IN 1998, Massachusetts passed what was hailed as the toughest gun-control legislation in the country. Among other stringencies, it banned semiautomatic “assault” weapons, imposed strict new licensing rules, prohibited anyone convicted of a violent crime or drug trafficking from ever carrying or owning a gun, and enacted severe penalties for storing guns unlocked.
“Today, Massachusetts leads the way in cracking down on gun violence,” said Republican Governor Paul Cellucci as he signed the bill into law. “It will save lives and help fight crime in our communities.” Scott Harshbarger, the state’s Democratic attorney general, agreed: “This vote is a victory for common sense and for the protection of our children and our neighborhoods.” One of the state’s leading anti-gun activists, John Rosenthal of Stop Handgun Violence, joined the applause. “The new gun law,” he predicted, “will certainly prevent future gun violence and countless grief.”