February 28, 2008
Editor, The Republican,
As the watchdog organization for protecting the civil rights of gun owners, Gun Owners’ Action League could not let your recent article on Massachusetts gun law ratings go without some remarks. We note there are some inaccuracies contained within the rating system used by the Brady center.
For example, it is incorrect that “the state has no requirements that a gun owner register specific firearms”. Massachusetts has required the registration of all transfers of handguns since the 1930’s, and registration of all transfers of rifles and shotguns since 1969.
Also, it is false to state that it is “generally illegal to possess a firearm without a license.” There is no “generally” about it, it is an unlawful act. We have no idea where the reference to a 14 day waiting period comes from as Massachusetts law does not require a buyer to wait 14 days in addition to the six weeks to three months required to wait for the license.
Your article also implied there was a problem with the firearms license six-year term as “this much time allows buyers to fall into prohibited categories and yet still be able to purchase firearms.” Massachusetts has stringent safeguards in place which would immediately bring to the attention of local police departments any resident’s appearance in court.
Perhaps the most glaring misrepresentation of the article is to infer that the Massachusetts’ gun laws have been a success. Quite the opposite is the case. Chapter 180 of the Acts of 1998, known as the Gun Control Act, has been a complete disaster. What was heralded as an Act that would create a safer Commonwealth has proven to be one of the worst public safety initiatives passed into law.
In 1994 the Massachusetts Department of Public Health launched a new system to track gun related injuries. The Department used two reporting systems known as the Weapon Related Injury Surveillance System and the Injury Surveillance Program. According to these reporting systems, gun related homicides from 1994 to 1997 decreased by 50%. At the same time gun related assault injuries decreased by 57%.
During this time period Massachusetts had a total of 1.5 million licensed gun owners on record. Since the Gun Control Act of 1998, it has become so difficult and expensive to be a licensed gun owner in the Commonwealth that the number has fallen to approximately 240,000. While certain enemies of the Second Amendment would cheer that decline, they would be ignoring the catastrophic results.
The same reports that showed a decline in gun related injuries prior to 1998 are now providing us with the terrible truth about our State’s gun laws. The 1998 Gun Control Act has resulted in the greatest increase in crime in perhaps a century. The following facts provided by the Department of Public Health represent the results of a government that attempted to control crime by persecuting lawful citizens.
· The WRISS (Weapon Related Injury Surveillance System) Report released by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health in March of 2007 shows a 78% INCREASE in firearm related assaults since 1998.
· Injury Surveillance Program reports from 1998 to 2005 (the most recent report available) show a 70% INCREASE in homicide related firearm deaths since 1998.
· Injury Surveillance Program reports from 1998 to 2005 (the most recent report available) show a 236% INCREASE in assault related firearm hospital discharges since 1998.
· Injury Surveillance Program reports from 1999 to 2005 (the most recent report available) show a 232% INCREASE in assault related emergency room visits since 1999.
· Injury Surveillance Program reports from 2001 to 2005 (the most recent report available) show a 670% INCREASE in assault outpatient observations since 2001.
No rational person can read these numbers and come to any other conclusion than that the debate over gun control is over. Some might even try to argue that these increased numbers are the fault of our neighboring states that don’t have so-called tough gun laws. However, if that argument has any validity, then anyone making that argument must explain the sharp drop in crime from 1994 to 1997. The only change happened here in Massachusetts and Massachusetts must bear the blame.
Must we find a way to keep firearms out of the hands of violent people? Yes, most definitely. Unfortunately, it is abundantly clear that the laws in place here in the Commonwealth have taken us in the wrong direction!
James L. Wallace
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