Gun survey continued


Please offer your general thoughts on gun issues using the comment form below. This post offers a report on the previous form-based survey and invites all to submit their comments about the survey results and gun issues generally. I will be sharing Senate gun proposals for feedback when they become available. Please note: If you’ve never commented previously on this site (based on the email you provide), your comment is held for moderation automatically. I try to release comments regularly. Apologies for any delay.

Formal survey results

Survey duration

The survey was released at approximately 8AM on January 11 and closed at approximately noon on January 12.

Survey participation

Received survey notice Over 6000? 5000 on my mailing list plus a couple of community group lists in Brighton, plus a post on my Facebook page; the notice was also redistributed by multiple organizations.
Read survey noticeOver 4000? Approximately 3,300 opened my emailing and additional persons received and likely reviewed distribution.
Visited survey page3418 page visits on the first day (second day not tabulated through survey closure, but likely under 20% of first day based on response volume).
Submitted survey1717 survey submissions, of which 84% were submitted on the first day.
Non-responsive submissions47 people submitted their form after providing only their zip code and one submitted after answering only two questions; these submissions were excluded.
Surveys tabulated1669 (including 14 people who answered under 10 but more than 7 of 26 questions). Among these 1557 answered 20 or more questions and 1280 answered all 26.
DuplicatesThere were 49 submissions that duplicated other submissions based on browser type and IP address, but we did not eliminate these — there were no IP/browsers that accounted for more than 4 submissions and we allowed the possibility that these might be multiple household members.

Feelings of safety

ZipSubmitted surveys from zip codeAfraid in home neighborhoodAfraid in community places

Favor Stronger Gun Laws

ZipSubmitted surveys from zip codeI feel that gun laws in Massachusetts need to be much stronger.I favor stiffer criminal penalties for unlawful possession of guns.

Percentage of statements correctly identified as true or false cross-tabbed by views on gun laws (including only in-district zip codes)

Correct T/F AnswerAll views on Massachusetts gun laws)Gun laws in Massachusetts need to be much strongerGun laws in Massachusetts are too stringentGun laws in Massachusetts are neither too weak nor too stringent
“Ghost guns” are made with carbon reinforced plastic and cannot be detected by most metal detectors.False25%17%55%28%
A semi-automatic firearm fires a stream of bullets like a machine gun.False43%32%83%51%
An “assault rifle” is defined as any rifle that (a) can fire a stream of bullets and (b) is equipped with  a pistol grip.False31%21%68%36%
Nationwide, rifles (as distinct from hand guns) account for fewer homicides than hands, fists, and feet.True41%36%72%39%
Gun suicides are more common than gun homicides in Massachusetts.True72%69%74%79%
Most gun homicides in Massachusetts occur on the streets of a few urban neighborhoods.True36%30%65%37%
Guns account for the majority of homicides of females by intimate partners in Massachusetts.False24%17%56%25%
Massachusetts has the lowest overall gun death rate in the country.True48%47%47%52%
If a person has a Massachusetts license to carry firearms, they can carry a firearm concealed.True34%28%61%33%
No license is required to carry a firearm in Massachusetts provided the firearm is properly holstered and not concealed.False96%95%95%98%
People who have licenses to carry must report any change of address to the state.True85%84%90%87%
Massachusetts gun owners are required by law to store their guns locked either in a secure container or with a tamper-resistant trigger lock.True82%79%90%85%
Transfers of firearms in Massachusetts must be reported to the state.True83%82%87%86%
In Massachusetts, the gift of a gun between family members need not be reported.False59%55%74%61%
A family member can petition a court to have an unstable person’s guns taken away in Massachusetts.True84%82%88%86%
Assault rifles are banned in Massachusetts.True**57%56%58%62%
A person who has a license to carry can purchase a firearm without an additional background check in Massachusetts.False48%43%69%51%
A person who does not have a license to carry can purchase a firearm without a background check if they provide proof of Massachusetts residency and complete a form certifying that the firearm is only for use for self-defense within their home.False75%72%88%80%
By law, people with a record of involuntary commitments to mental institutions are, in general, disqualified from receiving a licensed to carry firearms in Massachusetts.True66%62%79%69%
Gun fact questions33%24%69%38%
Statistical fact questions44%40%63%46%
Law questions70%67%80%73%
All law/fact questions57%53%74%60%
* Includes 29 respondents who responded inconsistently that gun laws were both too weak and too stringent (not included in other columns).
** Some respondents may have deemed this false due to the grandfathering of pre-1994 assault weapons.

Recapitulation of fact/law answers

As to basic gun concepts:

  • Semi-automatic firearms are not like machine guns.  They only release one bullet per trigger pull.  “Semi-automatic” refers to the mechanism by which the guns load a cartridge for the next trigger pull. Although the semi-automatic mechanism is different than a revolver, they are functionally equivalent: one shot per trigger pull.
  • “Assault rifles” are also not necessarily machine guns.  Assault weapons include some machine guns, but also many semi-automatic weapons.  The core definition of an “assault weapon” under Massachusetts law incorporates the definition of “semiautomatic assault weapon” under federal law as of 1994 (see pdf page 203). Certain weapons are enumerated by name; additionally, a semiautomatic rifle or pistol is deemed an “assault weapon” if equipped with add-on features that arguably could make it more useful for combat purposes.   Modern sporting rifles are often mistaken for assault rifles due to their similar design. See also this discussion of copies of assault weapons. Texts of Massachusetts definitions appear in this comment.
  • “Ghost guns” are guns assembled from parts available to unlicensed persons and not properly registered.  Only portions of them can be made from plastic.  So far, they all use metal firing chambers and are detectable by metal detectors.

As to gun violence statistics:

  • Rifles are relatively rare as an instrument of homicide — behind knives, blunt instruments, and hands/fist/feet. Handguns, however, are the most common instrument of homicide by far. For national statistics on weapons used in murder, see this FBI report.
  • 55% of gun deaths in Massachusetts are suicides.   
  • For more on urban gun deaths, see this discussion.  In 2014-2015, Boston, Springfield, and Worcester alone accounted for half of the homicides in the state and the homicide death rate among black males aged 15 to 35 was 24x greater than the rate for the population as a whole.
  • Guns account for 38% of female intimate partner homicides in Massachusetts — in 2020, fewer than 10 women.
  • Massachusetts does have the lowest overall gun death rate in the country.   

