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The Podium

Gun owners want the violence to stop also

The 17,000 members of the Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts, of whom I represent as executive director, do not believe simply passing more gun control laws will help stop killers or reduce gun crime in any way. What we do know will reduce gun violence is targeting criminals. By reforming our state and federal gun statutes to create simple, enforceable laws that respect our civil rights and give law enforcement the tools necessary to implement them — gun violence will decrease.

GOAL members are not criminals, vigilantes, or soldiers of fortune. We are moms, dads, grandmothers, and grandfathers. We are the law-abiding citizens that are your neighbors, friends, co-workers, and fellow parishioners. We all have loved ones and neighbors that we do not want to see put in harm’s way.

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We work as first responders, teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, and as public servants. We are good people and simply want to ensure our rights are protected so that we may hunt, competitively shoot, have target practice, and defend our homes and families.

Our GOAL members want to comply with the law. We are asking state officials to create a system where we can. Currently, the gun license system in Massachusetts is irreparably broken. While state law requires a gun license application to be processed in 40 days, in reality, it takes an average of four to six months because of the state’s antiquated licensing database runs on obsolete software no longer serviced by Microsoft. This makes the purchase and sell of guns in the state less secure.

The Commonwealth’s gun laws are extremely complex and convoluted. There are literally only a handful of people in the state who have a good grasp of the gun laws. This complexity stymies not only citizens from not knowing how to fully comply with the law, but it also causes problems when courts and law enforcement prosecute criminals. This needs to change.

Since gun related homicides have doubled in Massachusetts since passing the 1998 Gun Control Act, why would any logical person trust that simply passing more laws would keep guns out of the hands of the criminals or the mentally unstable. If the trends of the last decade and a half are any indication it will only result in increased crime, and the further erosion of the fundamental rights our constitution guarantees law abiding citizens.

In order to address these very real issues, we are asking the Legislature to move forward thoughtfully and carefully. We can begin by complying with the federal mandate that the Commonwealth send all mental health adjudications and involuntary mental health commitments to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System so that this background check system for licensing and purchase of firearms will have this necessary information.

Additionally, we ask the state to provide law enforcement more effective tools to stop gang violence and illegal gun trafficking in the Commonwealth. One solution is to create the Criminal Firearms and Trafficking Division of the State Police to specifically target trafficking in the Commonwealth and coordinate intelligence with local law enforcement. This is an idea GOAL has supported through numerous legislative hearings and sessions. The time is ripe for this idea to come to fruition.

We urge our legislators to proceed thoughtfully toward a solution to end the violence in the streets and are ever willing to be partners in the process to find a solution. GOAL members, as much as anyone, wants the violence to stop.

Jim Wallace is executive director of the Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts.
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