Gun legislation draws large crowd to Massachusetts State House.
Chapter 284, passed in 2014 included a provision for the State Police to broadcast PSA’s about safe firearm storage and how to get training, and that five years later this has not happened. “Until the state shows some interest in what they espouse, stop putting the burden on us (licensed gun owners), and look at the crime problem in the inner cities.”
– Jim Wallace, Executive Director Gun Owners’ Action League
The meeting is being held in Room A2, it is very full. Interestingly enough, the attendees have self-segregated, a sea of red and orange “gun violence” tee shirts on one side and a variety of pro 2A shirts on the other. GOAL was out front early on, handing out Self Defense is a Human Right stickers and orange GOAL hats. A good amount of people in attendance is wearing those as well.
Public Safety Committee Chair, Senator Mike Moore gave the opening remarks, asking for decorum, laying down the rules of the day. Representative Hank Naughton followed, discussing how MA has lowest “gun violence” rate in country, and brought up recent mass murders. He noted that he was on a recent mission with the US Army and that several soldiers commented to him that they feel safer deployed, than they do at home.
Rep. Linsky was called to testify first. Noting falsely that MA is the safest state of all states regarding gun violence. He went on to discuss recent murders in MA and bills that he supports to collect data and research causes and solutions for gun violence. He also discussed H.2091 requiring live fire, then went over time to discuss his support of the bill which would require LTC applicants to take hours of live fire training.
Senator Tran followed with questions for Rep. Linsky. Senator Tran asked about H.2091 and if he would be open to lowering cost of license application to offset additional costs of live fire. He also mentioned that this would adversely affect low-income people. He followed with questions about mandatory insurance for LTC holders, asking how this burden could be placed on people who illegally own firearms. Senator Tran followed with hard questions about a few other bills, including the microstamp bill, asking how the bill would deter urban gun violence.
Senator Chang-Diaz followed next, surrendering her time to Senator Stone-Creem and Representative Decker. They testified for the crime gun data analysis bills, saying that “we owe it to the children” to not be complacent. Senator Creem testified that the bill would help law enforcement better track “crime guns”.
After hearing from only two speakers, Senator Moore is already letting legislators break the rules regarding how long they can testify. Senator Creem and Rep. Decker were told they would have only three minutes. They said no, and were allowed to go over, reducing the amount of time people who showed up can speak.
Senator Chang-Diaz follows, testifying in favor of “ghost gun”, mandatory insurance and others new restriction schemes. She focused on the gun trafficking bill, which she filed with Rep. Linsky. Senator Chang-Diaz recognized that school shootings are a small part of gun violence that happens, stating that “shootings of white middle class kids shatters the illusion of what is normal.” She asked for the same sense of “horror and urgency” when urban children of color are shot and killed. She noted that none of the bills passed since 2014 will curb urban gun violence. She finished by asking that the legislature take steps to address the illegal gun market.
Finally a pair of citizens was called to speak, one is a Corrections Officer. They testified in favor of H.2049.
Rep. Lenny Mirra spoke next. He testified that we need to focus on the “who instead of the what”. Noting that all of the prohibition bills will not lower crime. Rep. Mirra advocated for programs like UTEP, which will work towards real solutions instead of infringing upon 2A rights.
Rep. Chyna Tyler spoke next. She noted that there is an “opportunity to impact the sale of illegal firearms”. She spoke in favor of the gun trafficking bill supported by Senator Diaz. She also noted that gun violence was a “blatant cry for help” born from desperation caused by generational poverty. She noted that illegal gun trafficking has “gone completely out of control”. She also noted that the large percentage of urban/Boston gun arrests was due to poor relationships between community members and law enforcement.
Senator Tran asked Rep. Tyler about why she supports a bill that makes it expensive for low-income people to legally own firearms. Rep. Tyler redirected her answer clearly not wanting to answer, instead discussing gun violence victims. Senator Tran followed stating that financial burdens placed on low-income families will make it impossible for them to legally own firearms. Once again, Rep. Tyler did not want to answer, stating she did not understand the question. A member of the board asked if Rep. Tyler had any stats regarding how many crimes licensed gun owners commit. He wondered how a bill that makes it difficult to legally own a firearm would have an effect on illegal firearm possession.
Boston PD Commissioner Gross testified next. He spoke in favor of the crime gun – data bill and the trafficking bill H.2077. He noted that Boston has had 147 shooting victims this year, 24 fatal. He testified that the bills he was testifying in favor of would deter these crimes.
