What can we do about gun violence in Massachusetts?

The conversation about gun violence has everyone’s attention as a result of the tragedy at Sandy Hook. A meeting last week in the State House members lounge drew well over 100 people, with a long waiting line out the door and down the hall (equaling those rare occasions when food is served).

Natick representative David Linsky, who had done a nice job organizing the meeting, opened the meeting, and, after several presentations, a useful brainstorming session ensued.

The conversation was focused on the mass killings like Sandy Hook, more than the sadly routine urban gang violence which actually claims more lives. Although the room strongly supported a federal assault weapons ban, there was some pessimism about Congress’ ability to get that done.

The main question was what more can we do in Massachusetts. Representative initially Linsky highlighted five areas:

1) Licensing standards. Currently, although a handgun license may be denied by a police chief, a police chief has no discretion to deny a long gun license even if he has concerns about the applicant’s stability.
2) Rules on storage of weapons, possibly requiring some weapons to be kept in locked locations outside of homes, for example at gun clubs.
3) Police chief access to mental health information about applicants. Currently available federal data only includes involuntary civil commitments and even that record is incomplete. Of course, there are countervailing concerns about expanding that database — privacy and the risk of people from seeking treatment were acknowledged. The alternative is to require people seeking a license to sign some kind of release for their own personal treatment records.
4) Loopholes in Massachusetts’ own ban on assault weapons — the ban does not apply to pre-1994 weapons and also rules could be tightened on ammunition.
5) Requiring gun owners to carry liability insurance — thus bringing insurers into the business of encouraging safe gun practices.

Additional ideas that were raised in the brainstorming included:

1) Limiting the rate at which people purchase guns (Governor Patrick has supported this measure which others have proposed).
2) Gun buy back programs.
3) Regulation of purchase of body armor — ironically in some of the mass murder incidents the cowardly killers have gone out clothed in body armor.
4) Regulating the video game and other content that may make violence seem more acceptable.
5) School safety plans and teacher training (the Commonwealth already requires each school to have an emergency plan).
6) Raising age thresholds for gun use.
7) The NRA thought of posting armed volunteers at schools was generally ridiculed.
8) Generally strengthening our mental health care system.

Your thoughts?

Published by Will Brownsberger

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

65 replies on “What can we do about gun violence in Massachusetts?”

  1. Will,

    These are all great ideas. I would like to add that we can approach gun sales in the same way as the cigarette sales. The state of Massachusetts can have a tax schedule which will in practice make ownership of guns prohibitively expensive. There could be an enormous 1000% sales tax and also the registered owners should pay annual tax the same way homeowners pay such. After all, because of the presence of guns, the society needs to maintain stronger and more expensive police force and that should be paid by the people who have made the choice to own guns.

    Thank you for staying focused on this topic!
    Nikolay

  2. Thank you for raising this issue, Will. One possibility that occurs to me is requiring extensive liability insurance. But I think the most important idea might be requiring yearly filings of an inventory of the number and make and location of guns in a citizen’s possession, as well as the type and quantity of ammunition, and a complete accounting for any changes in gun ownership over the course of the previous year, including the identity of persons from whom any guns were purchased from or sold to.

    Presumably this information would be available online for public inspection.

  3. There needs to be full funding of the ATF at the federal level, and removal of the NRA-pushed restrictions on its effectiveness in tracing guns. There needs to be a national registry of all firearms so that law enforcement anywhere can tap into a system and find the provenance of any firearm within seconds. We can do this for motor vehicles, we can do it for firearms.

    Insurance is a good idea; why not require each firearm to be listed on a homeowners policy and inspected every year for proper functioning and security of access. Insurance companies would certainly require safety controls.

    I agree with a flat ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Everything else should be registered, and law enforcement should know where every firearm is within their jurisdiction. Hunters should be encouraged to form clubs with the club owning the weapons and making them available during season. People who want to keep pistols at home for self-defense should go through training on their proper use.

    Only those who are extremely trustworthy should be allowed to carry firearms in a public place. We need judges who will return the Second Amendment to its original interpretation. It was passed when the country had no standing army and depended on the militia of the states.

  4. Will,

    I think the liability insurance requirement is a good idea. If nothing else, it will tend to increase concerns about gun safety and security. I would think that requiring insurance would not raise second amendment concerns, while the cost would at least make some folks think again about why they need a gun.

    I also agree with an absolute assault weapon ban, although the key here is getting the definition right since there is always a likelihood that vendors will search out loopholes.

    I would think that both of these would be doable on a state basis while pushing for more effective federal rules.

  5. While some of the suggestions make sense, anything that infringes on constitutional rights, which includes the right to privacy as well as the right to own firearms, is likely to be self-defeating. I favor the liability pathway: ideally, to pressure gunmakers to adopt some of the safety strategies that are already out there, through the threat of legal action if sales methods allow for acquisition by individuals who have a history of dangerous behavior. Holding gun owners responsible legally for the misuse of weapons is another, similar, option.

    There is reason to believe that persons who are contemplating an act of mass murder, like suicidal persons, communicate with someone before taking action. There should be clear legal protections for those who alert police or other authorities when they have such information. Public education in this regard would be very important, since those who learn about such threats in advance are an important line of defense and methods that facilitate the provision of such information while protecting the whistle blower would be helpful.

    By all means, tighten the assault weapon restrictions, and ban the large magazines, but seizure would be unfeasible, as would other intrusive measures. For example, while I don’t care much for violent video games and, as a parent, would ban them from my home, the evils of censorship are not a good tradeoff; besides, the data doesn’t support a clear causative role. We don’t need to replicate the “war on pornography.”

    I agree that there is little hope for Congress to do anything sensible in this (or any other) area; ultimately, I hope for a Supreme Court to be so constituted that a rational interpretation of the Second Amendment may come to replace the one responsible for our current dilemma. For the time being, however, we will remain an armed society.

  6. Will,

    Thanks for hosting this forum.
    A lot of great ideas so far.

    One area that hasn’t had much attention is ammunition restrictions.
    Let folks own as many guns as they want, but restrict the amount of ammunition that can be stored for personal protection.