Massachusetts has among the strongest gun laws.  Key provisions of Massachusetts gun laws include:

  • No one may carry a firearm unless they have a license to carry.  A license-to-carry allows both concealed and unconcealed carry.
  • To obtain a license to carry one must pass a background screening for criminal record and involuntary mental health commitments and any community reports of unsuitability.
  • Holders of licenses to carry must report their address changes to the state.
  • No one may purchase a firearm without an updated criminal background check, which is accomplished at the time of purchase, even if they have a license to carry.
  • No one may transfer a firearm without reporting the transfer to the state.
  • Massachusetts protects gun-owners in mental health crises and their families by providing for “extreme risk protective orders” to confiscate firearms.
  • Massachusetts gun-owners must follow strict rules about locking and storing their weapons.
  • Assault rifles are banned in Massachusetts. “No person shall sell, offer for sale, transfer or possess an assault weapon or a large capacity feeding device that was not otherwise lawfully possessed on September 13, 1994.”
  • Unlawful carrying of a handgun carries a mandatory minimum 18 months incarceration.

For more on Massachusetts gun laws, please see this updated summary.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

129 replies on “Gun survey continued”

  1. Thanks, Senator, for conducting this poll and sharing the answers. Given the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, I realize that Massachusetts may not be implement to implement greater restrictions on firearms. I wonder, however, whether in addition to the required background checks, there couldn’t be a test/training component to get a license similar to a driver’s license. In both cases, one is getting permission to handle a potentially deadly weapon that requires knowledge and skill to use properly. Perhaps, this has already been tried and failed either due to lack of support or constitutional issues. All the best, Peter

      1. Some cities do. Boston requires you go out to Moon Island and pass a target shoot. I believe there are a couple of others that require as well.

        1. Boston has not required the Moon Island qual for a while now. There are no other cities or towns in Massachusetts that still require passing a live fire test, as this is in direct conflict with the Bruen decision.

  2. Will,
    Well done! Thank you for providing great information and showing your constituents the real truth about gun safety and the current gun laws. You and your staff contributed lots of time and effort in this survey and resulting analysis. This data is invaluable. For sure, we need more robust regulation and enforcement. I feel that we, in Massachusetts, are a model for the rest of the country.

  3. Thank you foe doing this, Will..very helpful to those of us who need to brush up on our gun laws

  4. Thanks for your work. Based on this what legislation do you think should be proposed and what are the chances of it passing?

  5. Enlightening to see the results.Those who say they want stricter gun laws don’t have a grasp of the laws in place. If they had a complete understanding they might be satisfied with what is on the books already. There is so much misconception out there. I appreciate you taking a thoughtful approach to this issue. Education and enforcement about existing laws (which are some of the toughest in the country) seems to be the answer. As the survey says, we are already the safest state in the country when it comes to gun violence.

    1. I totally agree with this. We already have some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. This survey shows that what we need is more education on our current gun laws and guns in general.

  6. This is a good survey. Many of us who live in Massachusetts are unfamiliar with our state’
    s gun regulations, and with guns in general. In the future, as our strict gun laws increasingly come under attack by well financed and organized national gun rights groups, we will all need to be more knowledgable about the laws in order to support and maintain them. I support our strict gun laws. But it isn’t enough anymore simply to be in favor of them. As the gun industry and pro gun groups have increasing success in challenging sensible gun regulations everywhere, we will all need to be more active if we don’t want our state to turn into another Texas or Tennessee.

  7. Thank you Will for doing this.

    I wonder if there’s any correlation between views on gun safety in one’s environment, and gun homicide rate, by zip code? As in, does a more dangerous neighborhood lead to stronger views on gun control, or are the two stats unrelated?

    Also fascinating to see how much some misunderstand about our current gun laws. Not that everybody needs to be an expert, but when so many have strong views I’d hope more understood the basic terminology. Otherwise, how can we discuss the topic among ourselves?

  8. Thanks for doing this. If I’m right, Mass is also a “may issue” state, rather than a “shall issue” state – the chief of police can use his judgment regarding issuing a license to an applicant, which seems like a good practice to me.

    1. Hi Jennifer,

      Massachusetts was a “may issue” state until the Supreme Court ruling in 2022, at which point the subject got a lot more complicated and most police departments shifted over to “shall issue” – where, barring failing a background check or a criminal record, the police will usually issue a license after a lengthy period, training, and a lot of paperwork.

      Previously, when it was a “may issue” state, Boston and Cambridge had extremely stringent informal rules to get a license (which is required for Pepper spray and Stun Guns). You would have to either 1. Have provable threats of violence against you via court case or restraining order, or 2. Carry more than $5,000 of cash as part of your job. If you didn’t meet either of these criteria, you were certain to be denied in Boston or Cambridge, but not in more suburban or rural towns.

    2. Not any more. The law was changed as a result of the USSC decision in Bruen .v NYSRPA and placed strict limitations on a States ability to infringe on a citizens 2’nd amendment rights. Among those was eliminating a chiefs arbitrary desecration to deny an applicant an LTC/FID with no disqualifying factors present (felon, illegal dug user, involuntary commitment to a mental health facility, etc).

      Since that decision, a few states have doubled down on their existing gun control laws and enacted even more laws that will most certainly not pass judicial review of the USCC’s decision should the court decide to hear those cases. I anticipate that the proposed MA legislation will be among those cases should it become law.

      1. Let’s hope Mass obeys the Supreme Court. I’ve heard examples of local chiefs denying all applicants, even prior rape victims with their assailant still on the loose. Should not be left up to the whims of a local chief.

    3. After the Bruen case, Massachusetts passed changes making it a “shall issue” state. If a person is not a “prohibited person” and is otherwise suitable, they are entitled to a license. Police still have the ability to deny a license to carry to a person that they deem unsuitable based on legitimate indicators other than the statutory prohibitions. What they can’t do is ask why the applicant needs an LTC. Suitable persons are now entitled to an LTC without any demonstration of need. more explanation here.

