Massachusetts Senate majority leader, Newton Democrat
Thanks to strong gun laws, including a ban on assault weapons and large-capacity feeding devices, Massachusetts has the lowest rate of gun deaths of any state in the country. But although we’re leading the way when it comes to protecting our own residents from gun violence, we’re doing far worse when it comes to protecting our fellow Americans.
When gunmen killed 17 students and teachers in Parkland, Fla., 12 moviegoers in Aurora, Colo., and 14 Christmas revelers in San Bernardino, Calif., those tragedies didn’t just reflect the failings of federal and local gun laws. They also reflected the failings of Massachusetts law, because even though the Commonwealth has banned the sale of assault weapons and large-capacity feeding devices within its own borders, it allows the military-style firearms used in each of those mass shootings to be produced in Massachusetts.
The Commonwealth’s obligation to prevent gun violence does not stop at our borders. That’s why I recently filed a bill that bans the in-state manufacture of assault weapons and large capacity feeding devices, with an exemption for weapons and devices manufactured for sale to law enforcement or the military, or for Department of Defense-approved sales to foreign governments. Similar bans exist now in California, New Jersey, and New York.
Critics of the bill worry about the impact it would have on weapons manufacturers like Massachusetts-based Smith & Wesson — one of the country’s largest producers of AR-15 assault pistols and rifles. Their worry is misplaced, because the impact is not likely to be significant. Those companies would still be free to manufacture AR-15s for law enforcement and military use, as well as the less lethal firearms that make up the majority of US gun sales.
We can’t accept the notion that the bottom lines of a handful of corporations are more important than our principles and the lives of Americans residing in other states. Here in Massachusetts, we believe assault weapons don’t belong in the hands of ordinary citizens, and that everyone has the right to be safe from gun violence. My bill aligns our laws with those values by ensuring that Massachusetts no longer exports bloodshed to other parts of the country.
Executive Director of Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts; Newburyport resident
There is no reason to ban the manufacture of rifles that have been in civilian hands for nearly 60 years. People are often under the misimpression that semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 are some sort of modern super weapon that recently came into existence. In fact, if that particular rifle was a car, it would be an antique. The AR-15 is the civilian version of the military’s M-16 or M-4 rifles. It is not a military weapon, or weapon of war as some claim.
Others focus on what sort of cartridge or bullet that it fires. I have heard everything from “the bullets explode when they hit” to “the rounds from an AR-15 leave a hole the size of a softball in whatever they strike.” Of course, none of this is true either. In fact, the round that the AR-15 fires is one of the smallest centerfire rifle cartridges in commercial production. It is what hunters call a “varmint round” meant for small game and has no magical properties.
The recent attempt to have Massachusetts ban the manufacture of this very popular, but aging, rifle platform represents another swing-and-a-miss regarding public safety in Massachusetts. There is a common misconception that the Commonwealth’s condemning approach towards firearms has made the state safe. This is not the case at all.
After the passage of its massive 1998 gun law — which included a ban on semi-automatic rifles — the Commonwealth saw a significant increase over time in gun-related homicides. There were 63 gun-related homicides in 1998, and by 2011 the number reached 132. The number of gun-related assault injuries also drastically increased in the years following that law, more than doubling. These figures were emphasized in our 2019 report, “Massachusetts Gun Control Success – A False and Dangerous Narrative.”
The report was assembled using data from the Massachusetts’s Injury Surveillance Program, and from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report. As it turns out, Massachusetts continues to be among the Northeast states with the highest rates of violent crime.
What is evident however, is that the continual march against the Second Amendment in the Commonwealth has far more to do with politics than public safety.
As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. To suggest a topic, please contact email@example.com.
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