    1) Firearm owners would be allowed to purchase a lifetime supply of only x amount of ammunition for personal protection. Shooting ranges and hunting grounds would be exempt and any extra ammunition at the end of day would have to be returned.

    2) Sell ammunition with unique codes laser inscribed on each projectile that can be tracked and recorded by law enforcement. Each box of ammunition sold along with the state-issued ID of the person who purchased it should be tracked in a database.

    3) Special tax on ammunition (and firearms). Any taxes collected on sale of firearms should be directed to funding new programs, education, and law enforcement efforts.

  7. Two elements are necessary for these violent crimes:
    1. A gun
    2. A person who will use it

    Eliminating the guns will likely be impossible. Go ahead and make assault rifles illegal, but any automatic pistol with spare clips will do a similar job, and there are millions out there. The problem is way beyong the existance of AR-15s.

    Let’s direct more effort to the person who will use it, and for that, we must change our culture and what contributes to it.

    Kids today grow up with violence portrayed everywhere. Violent video games. Violent movies. Violent arcade games. Violent TV shows (Who got murdered in this one?. Violent role models. Bruce Willis. Arnold Schwartzenegger etc. Violent toys at Toys r us and Walmart etc. We are raising our kids to be warriors. They grow up pulling triggers and it’s exciting. There must be something else that’s exciting….

    It is going to take work and time and restrictions and diversions and a new sense of what is important by us all. A new direction must be promoted. It’s time for new objectives. And a cultural negativeism introduced on the shoot ’em up mentality.

  8. Will, you are right to make this topic a legislative priority. I realize many of the top-down solutions will require federal legislative actions, and it will be a long slog there.

    As for suggestions about what can be done within our state, I agree that taxation, insurance, and legal liability can be very helpful. Another would be for the state to use its considerable influence through education and marketing to make inappropriate gun and ammunition possession as socially taboo as drunk driving. Social pressure is a powerful thing, especially if accepted leaders set the right tone.

  9. I agree with Mr. Kennedy’s observations about the amount of violence in the media, entertainment, etc. However, the “shoot ’em up” mentality is not what I have encountered in licensed gun and rifle owners.

    I would support banning the likes of the AK-15 and have target-shooting friends in California who have complied with the maximum of 10 rounds per weapon loading.

    The real problems come with: illegal gun owners, inadequate gun safe measures and the slightly deranged. As with the case of the Newtown, Ct. shootings, how does one legislate for on-going psychological issues that have not been addressed with a psychiatric hospital admission, thereby precluding that person from becoming licensed?

    Support of the 2nd amendment by licensed gun/rifle owners is something they do with responsibility and seriousness. The route to obtaining a gun license in Massachusetts is an extensive background check and then scrutiny by the local police department.

    Banning an assault weapon would be a good idea. Nobody needs that type of gun for hunting.

  10. How about enforcing the laws we already have? It is my understanding that there are additional charges when a gun is used in the commission of a crime but that charge is almost always dropped before the individual is prosecuted. What’s the point of having laws if we don’t enforce them in the courts?

    Start with the laws we have already then pass new ones.

  11. Does anyone who attended the brain storming session mentioned own guns? The licensing procedures in Massachusetts are rigorous and would have likely weeded out most of the recent mass shooters just by their requirements and level of scrutiny. If anyone is interested in a more in-depth description of how licenses are granted, I wrote up my experiences here: http://tenyearreadinglist.wordpress.com/2013/01/08/how-i-got-a-gun-license-freedom-isnt-free/
    Suffice it to say, before I got a license, I went through background checks, interviews, and two safety courses.
    My guns are kept locked up, and I use them for competitions out of state — which would make storing them elsewhere extremely inconvenient — and for arget shooting at a local gun club. I am not afraid of criminals or black helicopters. I own guns for sporting purposes. Responsible, resonable gun owners are being left out of these discussions in part because they are out shouted by zealots on the extremes of the debate, and in part because they are in some ways afraid of trying to be heard in such a heated debate. Most gun owners are safety-conscious, responsible people who use their guns in that manner.
    Before we go rushing headlong into changing laws in Massachusetts, let’s make sure there really is a need. Rather than trying to change our laws, we ought to consider holding them up as a model for other states to prevent serious gun crime.

  12. I’m very concerned about the complete unawareness of why we have a 2nd amendment. People have been brainwashed to think it has something to do about hunting. It is 100% about have a final check on tyrannical government. Having the Government with a monopoly on firearms is the precursor to worse things to come. Hitler, Mao, Stalin and Castro were also insisted upon having a disarmed population.
    Most importantly, I would like to understand how all these myriad of restrictions being discussed does anything to stop a criminal or a mentally imbalanced person from acquiring a firearm. Do you think the criminals will follow these stringent gun laws or just acquire it on the black market? You should be honest about this. You are only disarming the law abiding citizen.

    It really seems to me some people have an irrational fear of firearms, which stems from never having used one and only seeing the glorification of violence on T.V. We need to examine the root causes of these mass shootings. One thing I’ve noticed is that they have all been on anti-psychotic and anti-depressant pharmaceuticals. There have been many studies that show increased homicidal and suicidal thoughts when taken these meds. In fact, it even says it on the insert. Over 20% of our children are now on these mind altering meds. Don’t you think we should look at this issue? I know mental illness has been discussed as a minor footnote, but what about the effect these meds are having. Also, do some research on the skyrocketing suicide rate. Folks, something is seriously wrong here.