  9. Thanks for this assay and for working for gun laws that correct for our wayward behavior.

    Technology is not immoral, people are immoral (at times.)

    The Second Amendment with its living flaw is not the problem, neither is technology, it’s our inability to navigate change adroitly, morally and ethically.

    There’ve been good six-shooters since the civil war an a pair of ‘em could do in as many people as a high-capacity semi-automatic pistol but mass-shootings of the kind we think of were rare. Up ‘till my lifetime. So, lower cost/higher availability are reload ease ups the human cost in all kinds of shootings, but how much do we effort focus on controlling technology and how effort to we focus on keeping America a nation of universal morality?

  10. What strikes me in the data is that people in favor of “stonger gun laws” are much less aware of “gun facts” than those who say the laws are already stringent enough or too stringent. This is an excellent opportunity to educate before we legislate. Topics like gun laws seem to elicit a “knee jerk” reaction for a portion of the populace who are not necessiarily the most informed on the subject. I consider myself pretty informed and yet I still got several of the factual questions wrong. In cases like these we should be guided by accurate facts and not opinion.

    1. I would say this goes both ways. There are a lot of people who think gun laws are too stringent but still buy into the myth that owning a gun makes you and your family safer. It does not, it puts you and your family members at greater risk of homicide, suicide and accidental death.

    2. Yes. I noticed that to. I suspect that many gun owners are among the “Mass laws are too strict” cohort, but are also well-informed about the gun laws. If this is true, it shows the education required to obtain a gun permit is effective, which is good.
      I think it would be more effective nationwide to adopt Mass laws nationwide than to make Mass laws stricter, but there are still loopholes in Mass law that should be closed. Some things I don’t know about (I think I did much better than average, but I have never owned a gun, other than a BB gun which was a gift and I disposed of without ever firing, so I have no need to know all the rules), but are gun show sales to people without permits and/or without current background checks allowed in Mass? Are people from states that allow unlimited gun possession and carry allowed to do so in Massachusetts under the Constitutional “full faith and credit” clause?

      1. To answer your questions, state possession & carry laws apply to everyone, regardless of whether they are from another state or not. For instance, if I moved to MA from another state where I owned guns with makes/models/features that are not allowed in MA, I couldn’t bring them with me. And if I wanted to carry outside the home I would need a MA-issued carry permit. No other state permits allow one to carry in MA.

      2. To answer your questions:

        “Are gun show sales to people without permits and/or without current background checks allowed in Mass?”

        No. Not in any state for that matter. Any federally licensed gun dealer at a gun show must perform a background check when a firearm transaction occurs. The only time gun sales occur without a background check is when private citizens conduct personal sales of their firearms to other private citizens. And on that note, gun owners have been asking the ATF for decades to have access to the national instant background check system, to no avail.

        “Are people from states that allow unlimited gun possession and carry allowed to do so in Massachusetts under the Constitutional “full faith and credit” clause?”

        No. You cannot own or conceal/open carry a firearm in Massachusetts as a non-resident without a non-resident license.

  11. Excellent survey. It really does highlight the high percentage of people who do not understand the very stringent current gun laws in Massachusetts. The same people who want more stringent gun bans do not understand the current laws or know the basics of firearms. We need to do more to educate the people.

    1. Your comment is awaiting moderation. This is a preview; your comment will be visible after it has been approved.

      I would say this goes both ways. There are a lot of people who think gun laws are too stringent but still buy into the myth that owning a gun makes you and your family safer. It does not, it puts you and your family members at greater risk of homicide, suicide and accidental death.

      1. Can you site any credible studies? I know many are fearful and easily triggered by the thought of gun ownership, but we need to get away from from hearsay and myths.

  12. I was surprised at how many I got wrong! As a person who strongly favors strict gun laws, I am glad to learn the facts. Thank you.

  13. I can’t afford a home–but law makers would rather spend their time tackling problems that don’t exist.

      1. It seems like there is neither enough roadway nor is there enough public transportation to to get the population we do have moving. I get that people want to get their gold star for adding housing, but without Big Dig scale eminent domain projects to make more roadways plus bridges over The Pike and The Charles plus maybe some more tunnels aren’t we bequeathing a bigger problem to our children?

  14. This was a great way for me to engage and to learn more about how the rest of the community feels. Would love to have an opportunity to discuss these types of things with others, but this was an awesome way to get a finger on the pulse.

  15. Looks like our gun owners who agree Massachussets gun laws are already tough enough, know more about guns than the general population. At best leave things alone…better allow licensed people to purchase ewhat ever is made NOT what AG approves!

    Ed Kazanjian

  16. Based on these results it seems we need more work in inner cities to prevent gun violence and decrease intimate partner homicides directly.

    I learned some gun facts from this survey. Well done.

    1. Yes, both (and suicide) are tragic results that should be the focus of gun law revisions in Massachusetts. This probably does NOT apply to other states with much higher gun homicide rates.

  17. As others have said, I appreciate the tack of a survey to educate the public. Like others, I got many wrong. Like others may remember from grade school, the ones you get wrong are often the ones you remember–e.g., the definition of “pandemonium”

  18. My take away was similar to others here. Unfortunately those in favor of stricter guns laws in MA appear to be uninformed about the laws in place and the guns they restrict. This is a good lesson for all of us as we think about how we react to things in a society where we are quick to judge and formulate opinions, then share them online and engage in debate – are you really informed on the topic? And is your opinion/conclusion based on facts?

    If you were to survey your constituents with just the question asking them if they believe MA needs stricter gun laws, you would feel compelled to overwhelmingly represent in the legislature that the state needs tighter gun laws… when in fact it would appear you would representing an overwhelmingly uninformed majority.

    For the record, I support our states strict process to obtain a firearms license and take pride in the fact that we have the lowest gun fatality rate in the US. That means the process is working.

