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By Laura Friedman, Special to CALmatters

On a Monday in February 2015, 13 year-old Rashawn Harris, known to his family as Ray Ray, told his father, Willis Harris, that he was on his way to school and that he loved him.

He stepped out of the front door of his parents’ South Stockton home. There, as he waited in his own driveway for his ride to school, Ray Ray was gunned down.

His father rushed out to find his son laying on the ground. Willis held his son in his arms as neighbors gathered along the street. It would be their last moment together as Rashawn Harris lost his life due to the .40 caliber bullets of a semiautomatic pistol.

In the ensuing investigation, it was found that the murder weapon belonged to former Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva.

The firearm was one of several guns stolen from Silva’s home after he had left them unsecured while he was away. The weapon that took Rashawn’s life was recovered by authorities later that summer; the other firearms are still somewhere on our streets.

This is just one tragic example of the result of stolen guns among thousands.

Between 2010 and 2017, 4,800 stolen firearms were recovered from crime scenes in California. In that same time period, more than 71,000 firearms were reported lost or stolen in our state. Not only are lost or stolen firearms a factor in homicides, assaults, and burglaries, they’re increasingly being used in suicides, particularly youth suicides.

We clearly have a problem. Between 2010 and 2017, stolen firearms were used in at least 60 homicides in California, and 203 youths ended their lives because of unauthorized access to a firearm. If one is too many, what is 263?

By design, firearms are uniquely lethal. And while California already has in place some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, the numbers do not lie. The tragic murder of Rashawn makes clear that we have more to do.

In partnership with the Giffords Law Center and the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence, I have introduced legislation, Assembly Bill 276, which promotes safe gun storage so that we can finally reduce, if not eliminate unauthorized access to guns by children, those who can cause harm to themselves and others, and also reduce the number of lost or stolen guns that end up on our streets.

AB 276 will hold gun owners accountable by requiring all firearms to be securely stored with Department of Justice-approved firearm safety devices, when they leave their residence. Failure to do so would result in an infraction with a heavy fine and would allow locals to expand upon the existing requirements and penalties.

The truth is, Rashawn’s death, just like the thousands of others, was preventable. Deterring unauthorized access or theft of firearms is a common-sense solution to this insensible, complex, and horrific problem. AB 276 is the next step we must to take to stop this plague of violence, and I hope the public and my colleagues support it.

I can think of 263 reasons why they should.


Assemblywoman Laura Friedman is a Democrat who resides in Glendale and represents the 43rd Assembly District, [email protected]Assembly.ca.gov. She wrote this commentary for CALmatters.