  13. Feel free to join an open discussion on Gun Safety, February 7th, 6:45-8:45 at the Watertown Library. This will be the first meeting of the group and will feature a presentation by Watertown Chief of Police, Edward Deveau. The Chief will be asked to explain the permitting process, registration, sales etc, and hopefully some things he would like changed. For the final hour, the group will decide how we want to act, and what the areas of emphasis should be. Hosted by Watertown4GunSafety; watertown4gunsafety@gmail.com

  14. Hi Will,
    Thanks so much for working on this very important issue. I, my husband Ram, and my 4 children, FULLY support any and all initiatives to restrict gun use, possession, sales, etc. Initiatives to further increase restrictions in MA can only serve as added pressure on the federal government to be proactive about reinstate the 2004 ban, and hopefully move way beyond that by closing loopholes, etc. I would particularly support a guns buyback program, as we are already dealing with an unacceptable number of guns in our society. Finally, I am appalled to learn from my kids of so many of their friends who are actively engaged in mass killing videogames… Here I’d say that the primary problem lies in the poor judgement of their parents, for which educational campaigns might be the only way forward…

  15. I’d like to expand upon what Robert Kennedy said above. Our media culture is not only very violent, but it promotes certain messages around violence – especially, equating masculinity with violence. This message is repeatedly sold to children through toy marketing, television shows, video games and movies. Children are overwhelmed by the message. This message doesn’t necessarily lead directly to rampages by young men, but it does have an effect on our overall culture, and is likely a part of the picture when events like the Newtown killings happen.

    I believe that one crucial element that we need to counter this influence on children in something called Media Literacy. Media Literacy education, in which children learn to deconstruct media messages, analyze them, and create their own positive messages, has been shown over and over again in research to be highly effective in helping children to see through these messages, understand that they don’t have to accept those messages, and to change their own behavior.

    This is a key element to any plan to reduce gun violence in Massachusetts that I don’t see mentioned above. Regulation is listed, but I think that is going to be a tall order, given the Supreme Court’s already demonstrated reluctance to regulate video games as a First Amendment issue. And I don’t think regulation is necessarily the first step. I believe education is the first step.

    There will be a bill this session in the legislature calling on the Department of Education to support Media Literacy education for all Massachusetts students. The Massachusetts Media Literacy Consortium is leading the advocacy effort. (Thank you Sen. Brownsberger for your support of this legislation!) http://www.massmedialiteracyconsortium.com/
    We’d like to see all students in Massachusets, and the nation, have access to this kind of education, which is urgently needed, and empowering for all. I would like to see Media Literacy education included in any discussion on reducing gun violence.

  16. I have not heard any public justification as to why ordinary citizens should be allowed to carry concealed weapons. I’d like to see this topic brought out and debated openly. This privilege should be available only to people who have a professional need for it and have been thoroughly vetted and trained.

    I think the idea of insurance is good — a separate policy on each weapon, so that the cost of owning multiple guns goes up rapidly. The cost of the insurance for keeping a weapon in one’s home, where family members including children can access it, should be much higher than the cost of storing it securely at a target shooting club or hunting club.

    Most of all, I’d like to see the funding safeguarded that provides for mental health diagnosis and treatment through Medicare and Medicaid. It’s true that including a mental health check for gun purchase could encourage some people to try to obtain guns illegally rather than legally. But such a check might also catch people with murderous plans before they get near a chance to carry them out.

    To change the gun culture in this country, we must be VERY concerned about the example we set for our children, and discuss with them why we don’t want them to watch violent movies and shows and play violent video games.

    We must also allow the police to destroy bought-back weapons, as soon as the sellers have received compensation. The important thing about weapons, from handguns to nuclear bombs, is their potential destructiveness, not whether they are products which people have labored to manufacture. A laborer can always make something else. A person who is dead is dead.

    Ultimately we have to debate whether war/violence is the answer to any kind of hostility, either internationally or anywhere in our society.

  17. What do you all suggest for mental health interventions allowed by law in the case of questionable potential patients? The current gun license screening in Massachusetts requires information about mental health admissions but there are people who have never been admitted anywhere who seem a little over the top. Do you mandate their being treated because they seem “different” or “a little off”?
    Leaving aside the argument for the 2nd amendment, there are people who like to go target or skeet-shooting. If licensed, they have been through instruction class and class about the law and responsibilities. These are not the bad guys.
    As for parents who allow their children to play idiot games and watch awful movies, well, they are irresponsible and probably stupid, too.

  18. Mr Kennedy and Loates are on the right track. We cannot tie the hands of law enforcement by limiting their information about a person requesting a FID card or permission to carry. It is the unstable person who causes the major issues. Traditional criminals usually don’t want to use a weapon but the the mentally ill who do. All the major events we have seen are people with mental issues. We need to fix our mental health system first but that will cost money and “main streaming” the mentally ill is the current trend becuae it is cheaper than true care. We need to keep the mentally ill from legally getting any weapons. Maybe a 30 day delay before delivery might work. People who know someone needs help and does not report it should also be held liable for their actions. Tough to prove in court but the chance of court might make people more willing to get involved.

    I am an NRA member and have no issue with smaller mag sizes. We do that in MA already. We don’t allow mail order guns or ammo. We have restrictions already on semi automatic weapons and parts. Also we are NOT talking about automatic weapons. The sale of automatic weapons to the public has been banned since the 1980’s by the Federal Government. We are discussing semi-automatic weapons. AR-15 are semio-automatic as are most hand guns that are not revolvers. Most hunting shot guns are semi=automatic or pump.

    I don’t see how liability insurance or additional taxes will make us safer. It just makes it more expensive on the good guys. Making every gun owner have a safe is a better idea as it keeps the criminals from attaining them. Someone also brought up making the names of gun owners available on line. That is a dumb idea. Law enforcement already knows who has a permit and registered gun. The people interest in that list would be the criminals who are looking to steal a weapons. Few criminals use a gun registered to themselves. It woulld be a road map for trouble.

    As a whole MA has been on the right path for years with what we have done with restrictions and education requirements. The issue all goes back to getting help for the mentally ill and not letting them get access to weapons.

    Gun violence related to traditional crime is a different issue as some of the cities with highest gun violence and deathe are the cities with the tightest gun regulations (Chicago, New York, Washington DC, LA) I think that issue has more to do with socio-economic and cultural issues than just gun control. Again those weapons are almost all stolen or supplied by the Justice Department. Sorry couldn’t help myself.

    Keep up the good work and remember all the issues we are talking about today have nothing to do with law abiding hunters or target shooters who have every right to own and use their weapons and are the largest contributors to wildlife and environmental issues in the state.