    1. I appreciate your point, but here is some food for thought. The types of questions asked affect the perception of the outcome. If you asked questions such as “does increasing the rate of gun ownership in a state reduce the rate of homicide” (it does not) you might find that many pro gun people are not aware of the facts. And sure, someone who owns a gun in MA is going to be more familiar with the specifics of the permitting process than someone who has not tried to buy a gun. That does not mean that someone who is for stricter gun laws is uninformed about the consequences of having more or less gun safety legislation.

      1. This survey has highlighted the ignorance of the gun banning mindeset. They are driven by fear of something they know little about. I believe if everyone was exposed to proper training and learned how to handle a firearm there would not be this irrational fear of firearms. One idea I like is to make a basic firearms training course mandatory for all High School students. They can learn firearm safety and that would go a long way to educating the public.

  19. I appreciate you wading into an exceeding complex topic. I’m hoping that any bills coming out of the legislature are very clear about the goal (s)…what problem(s) do they seek to solve. What jumped out to me is that “the homicide death rate among black males aged 15 to 35 was 24x greater than the rate for the population as a whole.” If some sort of workable and acceptable gun legislation is the “best” way to address that, then it’s certainly worth spending time on. I’m sure there are other justifications for the effort, but let’s always be clear about to what end. Also, keeping in mind the famous quote about 3 kinds of lies (lies, dirty lies, and statistics) you may want to qualify the statement “ Boston, Springfield, and Worcester alone accounted for half of the homicides in the state” by letting us know what % of the state population this cities represent. In any event, I’m sure you will be very thoughtful about how you address this topic and I very much appreciate that

  20. It is interesting that more people are in favor of stricter penalties than are in favor of stricter laws.
    Is there any evidence to suggest that stricter penalties has any effect on law compliance rates?

    1. In the 1970’s MA put in stricter penalties for possession of a gun without a license. It was combined with an aggressive advertising campaign to inform the public of the change. It has been a much studied law. Rates of armed robbery did decrease after that. My understanding is that the advertising of the penalty, rather than the severity of the penalty had the greater impact on deterrence.

  21. Important context is missing. It’s one thing to (correctly) state that MA has the lowest death rates in the country. It’s quite another to compare our death rate to that of other wealthy nations. For example, MA’s gun homicide rate is more than 3x that of Canada and 25x that of Germany. We still have a lot of work to do!

    1. I agree, the framing of the conversation by comparing to other states is misleading. It’s very important to choose the right goal and the right examples like ones you’re are mentioning.

    2. Looking at total homicide rate vs gun homicide rate for the most recent years available, MA and Canada seem equal, and both are 3x that of Germany. When removing the tool used vs. the result, we’re not that far off from other nations.

    3. Indeed, we still have a lot of work to do. But I think we have to do it in the context that the US is a gun-toting nation. More guns than people, and those guns can last for hundreds of years. Sadly, effective solutions are not obvious. Solutions that are proposed just nibble around the edges of the problem. Mass confiscation of guns won’t fly. I think we need to focus much more on the social factors that lead people to commit crimes with guns.

      1. I would like to ask owners of firearms why they own them, whether they carry them, and if so when, where and why. Not knowing, I see the need to walk around with a gun as partially driven by paranoia, and would like to know how statistically significant what they fear could happen is. Gun advocates like to press the fear button, but I suspect they are spinning yarns that some people want to believe. Understanding why they want to believe these provocations might help to unwind the death spiral of political and social violence we seem to be in.

        1. The people I know who have a license to carry are jewelers who carry large amounts of gem stones, managers of restaurants who carry large amounts of money to the bank, and line workers who go out into the woods where bears live to hang cable. There are plenty of legitimate reasons to carry even if you live in an area where law abiding people almost never do. It’s just that 99.9% of people never have a reason to think about it.

          1. All true, yet a good portion of those 99.9% still seem to feel they need to own guns. Why they do is what I want to know.

        2. Because it is my right. I don’t see a problem with law abiding gun owners in society. They are generally some of the most responsible and informed citizens. The vast majority of crime and violence is created by a very small group of people in very small sections of cities. Those people are generally involved in drugs, gangs, etc and do not follow rules of society nor Mass gun laws.

  22. Would have liked to have seen questions correlating folks feelings of safety at home and in the community with the guns. How many folks would feel safer if there were fewer guns in society? How many folks feel safer because they own a gun.
    Personally, I don’t generally feel unsafe, and don’t own a gun, but would feel safer if there were fewer guns in the community.

    1. Good point. Better info about the motivations for owning, carrying, and fearing guns is really needed. But there are a lot of gun collectors, some of whom don’t carry. The number of guns they own says more about their motivations than their danger to the community. Fewer guns is an unlikely eventuality, and although turn-in/buy-back programs have chipped away at their number, the ones still in circulation were always the problem.
      You and I might feel better if there was a law requiring people to wear a visible license when they are carrying, but that would ruffle a lot of feathers.

  23. Thank you for the survey. It showed me how little I actually know about the gun laws of Massachusetts. I know it’s your job to represent us and not necessarily to educate us but I would be interested in getting a basic understanding of the gun laws in Massachusetts. Do you know a good source for that?

    1. You could always take a licensing class, you don’t have to actually get licensed and buy a gun.

      The gun owners action league of Massachusetts also occasionally holds seminars and has a very good website.

  24. Thanks for putting together this survey. As some have noted, it seems apparent that the people that want stricter gun laws don’t understand the current laws. Not good. I feel the current laws need to be enforced properly by MA, not made stricter. They are not effectively being enforced. I believe your statement about Assault style rifles being illegal in MA is incorrect. You are allowed to own an assault style rifle in MA, so long as it’s pre-ban, which is 1994. I do believe that those who violate our gun laws, such as carrying a gun without a license should have stricter sentences. Finally, one thing that is also very important is addressing the mental illness in our state and cracking down on illegal drug use. Both of these contribute significantly to gun violence.

  25. Like others I learned more about guns, thank you. I do believe in higher penalties. I have lived in many places and when high cost penalties are in place behavior changes. For example, in San Francisco, to stop grid lock penalties are very high and police hand out tickets readily. Behavior changed. Sadly, Money talks. We may have laws but it is the behavior that needs attention.