GOAL Exec. Director Jim Wallace spoke next. He stated that the myth of the effectiveness of our gun laws being effective is not true. He also noted that we’re not even close to having the lowest gun death rate in the country, and that MA is by far the most dangerous state in the Northeast. He noted that the laws only place burdens on licensed gun owners, while having no effect on urban crime. He noted that live fire training is seeking a problem that doesn’t exist, that we have no firearm accident rates. He also spoke about H.2055 An Act Regarding the Lawful Return of Property. This would enable licensed gun owners to recover any firearm, which goes to a storage facility.
Rep. Tyler asked Jim about the statistics used for the report. Jim noted that they came from MA and the FBI.
Rep. Kearney asked Jim about mandatory live fire and why GOAL does not support it. Jim answered that it’s also a solution in support of a problem that doesn’t exist and that there is no data to support a need for it. Finally, he called out the legislature by noting that Massachusetts is not truly interested in firearms safety. Jim remarked that Chapter 284, passed in 2014 included a provision for the State Police to broadcast PSA’s about safe firearm storage and how to get training, and that five years later this has not happened. “Until the state shows some interest in what they espouse, stop putting the burden on us (licensed gun owners), and look at the crime problem in the inner cities.”
Upon completion Jim was greeted by very loud and long lasting applause.
Rep. Decker testified again with Cambridge Police Commissioner Branville G. Bard, Jr. in support of H.3843 – 3D printing bill. Noting that a man in Cambridge was caught assembling many guns and was charged with illegal possession. The Commissioner followed speaking in favor of the same bill, calling the actions of the individual arrested “alarming”. He also spoke in favor of H.2046 (increased penalties for drive by shootings), calling it common sense, as it would make it easier for DA’s and prosecutors to make a case.
A panel from Stop Handgun Violence followed. She urged the committee to pass Rep. Linsky’s H.2092 Universal Background Check bill. She also spoke in favor of the crime data bills, stating that crime gun data has not been utilized since 2014. (When the legislator voted to collect data that has not been used.)
The MA Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence spoke next and started by complaining about the time limits. They testified in favor of the same data bills. She tried to use an analogy of data helping drivers get through traffic having the same effect on saving lives. Janet Goldenberg followed, speaking in favor of data analysis.
An interfaith alliance group spoke next. They testified in favor of magazine capacity restrictions, the data bill, smart gun tech and others. Rep. Tyler asked them to share how their solutions would help communities of color. They answered that they want to make sure that guns were less available and that programs need to be put in place to intervene.
A panel of GOAL member gun owners followed, all wearing bright yellow tee shirts stating, “we will not comply”. They stated that everyone worries about safety and that laws trying to control law-abiding behavior are not right. They also reminded the panel that the primary job of legislators is to protect our rights. They also noted that you couldn’t legislate evil away and that the war on drugs has been a failure since the 1960’s. A member of the panel named Ken reminded the panel that the committee members took an oath to protect our rights and that the 2A shouldn’t be treated like a second-class right. He also stated that our laws are so convoluted that they are impossible to follow. A third member of the group named Dan spoke next, reading a letter from a female named Kelly who had been a victim of gun violence. He spoke out against a number of bills, calling them infringement on our 2A rights.
Rep. Tim Whalen spoke next in favor of the CMP – 1911 bill. He also testified in favor of H.2152 Emergency Response bill, noting that he fully supports the bill as a former law enforcement officer.
A panel from the MA Women Gun Owners spoke next, noting that licensed gun owners are not a threat to public safety and that more people should become law abiding gun owners. One member named Nancy noted that she carries because she is a real estate agent, partly as a deterrent against rape. She noted that the current laws are not working and that restriction should be placed upon people who carry illegally. Senator Diaz asked the members of the panel how many guns they personally own.
They went into a dialog about training and being licensed. Senator Diaz followed with a question about capping gun purchases for licensed gun owners. They answered that many people like to collect different things and that a law restricting what gun owners do will not deter violent crime. GOAL Director at Large LaKasha Robbins, who was a member of the panel gave a great answer to Senator Diaz’s gun quantity question to finish, noting that she owns more than a few guns because she is an NRA instructor who teaches gun safety to women. She noted that owning these is necessary in order to teach the class.
A member of Mom’s Demand named Carol spoke next, in favor of H.3843 the “ghost gun” bill. She went on to discuss how so called “ghost guns” will allow prohibited persons from acquiring guns illegally, then followed it by noting that 20% of firearms seized over the last decade had no serial number. She advocated for the law, which would require people to put serial numbers on any manufactured guns, in order that they may be traced.
Many speakers followed throughout the hearing, many of those in favor of more laws focused on magazine capacity, gun data, trafficking, and “ghost gun” bills.
Those who spoke against more laws discussed how our laws are not working and that further restriction is fully unnecessary.
Time will tell how the committee will vote. GOAL will continue to follow each piece of legislation discussed today and will alert our members upon any further movement.