  19. Will,

    I would agree that assault weapons should be banned. Perhaps people who would like to own them would be allowed to do so by disabling the firing mechanism on the piece, e.g. pour molten lead down the barrel of the weapon.

    With respect to multi-round magazines,they should be required to be modified so that a maximum of six rounds can be in the weapon. A ‘block’ could be designed and people who have multi-round magazines should be required to have them modified and certified.

    I think the mental health judgement becomes a bit dicey. Given the existence of HIPAA, it be comes difficult to get someone’s medical records. Of course, if the law requires the individual to sign a release of medical history (similar to life insurance companies accessing the Medical Information Bureau, if a person refuses permission to have access to and to make contributions to that database, the insurance company simply denies coverage), then there bis a basis for rejection.

    I would think we could get this done at the state level, if not at the federal level.

    BTW, the site seems great!

  20. I suggest you Google “Gun Laws in Massachusetts” and select the Wikipedia entry. There you will see that magazines are limited to 10 rounds unless a circumstance grandfathers in something bought before 9/13/94.
    This is interesting in that it shows the strictness of the Massachusetts licensing process.

  21. I like Gov. Patrick’s idea about limiting gun purchases and about gun buybacks and allowing local police to have a say in long gun permits…I am wondering if it would be good to mimic the legislation proposed for NY state so we have as strong or stronger regulations for firearms. The gun issue definitely crosses state boundaries. Thanks…

    “Mr. Cuomo not only proposed a far more restrictive assault weapons ban than currently exists in New York, but he also proposed a more comprehensive ban on large capacity magazines. He also proposed to require background checks for private sales of guns, not just at gun shows and stores. And he called for tougher penalties for buying guns illegally or for using them to commit crimes, as well as uniform licensing standards across the state.

    Mr. Cuomo has been working feverishly to reach a deal with lawmakers, and is close to negotiating one to allow for rapid passage of the gun measures.

    “This is not taking away people’s guns,” he said. “That is not what this is about. It is about ending the unnecessary risk of high-capacity assault rifles”

  22. I’m very concerned about the push to change the gun laws by many who do not even understand what the existing gun laws are in Massachusetts. We already have very restrictive licensing, which if really tested is unconstitutional. I really think we are going to have real problems disarming states like Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, etc. Who is going to do this dirty work of gun confiscation? This could literally create a new civil war, which I’m starting to think is the intent of some. I’ve included a link which does a good job at debating common myths on gun control. We need to keep an open mind on this topic and not just throw out our Constitutional rights with informed debate.

    http://people.duke.edu/~gnsmith/articles/myths.htm

  23. Will, thank you for working on this issue. It’s so important but we have let this ride for too long.

    It’s not a simple issue with one cause or solution, but there are just too many guns in the U.S. Statistics show that with more gun availability, there is more gun violence. You don’t have to be a criminal or be mentally disturbed to be a perpetrator, you need only to have a moment of loss of self-control with anger and a gun handy. How many of us have had the former without, fortunately, having had the latter?

    Assault weapons are killing machines. Why are these available to the general public? If one had to shoot such a weapon for fun, they should be at a shooting range with a loaner in that facility only.

    So many good ideas have been mentioned by you and by some contributors. I don’t have any more solutions, just questions:

    Why do some states’ laws prevent guns from buy-back programs from being destroyed? (I hope this isn’t the case in MA.) I understand that in some places, the guns that are turned in are required by law to be recycled back to gun dealers.

    Why can people buy guns at trade shows, etc. without background checks?

    If the Second Amendment is the only thing that is keeping the US from being taken over by tyrants (which hasn’t happened in 236 years), then explain to me why and how other countries maintain democratic governments without gun ownership being a “right” and without guns being commonplace.

    There is plenty of societal work we need to do to quell violence, provide better accessibility for and care to the mentally ill, give more education and guidance for parents, etc. but it all starts with too many guns that are too easy to get.

    Make it hard, limit guns, limit ammo!

    Thank you.

  24. Mark, with all due respect, even thousands of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines on the civilian market are no particular match for the US military today, should it turn on us (which–I want to be clear–it is no where near to doing). We’re way beyond a well-regulated small-arms militia being an effective check on the prospect of government aggression. Are you all for individuals being able to purchase a surface-to-air missile group from a defense contractor and operate it in their backyards? Because that’s where we’d be headed if we seriously followed the check-on-government-monopoly-of-firepower logic. (Please, defense contractor lobbyists, don’t get any ideas here) It really is only our democratic non-violent, political vigilance that provides any real power against tyranny now. Which, I think, is called human progress, when we must rely on community relationships and reasoned debate rather than the threat of violence to guide and oversee our governing and defense institutions. So please set that 2nd amendment issue aside now, because it just doesn’t play in the world as it is today. The only reason these assault weapons are flooding our country and making deranged massacre and accident scenarios so frequent, is that selling them to people is extremely profitable for some. And selling that fear of the institutions we ourselves empower and oversee to protect us and serve us, drives that market. To me, other peoples’ profits are not a good enough reason to flood our communities with assault weapons–with no other practical use–that allow individuals to commit massacres in seconds.

    It sounds like you know more about firearms than I do, though, so I would welcome a technical discussion of which configurations allow more rapid fire than 1/(few-to-several seconds), because those are the ones that, it seems to me, are going to be nearly impossible for unarmed people to defend against or respond to, while having no real purpose other than rapid killing of people. I actually don’t want to ban all guns. I’m just looking for the reasonable lines that can be drawn against what technologies can and can’t be sold to protect general community safety, without overly invading peoples’ privacy.

    PS. you bring up a valid concern about over-medication of children with drugs we don’t nearly well-enough understand, but I think it’s peripheral to this problem.

  25. Here are a few things even gun owners might support;
    A). Universal Background checks
    B). A 2-week waiting period
    C). Gun safety test administered by Police
    D). Outlaw purchase of body armor
    E). ban second-party sales
    Anyone got a problem with any of these 5 measures? Please sound in.