  26. Will, thank you for starting a conversation on guns and doing this survey. In my opinion, the survey puts a lot of weight on the types of guns. I think it’s important to talk about the percentage of gun violence done by mentally unstable people, whether these guns were licensed, whether guns were accessed by family members because they weren’t stored properly.

    In my opinion, we should invest more into the mental health of our communities and for gun owners to have rigorous mental check and gun storage training every year to ensure their ability to stay responsible gun owners over time.

    I have two small kids and addressing school shootings is the top priority for me in gun legislation. While we thankfully haven’t had one in MA, I think we need to do more to ensure it never happens. Our kids going through drills in school shouldn’t be a norm.

    Chief of our Police in Belmont was very happy with the results of having a social worker respond to some calls instead of policemen. I highly support investment in such programs going forward.
    A mental health specialist at school would be great, too.

  27. Our state and city requirements for licensing are pretty stringent. Although I haven’t seen any data on this, I suspect that licensed gun owners are not the problem, but rather it is the unlicensed who gain access to a gun. It is that easy access to a gun that we have to deal with, not stiffer licensing requirements. I don’t think stiffer penalties would make any difference either. I’m sure anyone who takes the trouble to acquire an illegal gun, feels they won’t be caught.

    1. Keep in mind that the permitting process was undermined by the Supreme Court rolling (a ruling that overturned 100 years of judicial precedent). So it is no longer as strict as it used to be.

      I would also point out that if the statement “most crimes are by unlicensed gun owners” is true, then that would suggest the permitting process is effective at selecting less risky gun owners. A permitting process that is no longer as strong as it used to be.

      1. The restrictive permitting is done to frustrate and discourage gun ownership from good citizens. No other reason. A drug dealer or violent criminal has no problem obtaining a firearm. Although, I don’t think you have anything to worry about, Massachusetts undoubtedly will continue to violate the Supreme Court rulings and also violate it’s citizens constitutional rights.

        1. It’s not just the restrictive permitting thats frustrating. The police chiefs have other ways and methods of discouraging applicants… additional requirements not stipulated in the MGL’s, inconvenient interview hours, dragging their feet on processing the paperwork (some applicants have waited 7-8-9months or more to receive their license), etc.

          As far as the whole chiefs discretion and suitability issue is concerned, that needs to eliminated… either by the legislature or courts if need be.

  28. Thank you for conducting a unique survey related to guns. Any time there is discussion of legislation that impacts the rights of individuals it is critical that there is understanding of the topic at hand. Clearly a significant portion of those favoring additional laws lack knowledge on the current gun laws, gun characteristics, and gun statistics. This should give legislators pause before rushing through any additional legislation based primarily on those vocally advocating additional laws.

    Even some of your presented information is objectively incorrect which further demonstrates the complexity of the topic. Your question about assault rifles being banned in Massachusetts as “True” is not accurate. Assault rifles can be legally possessed in Massachusetts if you have followed NFA requirements and hold a License to Possess a Machine Gun. While exceedingly difficult and expensive to obtain they are not banned in Massachusetts. Your presented “assault rifle” definition switches interchangeably between an “assault rifle” and “assault weapon” which is not appropriate. Technically not all “assault weapons” are banned in Massachusetts either so even if those were clerical errors in the question and definition that question should still have an answer of “False” to be accurate.

    1. Machine gun licenses are only available to bona fide collectors and firearms instructors.

      (o) No person shall be issued a license to carry or possess a machine gun in the commonwealth, except that a licensing authority or the colonel of state police may issue a machine gun license to:

      (i) a firearm instructor certified by the municipal police training committee for the sole purpose of firearm instruction to police personnel;

      (ii) a bona fide collector of firearms upon application or upon application for renewal of such license.

      A machine gun is a fully automatic weapon, one that fires a stream of bullets with one trigger pull:

      ”Machine gun”, a weapon of any description, by whatever name known, loaded or unloaded, from which a number of shots or bullets may be rapidly or automatically discharged by one continuous activation of the trigger, including a submachine gun; provided, however, that ”machine gun” shall include bump stocks and trigger cranks.

      Assault weapons include both some semi-automatic weapons and some that are legally machine guns because of their ability to operate in full-automatic mode(e.g., the AK-47).

      ‘Assault weapon”, shall have the same meaning as a semiautomatic assault weapon as defined in the federal Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act, 18 U.S.C. section 921(a)(30) as appearing in such section on September 13, 1994, and shall include, but not be limited to, any of the weapons, or copies or duplicates of the weapons, of any caliber, known as: (i) Avtomat Kalashnikov (AK) (all models); (ii) Action Arms Israeli Military Industries UZI and Galil; (iii) Beretta Ar70 (SC–70); (iv) Colt AR–15; (v) Fabrique National FN/FAL, FN/LAR and FNC; (vi) SWD M–10, M–11, M–11/9 and M–12; (vi) Steyr AUG; (vii) INTRATEC TEC–9, TEC–DC9 and TEC–22; and (viii) revolving cylinder shotguns, such as, or similar to, the Street Sweeper and Striker 12; provided, however, that the term assault weapon shall not include: (i) any of the weapons, or replicas or duplicates of such weapons, specified in appendix A to 18 U.S.C. section 922 as appearing in such appendix on September 13, 1994, as such weapons were manufactured on October 1, 1993; (ii) any weapon that is operated by manual bolt, pump, lever or slide action; (iii) any weapon that has been rendered permanently inoperable or otherwise rendered permanently unable to be designated a semiautomatic assault weapon; (iv) any weapon that was manufactured prior to the year 1899; (v) any weapon that is an antique or relic, theatrical prop or other weapon that is not capable of firing a projectile and which is not intended for use as a functional weapon and cannot be readily modified through a combination of available parts into an operable assault weapon; (vi) any semiautomatic rifle that cannot accept a detachable magazine that holds more than five rounds of ammunition; or (vii) any semiautomatic shotgun that cannot hold more than five rounds of ammunition in a fixed or detachable magazine.

      Assault weapons are banned in Massachusetts, except if lawfully possessed before September 13, 1994.

