Testimony alludes to the direction of state gun policy

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Launching a State House gun law hearing last Thursday, Public Safety and Homeland Security co-chair Harold Naughton told two courtrooms packed with people he had recently returned a month-long army training mission to South West Asia.

Naughton said he was overseas during the deadly mass shootings in El Paso, Texas on August 3 and Dayton, Ohio on August 4, and for the shooting of six Philadelphia police officers during deadlock on August 14.

“It is no exaggeration on my part to tell you that several soldiers from those parts of the country who were on mission told me that they felt safer where we were than they would have been. in their hometown, ”Naughton said. .

Following those national headlines and several shootings in Boston over the summer, the committee called for testimony on 70 gun-related bills. Themes that emerged during testimony – and could be areas for further exploration by the committee – include addressing gun violence in urban settings, analyzing gun crime data, and addressing gun violence. prevention of illegal trafficking in firearms.

The hours of input from lawmakers, law enforcement officials and members of the public have highlighted several disparate concerns that committee members should keep in mind as they consider bills and possibly draft their bills. own legislation, such as balancing the rights of gun owners and the desire to keep guns out of the reach of those who will use them in acts of violence.

“Today we have the opportunity to have a real impact on the effects of illegal firearms in our country, but we cannot hesitate to take this opportunity to save lives,” said Representative Chynah Tyler, member of the committee that sponsored a handful of bills aimed at preventing gun violence. “I am optimistic that after today’s hearing, we will be able to put together a full package to recognize that black and brown lives matter, without infringing Residents’ Second Amendment rights.”

In the wake of a 2014 reform that gave police chiefs more discretion over gun licensing, Massachusetts in 2017 banned stockpiles of bumps like those used in the mass shooting in Las Vegas. , and passed a “red flag” law last year that allows family members to ask the courts to suspend the gun ownership rights of someone they believe to be a danger.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo said he expected a “more in-depth conversation” on gun laws this session, but did not identify specific policies the House will pursue.

In a hearing Wednesday, Gun Owners Action League executive director Jim Wallace said he wanted to push back against the idea that Massachusetts gun laws had been successful, saying the number of homicides gun related issues in the state has increased over time.

“There’s no success with these gun laws, period,” Wallace said. “In fact, the only thing these gun laws have done is hurt the people I represent, who are trying to pass these laws without being broken, and, frankly, the people downtown who are being murdered.” in registering numbers. We really need to re-examine all of these laws knowing that they have failed. “

Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, who represents some of the same Boston neighborhoods as Tyler, said her district may be the state most affected by gun deaths. The Jamaica Plain Democrat recalled attending the funeral of a teenage girl who was killed in a shooting and seeing her middle school classmates walk to and from her open casket.

“Looking at their faces and wondering what to think of their chances of survival, when their classmate, who had done everything right – a strong student, a wonderful kid in every way, not involved in any problem or in street life – if that’s what happened to him, “she said.” We all know as human beings and as policy makers how terrible he is to feel powerless, but at that point, as policy makers, we are powerless to bring this youngster back and relatively powerless to assure these young children at Timilty Middle School that this will never happen to their community again. we have the power here today to tackle the problem of the illegal gun market and ensure that we take action to address this issue as quickly as we take action to tackle mass shootings. ”

Dressed in a yellow shirt that read ‘We will not comply’ and a ‘Self defense is a human right’ pin, Galen Miller told committee members that their responsibility is to protect the rights of citizens. . “It could be a voice in thousands, and your job is to protect those rights, and I don’t see that happening,” Miller said. “There is not a soul here who has [a license to carry a firearm] or door that does not want it to be in El Paso or any other area where there is a dangerous situation. That’s why we wear. We want to protect ourselves and we want to protect our families and we want to protect those around us. “

Ken McKay, who testified alongside Miller, said he has buried friends and relatives lost to drug overdoses and that he would rather see lawmakers pursue action against drug traffickers rather than d ” consider new restrictions on legal gun owners. He said criminals favor enacting stricter gun laws because it means their potential victims are unlikely to be armed.

“Why all these laws? I mean, you read the gun laws in Massachusetts, that’s crazy, ”he said. “Who can follow all of this? “

Several groups, including Moms Demand Action, Everytown for Gun Safety, and the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, have expressed support for the gun data legislation tabled by Representative Marjorie Decker and Senator Cynthia Creem. Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan also testified on his behalf.

Decker said the 2014 gun law already requires the collection of crime-related gun data, but that data is not being analyzed and considered. The bill she filed with Creem (H 2045, S 1388) would require the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security to prepare regular reports on the data.

“We’re not asking for anything new to do,” Decker said. “It’s the data that is there. We need to understand where these out-of-state criminal weapons are coming from. This is not fair, especially for neighborhoods which still experience a proliferation of gun violence.

Stop Handgun Violence board member Gail Erdos said the report would allow lawmakers and law enforcement agencies to “effectively target the sources of weapons used in crime. So many crimes could be better understood if we could do something with this data, ”she said.

Creem said that despite its strict gun laws, Massachusetts can still strive to do better. “We cannot be complacent,” Newton’s Democrat said.

“We can’t stop there. We owe it to the children.


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