  26. Will,

    The idea of having gun owners store guns at gun club is not practical. I am a member of two club and they do not want the liability of storing guns. It would just make it easier for the criminals. One stop shopping. I don’t think someone would want to put their collectable Purdy shotgun worth $50,000 in someone elses safe. What would be the purpose of a self defense weapon if you had to go to the club to get it.

    Someone mentioned the police should test everyone. That is currently in place to carry concealed weapons. Some towns and cities run the course and others you must show a certificate that you passed a gun safty course with an approved instructor.

    People must inform themselves of what our laws in MA are before discussing this subject. We have some of the toughest laws in the country but that is not going to help if a metally ill person wants to harm you as he could do it with a gun, a knife, or a car if that is what he want to do. We must use the laws we have. Will, as a lawyer, why is it that hardly anyone gets the one year manditory sentence for using a gun in a crime? Why are only 12 states putting mental health records in the federal data base? Why was the Justice Department selling guns to gun dealers for export to Mexico. Why are some guns in buyback programs and taken by police never destroyed? We need to enforce the laws we have now!

  27. Kristin, I appreciate your viewpoint and understand your concern over high capacity arms. Just to clarify, I understand the citizen is no match for the U.S military, but ultimately when a government goes bad they have to figure out a way to control the masses with threats of violence. This is not done with surface to air missile or nuclear weapons, it is done with small bands of thugs and rebels that enforce their will on a local level. There are many conflicts in the world right know where this dynamic is playing out. I really don’t think we should assume ourselves so highly evolved. In fact, I see the seriously dissolution of our constitutional rights over the past few years under Bush/Obama. The NDAA that Obama signed into law last year is truly frightening along with the Patriot Act and our killing of millions of people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Syria and maybe Iran next. Gandhi had an interesting viewpoint on gun control in his autobiography.

    “Among the many misdeeds of British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest.” – Mohandas Gandhi, an Autobiography, page 446.

    Lastly, as far as prescription drugs, please see the below recent post by John Noveske that points out the common thread of anti-depressant/psychotic meds. The newer generation of SSRI are having horrific affect on our children, especially our boys.

    Eric Harris age 17 (first on Zoloft then Luvox) and Dylan Klebold aged 18 (Columbine school shooting in Littleton, Colorado), killed 12 students and 1 teacher, and wounded 23 others, before killing themselves. Klebold’s medical records have never been made available to the public.

    Jeff Weise, age 16, had been prescribed 60 mg/day of Prozac (three times the average starting dose for adults!) when he shot his grandfather, his grandfather’s girlfriend and many fellow students at Red Lake, Minnesota. He then shot himself. 10 dead, 12 wounded.

    Cory Baadsgaard, age 16, Wahluke (Washington state) High School, was on Paxil (which caused him to have hallucinations) when he took a rifle to his high school and held 23 classmates hostage. He has no memory of the event.

    Chris Fetters, age 13, killed his favorite aunt while taking Prozac.

    Christopher Pittman, age 12, murdered both his grandparents while taking Zoloft.

    Mathew Miller, age 13, hung himself in his bedroom closet after taking Zoloft for 6 days.

    Kip Kinkel, age 15, (on Prozac and Ritalin) shot his parents while they slept then went to school and opened fire killing 2 classmates and injuring 22 shortly after beginning Prozac treatment.

    Luke Woodham, age 16 (Prozac) killed his mother and then killed two students, wounding six others.

    A boy in Pocatello, ID (Zoloft) in 1998 had a Zoloft-induced seizure that caused an armed stand off at his school.

    Michael Carneal (Ritalin), age 14, opened fire on students at a high school prayer meeting in West Paducah, Kentucky. Three teenagers were killed, five others were wounded..

    A young man in Huntsville, Alabama (Ritalin) went psychotic chopping up his parents with an ax and also killing one sibling and almost murdering another.

    Andrew Golden, age 11, (Ritalin) and Mitchell Johnson, aged 14, (Ritalin) shot 15 people, killing four students, one teacher, and wounding 10 others.

    TJ Solomon, age 15, (Ritalin) high school student in Conyers, Georgia opened fire on and wounded six of his class mates.

    Rod Mathews, age 14, (Ritalin) beat a classmate to death with a bat.

    James Wilson, age 19, (various psychiatric drugs) from Breenwood, South Carolina, took a .22 caliber revolver into an elementary school killing two young girls, and wounding seven other children and two teachers.

    Elizabeth Bush, age 13, (Paxil) was responsible for a school shooting in Pennsylvania

    Jason Hoffman (Effexor and Celexa) – school shooting in El Cajon, California

    Jarred Viktor, age 15, (Paxil), after five days on Paxil he stabbed his grandmother 61 times.

    Chris Shanahan, age 15 (Paxil) in Rigby, ID who out of the blue killed a woman.

    Jeff Franklin (Prozac and Ritalin), Huntsville, AL, killed his parents as they came home from work using a sledge hammer, hatchet, butcher knife and mechanic’s file, then attacked his younger brothers and sister.

    Neal Furrow (Prozac) in LA Jewish school shooting reported to have been court-ordered to be on Prozac along with several other medications.

    Kevin Rider, age 14, was withdrawing from Prozac when he died from a gunshot wound to his head. Initially it was ruled a suicide, but two years later, the investigation into his death was opened as a possible homicide. The prime suspect, also age 14, had been taking Zoloft and other SSRI antidepressants.

    Alex Kim, age 13, hung himself shortly after his Lexapro prescription had been doubled.

    Diane Routhier was prescribed Welbutrin for gallstone problems. Six days later, after suffering many adverse effects of the drug, she shot herself.

    Billy Willkomm, an accomplished wrestler and a University of Florida student, was prescribed Prozac at the age of 17. His family found him dead of suicide – hanging from a tall ladder at the family’s Gulf Shore Boulevard home in July 2002.

    Kara Jaye Anne Fuller-Otter, age 12, was on Paxil when she hung herself from a hook in her closet. Kara’s parents said “…. the damn doctor wouldn’t take her off it and I asked him to when we went in on the second visit. I told him I thought she was having some sort of reaction to Paxil…”)

    Gareth Christian, Vancouver, age 18, was on Paxil when he committed suicide in 2002,
    (Gareth’s father could not accept his son’s death and killed himself.)