      Section 131M. No person shall sell, offer for sale, transfer or possess an assault weapon or a large capacity feeding device that was not otherwise lawfully possessed on September 13, 1994. Whoever not being licensed under the provisions of section 122 violates the provisions of this section shall be punished, for a first offense, by a fine of not less than $1,000 nor more than $10,000 or by imprisonment for not less than one year nor more than ten years, or by both such fine and imprisonment, and for a second offense, by a fine of not less than $5,000 nor more than $15,000 or by imprisonment for not less than five years nor more than 15 years, or by both such fine and imprisonment.

      The provisions of this section shall not apply to: (i) the possession by a law enforcement officer; or (ii) the possession by an individual who is retired from service with a law enforcement agency and is not otherwise prohibited from receiving such a weapon or feeding device from such agency upon retirement.

      Machine guns are banned by federal law, except those manufactured before 1986

      In 1986, [Firearm Owners’ Protection Act] . . . amended the GCA to prohibit the transfer or possession of machine guns. Exceptions were made for transfers of machine guns to, or possession of machine guns by, government agencies, and those lawfully possessed before the effective date of the prohibition, May 19, 1986.

      Bottom line: Newer assault weapons (post 1984) and newer machine guns (post 1986) are banned by law and may not be possessed by a private citizen in Massachusetts regardless of whether the citizen has an LTC or a machine gun license. Further, certain assault weapons which can operate in fully-automatic mode (e.g., an Uzi) meet the definition of a machine gun; they therefore may not be possessed without a machine gun license (regardless of their date of initial possession).
  29. This survey helped to show the truths and misnomers regarding guns in our society. There are many responsible gun owners and the majority of NRA members voice their support of better gun control in the country. Rising tensions and mental health disorders, disparities in income levels, and a higher degree of lawlessness can contribute to the increased levels of dramatic gun violence. We are fortunate to live in MA where gun regulations exist and incidents of gun violence are infrequent. Your efforts to reach out to your constituents is admirable and gives you more accurate data to proceed with. It clearly demonstrated many of us did not know as much about gun laws and definitions as we thought.

  30. Massachusetts’ gun laws (of which I *was* mostly aware before taking the survey) can only do so much when we are surrounded by states with way laxer laws. The vast majority of the guns used to commit homicides in our cities come from other states. In general, we are clearly not doing enough to protect and support our young black men.

    1. That reminded me of the argument to take the immoral step of expanding the predatory state lottery and legalizing gambling because it’s legal in neighboring states and we can’t miss out on the wages of sin.

  31. I appreciate the survey and the enlightenment of how strict our gun laws already are in MA. Unless you grew up in a family with guns for hunting, protection, and in my case for BiCentennial reenactments, it can be somewhat of an unknown. My Dad taught me gun safety at 8 years old and it’s never forgotten. Legal gun owners, including law enforcement, take this Second Amendment right seriously. It was so important to our forefathers that it was #2. Please keep that in mind when crafting legislation against a group that just wants to be left alone.

  32. I applaud Will Brownsberger for creating an honest poll and sharing the results. Some things I noticed is that the people who are calling for stricter gun laws really don’t know much about guns, crime or the laws. I wish people would educate themselves a bit before being so vociferous about changing our gun laws because we do have some of the most stringent in the country and they are quite effective. Also, if people are serious about reducing gun deaths, they would advocate for more suicide prevention and counseling as well as working to reduce the amount of gang violence where much of the homicides take place.

  33. I was hoping to see these results, which by the most part don’t surprise me in anyways. Most gun owners are force to know the laws, and become sudo paralegals because of it. Most ppl who want stricter laws have no actual gun/firearm knowledge, which in turn can be swayed by fear tactics. As someone stated if they have a non bias educational period for laws that they want to pass, it will change most people mentality on the subject.

  34. Thanks for doing this! I was surprised by how many questions were outside my knowledge.
    Does MA need to do a better job of educating us?

  35. I was a bit dismayed and saddened at how high the “Afraid in community places” numbers are, but I don’t have any idea what these numbers have been historically. I would have liked to see how these numbers correlate to how much TV news people watch. I avoid the TV news like the plague, and have no qualms about being out and about with my son in any of the Zip Codes listed.

  36. CDC study statistics showed guns are used more for protection than crime. 94% of active shooters are stopped by legal gun carriers; & quicker response than 911. Factual data shows guns actually increase safety; gun-free zones have higher crime & gun deaths; & stricter gun laws enable criminals that don’t follow the laws anyway (e.g., ghost guns- that are legally sold gun parts; criminals put together the rest to have untraceable guns). Red flag laws can be abused, even endangering those who are trying to gain protection for themselves.

    1. Good point. The recent mass shooting in Maine bowling alley was posted as a gun free zone. These kind of places will always be a target for the mentally deranged. Gun free zones should be illegal. They are putting the students and patrons at risk.

  37. So much of “bills modernizing firearm laws are,“Section this of chapter of General Laws and strikeout subclause whatzit and inserting in place thereof….”

    Doesn’t Massachusetts have a “plain English law” so I don’t have to sift through MGL to know what our elected officials are doing?

    193rd (Current)

    Bill H.2361. An Act banning semi-automatic firearms.
    Bill H.4607. An Act modernizing firearm laws.
    Bill H. 4135. An Act modernizing firearm laws. Bill H. 4420. An Act modernizing firearm laws. Bill H. 4139. An Act modernizing firearm laws.
    Bill H.1619. An Act increasing penalties for the illegal sale and possession of firearms

  38. I’m afraid that on and after the election 24 we are going to have a difficult time. Specially if the expresident is not elected. Plus the numbers of immigrants coming to the country would be the triggering point for those that are against: Africans, South American, Haitians…
    To many people are gang holders and the miss information is critical component

  39. The truth be told, the problems are mental illness, poor parenting, lack of law enforcement and repeat offenders being let out on bail and should be no bail for drug dealers. The legislators have no backbone to solve this problem. Gun control is a cope out to pacify people who do not accept the reality of the problem.

    1. 100% correct. Also, as things break down in our society it will become more and more important to be able to defend yourself from violence. If there is societal breakdown…the police will most likely go home and take care of their families. You are on your own at that point.

