods in El Cerrito points out a long gun from a display on September 9, 2019. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

(CALMATTERS) – Californians legally bought a record 686,435 handguns in 2020 — a nearly 66% increase from the year before — while annual long-gun sales reached their second-highest total with 480,401 legal purchases, according to data Attorney General Rob Bonta released Thursday. Though Bonta noted that a surge in gun sales doesn’t necessarily correspond to a rise in gun-related violence, the slew of reports he published Thursday show that homicides skyrocketed 31% from 2019 to 2020, resulting in California’s highest homicide rate since 2008. Nearly 75% of the 2,202 reported homicides last year involved the use of a gun. Meanwhile, domestic violence-related calls for assistance involving guns shot up 42% and violent crime increased 0.8%. And despite a new law intended to limit police use of forcethe number of civilians killed by law enforcement rose to 172 in 2020, up from 147 the year before.

 “With more weapons, more economic stagnation, more desperation, I think those are all potential components and drivers of where we are today.”

Rob Bonta, California Attorney General

Rising rates of homicide and violent crime will likely feed into ongoing concerns about public safety and could play a big role in next year’s attorney general election. Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, who has a more traditional law-and-order approach, announced Thursday that she’s raised more than $1 million since announcing her AG bid two months ago. Campaign finance records show Bonta, who’s positioned himself as more of a progressive prosecutor, has raised $1.15 million for his reelection campaign.