    Julie Woodward, age 17, was on Zoloft when she hung herself in her family’s detached garage.

    Matthew Miller was 13 when he saw a psychiatrist because he was having difficulty at school. The psychiatrist gave him samples of Zoloft. Seven days later his mother found him dead, hanging by a belt from a laundry hook in his closet.

    Kurt Danysh, age 18, and on Prozac, killed his father with a shotgun. He is now behind prison bars, and writes letters, trying to warn the world that SSRI drugs can kill.

    Woody ____, age 37, committed suicide while in his 5th week of taking Zoloft. Shortly before his death his physician suggested doubling the dose of the drug. He had seen his physician only for insomnia. He had never been depressed, nor did he have any history of any mental illness symptoms.

    A boy from Houston, age 10, shot and killed his father after his Prozac dosage was increased.

    Hammad Memon, age 15, shot and killed a fellow middle school student. He had been diagnosed with ADHD and depression and was taking Zoloft and “other drugs for the conditions.”

    Matti Saari, a 22-year-old culinary student, shot and killed 9 students and a teacher, and wounded another student, before killing himself. Saari was taking an SSRI and a benzodiazapine.

    Steven Kazmierczak, age 27, shot and killed five people and wounded 21 others before killing himself in a Northern Illinois University auditorium. According to his girlfriend, he had recently been taking Prozac, Xanax and Ambien. Toxicology results showed that he still had trace amounts of Xanax in his system.

    Finnish gunman Pekka-Eric Auvinen, age 18, had been taking antidepressants before he killed eight people and wounded a dozen more at Jokela High School – then he committed suicide.
    Asa Coon from Cleveland, age 14, shot and wounded four before taking his own life. Court records show Coon was on Trazodone.

    Jon Romano, age 16, on medication for depression, fired a shotgun at a teacher in his
    New York high school.

    Missing from list… 3 of 4 known to have taken these same meds….

    What drugs was Jared Lee Loughner on, age 21…… killed 6 people and injuring 14 others in Tuscon, Az

    What drugs was James Eagan Holmes on, age 24….. killed 12 people and injuring 59 others in Aurora Colorado

    What drugs was Jacob Tyler Roberts on, age 22, killed 2 injured 1, Clackamas Or

    What drugs was Adam Peter Lanza on, age 20, Killed 26 and wounded 2 in Newtown Ct
    Roberts is the only one that I haven’t heard about being on drugs of some kind.

  28. So the five ideas laid out above are not totally unreasonable, and some are in place in some form already. Here are some thoughts, since this seems like a good starting point for discussion.

    A). Universal Background checks — Already in place in Massachusetts, though the data is spotty.The problem here is not the lack of checks, though there may b e a problem with information available.

    B). A 2-week waiting period — Not sure this is necessary for all types of guns.

    C). Gun safety test administered by Police — This may be the case already in some towns. All license applicants must pass a state-approved safety course. The problem with having the test administered by the police is that it requires staffing and facilities, and if an actual range portion were included, it would require maintaining ranges.

    D). Outlaw purchase of body armor — Not sure what this does about gun violence, and there may be restrictions in place already. I don’t know of anyone who owns body armor, but just musing out loud, if someone wanted to go to the expense of buying it they might have a good reason. To my knowledge, body armor has not been a factor in most mass shootings.

    E). ban second-party sales — I am guessing you mean private sales from one owner to another. Currently the law requires that the state is notified of private sales of firearms within seven days and the sale can only happen between two licensed people.

    As someone mentioned earlier, before proposing any changes to laws, we should become familiar with what the current ones are.

  29. Thank you for this important conversation. I’d like to see a lot of high taxes on guns and ammo, and these taxes should be required yearly, not just once as a sales tax. All gun sales, with no loop-holes, should be required to be reported to the state for inclusion in the data and for taxing purposes.

    I’m discouraged by various federal laws that tie the hands of the AFT and the CDC with regards to gun data and gun traceability. I’d like to see Massachusetts REQUIRE the gathering, computerization, and publication of gun / ammo ownership data within the state so that people can see what we are dealing with.

    The only exception I would make would be the public publication of individual gun owner’s names, but that data should be freely available to police and public safety agencies.

    I’d like to see sentencing guidelines that double the penalties for any crimes in which the criminal used a gun, either by firing it or by just having it with them whether loaded or not, during the commission of the crime.

    Sally Eyring

  30. As I mentioned earlier, these kind of rules already exist but are not implemented. On the sentencing side, if a firearm is involved with a crime, a minimum sentence is set (usually five years or so) and discretion is removed from the hands of the judge. Unfortunately, those charges tend to be dropped before the trial so the sentencing guidelines do not factor in to the sentence.

    To me, this is where we start. Look at the laws we already have amd just, for crying out loud, enforce them. In every detail. Then, if they don’t work, look at writing new laws.

  31. Hi Will,

    I am so impressed by the other responses. I want to join the responders.

    I hope we change the laws allowing people to easy access guns capable of mass destruction.
    I support hunting. I doubt hunters need to shoot a deer 20 times. I would think one good shot is enough.
    Here is a scenario. If a school has new large factory open next door and the factory spews carcinogenic fumes out of its chimneys, is the school expected to seal all school’s windows and close all outdoor air ducts into the school, because the outdoor air is dangerous?. Why should schools have to protect their/our students from dangerous possibilities alone? The factory’s fumes could potentially harm surrounding area and the neighborhood too. I would hope our schools, our community and our government would demand that the factory address this serious issue and stop the poisonous air from escaping into the air.
    I imagine it would be very challenging to insulate our schools from all outside dangers in order to protect their/our students. We need to assure our neighborhoods that we will do whatever is necessary to make things safer.

    If I am correct, when you buy a car it has to be registered. Why not expect all guns to be nationally registered too?

    I hope we can stop allowing assault weapons from being so easily available.