  40. As a child I thought guns were exciting and I liked playing with them. Then I grew up and see nothing interesting, exciting or useful about guns.
    Historically, when the 2nd amendment was created, I believe it was created so citizens could protect themselves from a government that was no longer acting as a responsible democracy. I don’t see that as a practical reason for the amendment in this day and age. With that said, I think guns are mostly vary dangerous toys and should not be allowed by right but only by need. That shouldn’t be so hard to understand.

    1. argues that the militias supported by the 2nd Amendment were substantially to put down revolts of enslaved people.
      I also wonder what the founding fathers would have made of modern firearms; IIRC, in their day there were no breech-loading weapons, so the rate of fire was something like 2 per minute for trained shooters.

      1. “High capacity” and “Assault Weapons” predate the Constitution and the 2nd amendment

        Google: Nock Volley Gun, Duckfoot Pistol, Puckle Gun, Kalhoff Repeater, Stopler Revolver

  41. Be careful when reading these percentages, they give some general direction but it would take more work to do this in a statistically significant way. For my part, I’m glad for the progress we have made. Let’s continue to ban assault weapons. And let’s be sure there is good safety training for gun owners (beyond the legal requirements.)

  42. So sorry I missed seeing this sendout (for survey). Would definitely filled out. If we can still submit survey late, please resend. Thanks so much for organizing this, Will.

  43. I don’t make jewelry anymore because of the risk. My swifter counterparts are armed when they carry 150 karats to a trade show. I never saw a gun out of a holster until I was working at a restaurant and the manager was getting ready to take a deposit to the bank at the end of the night. I lived with and was married to an officer who never brought his weapon to our residence. An officer I knew purchased a house in Arlington and attempted to register his weapon, but it was turned down because they had enough weapons in Arlington at the time. My point is people who don’t need them don’t want them around. Also, people who know what guns do don’t want any more to deal with. I can’t imagine making it any harder than it already is and being effective. How about we deal with drug problems and criminality factors for a minute? What about food for kids? What about housing for families? What about education? Each of these are major influences on criminality and we could do better. I’d rather focus on education. I have always taken responsibility for my kids educations. That means I pick up where the schools fails. Hey, wake up, our schools are failing in a lot of ways.

  44. Thanks for doing this and all your efforts to involve us as your constituents. Unfortunately I missed filling it out. In these days of seeming increasing threats, it’s great to confirm that what we’re doing to keep ourselves safe with good law and practices is helping, though of course the 24X rate of homicide rate for young Black men is horrific. I’ve worked with families affected by this violence, and not just in major cities. I know solutions aren’t easy- I’d be interested in your thoughts about how this is being addressed.

  45. Thanks for creating education around this complex issue. It would be great if there was a live zoom presentation on the current Mass laws, and what they mean so that the layperson can understand the strengths, constraints, and issues. I do not own guns, respect others rights to have them, favor strict controls, and looking for sensible ways to find positive solutions. I was especially saddened to see the high %numbers of people who feel unsafe at public events, and understand this. Where we have Fenway Park in the midst of the city, the Marathon, the Charles Regatta, there is real concern at these events, but also – anywhere where large crowds are – and that’s just about everywhere. The people who got many answers wrong (me included) and polled for more stringent legislation may just be saying they believe in preventative measures, not fully understanding all details. More education like this is helpful to all. Thanks.

  46. I cannot say that I am surprised by the outcome: ignorance and fear is a powerful combination.

  47. Thank you so much for conducting this survey! I think the results show very clearly that people who are worried about guns or want stricter gun laws are unaware of the statistics on guns in Massachusetts. I think if there was some messaging for the public to educate them on these statistics and current laws, we would see people stop worrying so much about guns in MA. I appreciate you reaching out to us and providing information after the survey.

  48. Thanks for doing this. Here’s the real challenge – ensuring any further legislation isn’t a de facto poor tax, a la California’s recent developments. Expensive or needlessly lengthy/bureaucratic LTC application processes overwhelmingly impact people of color and those with low income. Curious to hear your opinion on this!

  49. Thanks for this survey Will. It does not surprise me how little is known about our guns laws by most. Ignorance of MA gun law carries no risk to the non-gun owner, while the counter is true for responsible, law abiding gun owners such as myself. The scary thing to me is legislators who don’t respect my individual constitutional right to bear arms in the first place, driving extremist bills that create fresh burdens for the law abiding while doing nothing to address crime or mental illness. Mass laws are already among the strictest in the country, which leads me to ask, what problem is our legislature trying to solve for which the proposed H.4139 bill is the solution? I hope the Senate gives this the massive scrutiny it deserves. I consider the cynical, closed door process that pushed this bill’s precursors forward in the House especially problematic. The fact that Massachusetts Chief’s of Police Association unanimously opposed what the house passed just highlights the disconnect.

  50. You can’t legislate morality, but it seems these curbs are required to offset a lack of morality from the gun industry that caused an explosion of gun violence. These bills save lives.

    There used to be a moral prohibition against the unnecessary sale and purchase of these specific killing tools. Is it not true that a moral choice was made by industry to sell firearms at a theretofore unheard of scale bringing the science of marketing to bear upon the populace to wipe out this prohibition?

    The problem is not the Second Amendment or technology it’s the slipping of the reins of morality.

    We should always reflect on the gestalt of the body politic and remember how these technical measures are but woeful substitutes for improving our citizenry.

    1. As for the fact you can’t operate outside of the gestalt the good works of these life-saving legislation will certainly feed into the divisive, corrosive and immorality of those up the political chain who profit off of the evils of employing/ trafficking in wedge-issues.

  51. Technology is awesome and man should continue to strive, but we must constantly hone our minds, morality and bonds with our fellow man.

    Gun violence is less a problem of the Second Amendment, technology and regulation and more one of human behavior. We have set sail on a new era of communication and technology. The shores of familiarity are fading in the mists and we riding over the fathomless depths.

    All the while technology both corrupted all of us and exposed is to ancient human evils. We allowed new technologies to bloom and not be addled by the fetters of overregulation and we are reaping both the good and ills. Our entire landscape is monopolized and free speech is imperiled and often illusory.

