COALITION IN THE NEWS
We have a law that could reduce gun violence — if only more knew about it
Massachusetts is among 17 states, plus the District of Columbia, with a “red flag” law letting relatives or members of a household — not just law enforcement — petition a court for an “extreme risk protection order” to temporarily seize the guns of a person believed to be a danger to themselves or others. New York joined the list last August, more than a year after Massachusetts, and already has emerged as a leader, becoming the first to let school personnel apply for such an order. Governor Andrew Cuomo also announced a statewide education campaign, including a call center to field questions from family members, police, and educators. By November, he’d already hosted two conferences, with a third scheduled for early 2020. It’s past time for Massachusetts to follow the lead and launch its own large-scale public awareness campaign.
During the Massachusetts red flag law’s first year, 20 petitions for an extreme risk protection order, or ERPO, were filed, with 14 approved, the Globe reported. That’s at least 14 lives potentially saved. Even if it were one life, I would still consider it a resounding success. But as a journalist who’s reported extensively on domestic violence, I can’t help but wonder whether some of the heart-breaking tragedies that have occurred here in the past 18 months could have been prevented if more people knew about extreme risk protection orders.
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What can Nevada learn from Massachusetts about gun control?
“I do feel like that was the tipping point when people saw these young children being killed. Folks started to understand that there were ways that we could prevent this from happening. Folks got on board with trying to prevent it from happening, so I feel like that was a real moment in time. Another moment in time was certainly Parkland, which helps with some other more recent legislation. Because the folks at that point, were really energized to do something around these issues. Unfortunately, change often comes about because of tragedy, and I really wish it didn’t take these tragic events in order for change to happen.”
The heart of the Massachusetts gun laws is a close connection to people on the ground, local police making direct contact with gun owners, sometimes eye-to-eye. Zakarin is looking for the federal government to enact a gun control law that sets a high standard for gun ownership but also empowers and supports local authorities to manage the licensing of gun owners in a way the faraway federal government cannot.
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Mass. must move on gun violence
Sure, Massachusetts has among the toughest gun laws in the nation, but it’s not an island. And so while Washington remains paralyzed around any issues related to guns, it’s critical that states — including Massachusetts — do what they can to deal with issues of trafficking, reporting, and tracing the guns that continue to wreak havoc on the streets of our cities.
“One homicide is too many, one shooting’s too many,” Boston Police Commissioner William G. Gross told the Legislature’s Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security.
Gross, who said his department has collected more than 4,000 guns in the past year, more than 2,800 of them considered “crime guns,” is looking for support for a bill that would impose fees, fines, and provide for possible impoundment of vehicles found to be transporting illegal firearms. He’s also looking for increased information-sharing among police departments.
As national frustration builds on guns, dozens of proposals target already strict laws in Massachusetts. It was just another day in the life of a city that needs all the help it can get to keep guns off its streets. Lawmakers have no fewer than 68 proposals before them related to guns this session — yes, even in a state that has recently passed a “red flag” law and outlawed bump stocks. But there are several good ideas out there aimed at closing some remaining loopholes in Massachusetts law and helping control the flow of illegal firearms into the state.
The time is right for an omnibus bill that would give police and prosecutors the tools they need to do that. It is beyond shocking that someone could spray a neighborhood with gunfire, putting dozens in danger, and if he has the good fortune to not actually hit anyone, only be charged with a misdemeanor. Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan and Cambridge Police officials are supporting a bill to make it a felony to “intentionally or recklessly” discharge a firearm that “causes a substantial risk of serious bodily injury.”
Other efforts are aimed at limiting the bulk purchase of guns that too often are then resold and find their way into the illegal market. A bill sponsored by state Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz of Boston and state Representative David Linsky of Natick would limit such bulk purchases to 15 guns a year and require the reporting to police of all lost or stolen guns.
Their bill would also require that all guns made, sold, or transferred in Massachusetts be equipped with microstamp technology that makes ammunition fired from the weapon easier to trace back to that specific gun. California and the District of Columbia already have similar laws in place.
And on the theory that you can’t effectively fight crime without good data, another bill would require the data the state has been collecting since 2014 on the source of guns used in crimes actually be analyzed by a university or other nonprofit every two years. That could help pinpoint problematic dealers or other sources of illegal weapons.
It’s easy for a state like Massachusetts to grow complacent on the issue of gun policy. But when the police commissioner of its capital city and the district attorney of its largest county are begging for more tools to fight gun violence, then it’s time for lawmakers to take a look at what remains to be done. It’s time to up our game here — especially because Washington can’t.
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Since its formation in January 2013, the Coalition has worked to address gun violence in its many forms, whether suicide, homicide or accident. To address crime guns and straw trafficking, we need a better understanding of how these guns are reaching our streets- so we can stop the supply chain.
In the 2014 gun bill, the Coalition worked hard to secure a provision that for the first time required that every gun recovered in crime be traced, and that trace data be aggregated in a newly created MA database.We now have five years of this critical data, and we need to know what it says.
So, our priority bill this session is H. 2045|S. 1388 “Crime Gun Trace Data Reporting and Analysis.” If passed, this law will require a detailed analysis of MA crime gun trace data to better understand the origins of crime guns— so we can stop them!