  32. To all the people who are suggesting high annual taxes on guns and ammo it will not pass muster. The courts will not let you abolish the second ammendment via taxation. Tough background checks, better data bases, and delays in purchases will help limit who can get a permit. States have to be vigilant in keeping the data base up to date. Judges must enforce minimum gun penalties when used in a crimes. Parents must take more care in how they raise their children and get them help when they need it.

    As for us not having to worry about our government look at the world today. I have a college friend from Syria. A group of government backed men came to her parents town and killed 23 people, men women and children. She loves her country but it has changed. We do not live in a static world our founding fathers knew that and that is why the second amendment was included. They had seen the government that they loved change. Hopefully we will never see anything like that in our lifetimes but I for one will always remember that the world is everchanging.

  33. Sally,

    What you are asking for is already in place in MA. All guns are registered with the state under penalty of law. Data bases exsist but the state is doing a poor job maintaining it. Traditional assualt weapons are currently banded and semi-automatics limited in capacity. We have some of the toughest laws in the country.

    Trying to ban all guns via taxation will not stand up in court. We must be vigilant in who gets a gun and make sentancing for gun related crimes a deterant to gun use. 10 year sentance for a crime with a gun would be a good start.

  34. Rather than pick from a menu of popular gun control ideas, new regulations at the state level should be based on gun-related problems in the state and start with statistics on the types, incidence and causes of gun violence.

    There are many highly responsible, law-abiding gun owners in the state. If most gun violence is caused by illegal guns, that’s what we should deal with, rather than imposing new regulations on legitimate gun owners. On the other hand, if a significant cause of gun-related deaths or injuries is caused by unsafe gun storage, then it would be appropriate to require safe storage (e.g., gun locks and education, not storage in some remote site).

    Assault weapons and high-capacity magazines are in a different category. They are basically just toys, with a particularly deadly potential. They are not used for hunting or serious target shooting. They should be restricted.

    Just as my crime committee spends a lot of time talking with the police about panhandling and we keep coming back to the root problem of homelessness, the gun problem has its own root causes that need to be dealt with, as difficult as they may be – e.g., poverty, joblessness, the perversity of keeping recreational drugs illegal, which simply makes street-level drug-dealing a highly profitable and attractive criminal enterprise, spawns gangs, and draws in illegal guns.

  35. Got this comment by email:

    Thanks for your message re gun violence. If one buys a gun, does the gun
    have a serial number? If not, shouldn’t each gun have one that couldn’t
    be tampered with and seen via x-ray of something. Each gun sold would
    have to go into a database with the owner’s name. This would have to be
    federal legislation, I guess, and never get passed the gun lobby. Some
    folks have suggested more plausible solutions. Thanks for your attention
    to this matter.

    The good news is that yes, guns do have serial numbers under federal law. See this Wikipedia post on the Gun Control Act of 1968. This does allow some degree of tracing, as long as the gun moves through dealers.

  36. · Re-enact the expired gun control law of 1984

    · Allow the purchase of only one gun per year per person

    · Require federal registration of guns and licensing of gun owners. No one under 21 can be issued a permit. A permit cannot be issued to anyone convicted of a felony or who is judged to be mentally stable. The permit must have the owner’s photo. Permits must be re-issued annually, including the check with the gun registry. Guns cannot be re-sold without going through the permitting procedure

    · No fully automatic weapons allowed to be sold; magazines to hold a maximum of four rounds; no 50 caliber or above to be sold

    · Make it very difficult to effect a conversion from semi-automatic to full automatic

    · Carry out gun buy- backs on a regular basis

    · Establish a national registry for firearms

    · Gun owners must secure the weapon such that it cannot be removed from its storage place. All weapons must be provided with a trigger guard

    · Weapons cannot be loaned to others unless the borrower is accompanied by the registered owner

    · Enforce the Second Amendment as it reads: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” This says that the security of a free state may require a well-regulated militia.
    · A weapon taken illegally from its owner results in manslaughter or murder convictions of the owner

    · Not allowed for rifles: telescoping stock, pistol grip, bayonet mount, grenade launcher, flash suppressor

    · Not allowed for shotguns: telescoping stock, pistol grip, a capacity to hold more than four rounds

    · Not allowed for handguns: threaded barrels made to attach a barrel extender, handgrip or flash suppressor; a barrel shroud that can be used as a handhold, weight of at least 50 oz. when unloaded

  37. For over a decade, a unique gun law in New Jersey has been on the books. It requires that all new handguns sold in the state be equipped with biometric sensors, so that such guns, sometimes called “smart guns”, can only be fired by an authorized user. With “smart gun” technology Adam Lanza would have not been able to fire the legally registered guns owned by his mother.

    For an analysis on why the law is still not in effect see: http://www.newsworks.org/ for the article “A Jersey Mystery: Who killed the smart gun?” by Zack Seward on January 10, 2013.

    Research should be reinstated for “smart gun” technology with possibly MIT partnering with NJIT. Massachusetts, NJ, and possibly other state legislators should work together to overcome the barriers to implementing the “smart gun” law.

    Freedom to own a gun carries huge responsibilities. “Smart guns” are one way to balance freedom with responsibility. Judy Clark

  38. Thanks for attention to this vital national concern about guns. Jim Miranda has details about what might be included addressing problems. Let’s don’t call it gun control but rather gun safety measures. Certainly the very dangerous automatic and assault combat weapons available so readily can be dealt with. We know already the NRA won’t listen to anything so we must be prepared for reasonable restrictions. Certainly to be included is registrations and sales procedures.

    By the way, a trip out to Concord museum reminds us of what the second amendment meant so long ago…a picture of a citizen who was indeed expected to bear arms when the call went out from the militia. And the militia predated a standing army or police force. And the arms meant a long barreled rifle taking almost a minute to reload.

  39. Will:

    Interesting discussion, with plenty of ideas. Given the proliferation of AR 15 type weapons, however, and the furious rush to purchase them along with ammunition, I seriously doubt banning them will have much impact, even if the intractability of congressional opposition didn’t exist. Other measures might have more promise.