    One of the major ways corruption sinks its claws and teeth into we the people and the body politic is surrendering to the feeling of helplessness and the treasonous copout of shrugging to the Faustian bargain, that changes are too big and saying the corrosive usurpers Twitter and Facebook and TikTok are too essential and all the while we are feeding their growth and laying our cloaks before the fakirs on their road to hegemony.

    The human mind is still the most complex thing in the known universe and what we must hold sacred is truth.

    1. Technology has made every holder of an assault weapon and army of one, a militia of one be they well-regulated, unregulated, and often times deranged.

      Alienation, social fragmentation, the shuttering of mental health and other institutions of public trust and the undermining of institutions of moral learning are to blame the arms of war not being under lock and key by the well-regulated.

      Where is our ship headed as the ruthless both well intentioned and not vie for the tiller?

      Political rivals and parties grasp for the golden ring looking to rule the world and make life better either for themselves or for all of us most forgetting the distinction and leave a widening rend in out country.

      1. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself and it’s time to leave the fear-mongers whistling in the wind.

  52. Dispel the pathologies of conspiracy theories by working to reverse media monopolization.

    Fund NPR because it’s devolved into an inane and increasingly useless public good. NPR and affiliates like WGBH and WBUR dare not alienate their advertisers and donors by challenging their listeners and viewers with challenging or divergent ideas or even using big words anymore. NPR is pandering to our egos and talking down to us by using small words. Listening to NPR should make people have to look up a word and be a reference for good communication and stop try to be one of the cool kids. And CNN, FOX and MSNBC are no better than the Home Shopping Network they’re just selling a product or politician on cable.

    There needs to be a sea change in politics. Since the science of electoral politics allows the elite to manipulate us poor schlubs the common man with their Democratic right hand and their Republican left hand or vice versa to dial in the dollars and put them over the top in this race or that race…

    Too many of our politicians are sophists. You may ask what does it matter what my Democrat or my Republican believes in their heart as long as they vote as I expect them to and that is aligned with Democratic or Republican principals? (even if it means compromise) It matters!

  53. The Attorney General just finished talking and the lawyer for the victims made the great point that availability and citizen ownership of AR-15s predated Columbine but what’s new is the behavior of marketing them beyond the bounds of morality to a greater market especially the young.

    There must be a sea change where politicians and civic leaders regain the moral authority.

    1. Don’t get me wrong the vast majority of politicians are good actors but working in a system that casts a pall.

  54. Will,
    Thank you for the survey, it shows a lot of information and that what we need on both sides of this discussion. I think we are witnessing one of the major problems in this weeks headline. An illegal gun owner was caught and not only did the judge let him go but he reduced the recommended bail. Soon after the same guy is on video shooting and killing someone in a Brockton restaurant. All the gun laws in the world wouldnt have stopped that but the judge could have!!

  55. While it’s essential to tackle problems such as gun violence in discrete manageable chunks everything is connected. Every strategic non-answer may move the ball forward but also erodes trust. Case in point today the Minority Whip was asked point blank about the shortcomings on the border and full on deflected and answered not the question and are reactionary and late to the game on fentanyl. The CCP’s precursors are like off-shored automobile parts fabricated in Asia and being assembled in Canada and Mexico and flowing over the borders. Was our party’s tardiness on this issue because we’ve been demonizing everything coming from the right both the good and the bad?

    Far left Progresses appended to the Democratic Party (when it’s convenient for them) have been shoveling the coals of anti-Semitism into their engine’s firebox to lift their otherwise just cause and polluting the air with the black soot of hypocrisy.

    1. I’m no economists but isn’t the left supposed to push back on a creating a glut of workers vulnerable to exploitation? The Age of Conquest has not come to a close until the hemisphere finds peace and equilibrium. American drug use and other extractive processes has made parts south of the Rio Grande a sulfurous pit of brimstone for the non-elite inhabitants. Is this instability and lack of development our way of keeping the land fallow for later encroachmentV

  56. These laws are doomed like snowflakes upon the face of the sun.

    Aren’t we in the post stare decisis era at least when convenient for the Right and All-Powerful Conservative United States Supreme Court of God?

    The hoards of wretched refuse yearning to breathe free streaming over the boarder seeking refuge may be of the superstitious and god-fearing sort and none too progressive.

    Even of Hade’s Hotelier doesn’t vanquish the Vitalis Vintner (or is he the Vo5 Vintner?) -doesn’t matter- either way democracy can’t live on the mechanics of Carvillitry? alone.

    I get the need to win to make incremental change. Move the ball forward. Put on your air-mask first and all the other anythings pundits say, but without moral progress, clarity and authority the dollops of winning isn’t enough to overcome the deluge of changes.

  57. I knew when I opened the survey what the “gotcha” goal was–“see, folks who are anti-gun don’t even know the laws” and “you should be happier with MA, we’re already all set”. Giving fuel to pro-gun folks who will accuse advocates of ignorance. Cool.
    Here’s the thing: I don’t have to know the technical aspects of how a gun works to know I want to live in a society without firearms. Plenty of developed countries do, and guess what? Their kids aren’t deeply traumatized by active shooter drills. They don’t jump at every loud noise in a public place. *We aren’t safer than them.* If anything, parents in other countries pity us. I certainly appreciate that MA has strict gun laws. I still don’t think it’s enough. We don’t have to live like this. So count me in as someone who will always check a box for more regulation and doesn’t need to ace a pop quiz to justify that belief.
    And if I have to take a quiz to justify my stance, I’d like gun advocates to have to sit down with a Sandy Hook parent for an in-person conversation to justify theirs.

    1. Right on!
      Bell Curve of credulity and ignorance that sits upon the political spectrum shows these features in mirrored masses. The only thing that may wrest the Promethean torch from the fascist heirs of Ailes’s project is moral consistency and projecting justice for all. The current tool had great purchase on the torch by being fully aligned with David Duke but without the latter’s cv. Racist thought forms are easily dispelled with light but becomes viciously entrenched under threat.

      The political moment is distorting. History will remember harshly and exclusively the politicians who endorsed the Sackler settlement as the name of the sort of corruption of our times. Reflection, redemption and remediation is required by the compromised.

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