    I just read about an Iraq war vet, unemployed, who sold his AR15 for 3 times its purchase price so he could go to Bible school. It would be funny if it weren’t so extreme. The rush to buy has been likened to the anxiety provoked by the great Twinkies scare of 2012: people will avoid something’s being taken away from them, and will overvalue the product. Unless we are prepared to seize such weapons, which is completely unfeasible, simply banning them will not work. Ban the bullets, since sooner or later everyone will run out of them.

    The issue has to be transformed, pending a re-evaluation by some future Supreme Court of the Second Amendment. Right now, the perspective of the gun zealot (as contrasted with the average owner) is deprivation of a constitutional right. Among the most extreme, it is deprivation by the government of the right to resist government tyranny. Gun safety is a better field of negotiation.

    If the issue is gun safety, and universal armament is the current interpretation of the Second Amendment, leading to ubiquitous availability, let’s place the emphasis on responsible ownership and create liability for lapses. The next step will be insurance, with the power of the insurance lobby (which will like the new business) to determine pricing relative to risk. The next step would be safety standards, as a cost issue, and such things as trigger locks would give way to better protection: smart guns and the like, as the insurance industry exerted its leverage. The best outcome would be safer guns, restricted by owners themselves rather than the government, and a disincentive to own multiple weapons; especially those that have no practical use but become a cost burden.

    In addition to the insurance industry, I would like to see another group involved: the legal profession. If weapons used in mass killings can be tracked, not only to owners but also to paths of acquisition, and if there is legislation requiring more effective background checks, then it seems to me that the quality of background checks may be a pathway for legal action. This is a soft area, but one that can be exploited.

    Thanks for doing this, Will

  40. Will,

    I fail to see why we – those who prefer not to be bullied and threatened by disproportional fire force – should be afraid of NRA. They have weak, propaganda-style, ridiculous arguments. They are very vocal and fired-up, but in reality they are 4.2 million in a nation of 330 million. They are the same as the Tea Party goers – noisy, arrogant, but when election comes – they are just a marginal group (sadly, holding hostage the nation). Ideally, we should let the pure democratic process decide if America wants to allow so much arms or not. I am ready to bet that a national referendum on guns will really shrink the gun ownership. So, I was wondering if an appropriate ballot can be arranged and let the people speak. Otherwise, left in the hands of the politicians, it will be distorted because the nature of the political process is to trade horses. Also, making it a ballot question, the issue won’t be a hot potato in any politician’s hands.

    Thank you for being brave and standing up! This is the type of representative people need!

    Nikolay

  41. I grew up in Redding,CT and have two high school classmates who lost family members in the shooting. It was an overwhelming event for the whole country. While many focus their anger on Adam Lanza and his mom, I have a different take on it all. For parents of children who have mental illness, there is no support in this country both therapeutically and in terms of workshops and job opportunities. I am sure she left him for those six days to take a break from an overwhelming task but sadly it was a very poor decision. To have so many guns in a home that were accessible to anyone, was ludicrous and we surely need gun control but as importantly we need to provide ongoing therapy for young adults like Adam. In the schools we build fairly good programs for them and they are mainstreamed and even have a few friends but once graduated those supports end. For the parents, it is an endless journey and even though Adam’s mom did not make a good decision, I am sure her life was a living hell at times. In my early years as a special education teacher, the state of MA had workshops all over for young adults who like Adam needed to feel that they could contribute to society but more importantly, it gave parents a break and their child a purpose. No longer are things like this available not only in our state but in many others.

    Long story, short, we need serious gun control laws as well as some serious mental health supports and insurance companies need to provide ongoing access to therapy or we will be paying with lives like we just did in Newtown. It scares me to think of teachers being armed with guns since a student could easily bring a teacher to the breaking point and I would hate to see a firearm available to them or the teacher could also lose it and turn on a student. We read about these situations all the time. Scary. The NRA has been in control far too long and I hope Joe Biden does something about that. I still have great faith in the Obama administration and it warmed my heart to see him meet with the families and show a deep level of caring for their loss. It truly came from his heart and not because he was the President.

  42. Will,

    Within Massachusetts, there already is full traceability of all firearms that are legally purchased. All guns transferred by a dealer or through private sale are required to be registered via the FA10 form.

  43. Jim Miranda,

    Wow. So if a gun is stolen from someone, the theft victim is now also guilty of murder? Do you really consider this even remotely reasonable? Do we have any precedent for that anywhere else in our laws or society? Would you extend that idea to a car owner who’s vehicle is stolen and used to run down a 3rd party?

    Next, it’s already very difficult and very illegal to convert a semi auto gun to full auto. Where did you get the idea that it’s otherwise?

    When was the last time a mounted bayonet was used in a crime? When was the last time a .50 caliber gun of any sort was used in a crime? How about a barrel extender?

    As for the “militia” wording in the second amendment, please look up the Miller vs. US and Heller supreme court cases. They speak to this directly. Miller in particular says a gun should have a viable use in a militia (and says that a sawed off shotgun does not, which is why Miller lost). However, a militia would need military style weapons. So if a militia is formed, are the members allowed to keep the same M4 in their homes that the military currently uses?

  44. Will,

    This is a good place to start: https://mircs.chs.state.ma.us/fa10/action/home?app_context=home&app_action=presentHome

    I’d like to hear some statistics on how often police investigations a) make use of this data and b) actually find a legally purchased or transferred firearm within MA that is found to have been involved in a crime (including being stolen from the lawful owner). I’ll also point out that the FA10 system requires lawful owners to report theft and loss as well.

    DonCarlson,

    You state: “Assault weapons and high-capacity magazines are in a different category. They are basically just toys, with a particularly deadly potential. They are not used for hunting or serious target shooting. They should be restricted.”

    This is completely false. AR15s are absolutely used in serious target shooting as well as hunting. For target shooting, look up “Camp Perry Service Rifle AR15”. Here’s but one link:http://www.odcmp.com/Competitions/USAMU/Equipment_Ammo.htm

    Further, in MA, center fire rifles are illegal for hunting. Only shotguns and black powder guns are allowed. In other states, AR15s and similar are often used for hunting. You’re propagating misinformation.

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