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The Podium

A solution to gun violence is at our fingertips

Recently, the release of the tapes of the 911 calls reporting the Newtown shooting showed the incredibly courageous work of witnesses and first responders to the tragedy.

Unfortunately, the response on Capitol Hill has proven to be anything but courageous. Despite the groundswell of support for new national gun violence prevention legislation in the days and weeks following the massacre, Congress succumbed to the pressure of the NRA and the uniquely unregulated gun industry and failed to take action.

It is clear that the NRA has a stranglehold on Washington and that true reform will have to come from the states.


In Massachusetts, the solutions are right at our fingertips.

Just as your fingerprint can be used to unlock your iPhone, fingerprint technology can be used to operate firearms. Doing so would ensure that a firearm could be operated only by its rightful owner or designees. Gun manufacturers have the technology to do this today.

This would help take the guns out of the hands of criminals who steal them. It would protect us from the tragedy of children and teens who accidentally or by choice are killed by guns left unsecured in the home. It could even save the lives of law enforcement officers, as 17 percent of police who die in the line of duty are killed by criminals who get access to the officer’s gun.

All this could be done without impinging on Second Amendment rights. It’s about improving safety, and restricting access to prohibited users. It’s a sensible response, using technology that’s readily available today.

Rep. John Tierney has introduced legislation in Congress to require the use of this technology in newly manufactured handguns, with provisions for federally funded retrofitting of existing guns within three years.

But the reality is, in today’s political environment, there is little will to pass this common sense legislation in Congress.


That’s why we should build on our first-in-the-nation consumer protection regulations for firearms sold here in Massachusetts. The state’s consumer protection statute allows the attorney general to regulate firearms and further protect the citizens of the Commonwealth from undue harm. This has been used for everything from protecting consumers from fraud to ensuring that toy guns and teddy bears don’t have sharp edges or tags that could cut or become choking hazards. It’s time we use the power of this law to protect the health and safety of our citizens to do what Congress can’t — require gun manufacturers to utilize existing personalized gun technology for all weapons sold in the Commonwealth.

Doing this in Massachusetts could be a critical step on the road to meaningful federal changes. We’ve often seen state legislation here become a model for other states and for federal regulations. In fact, urban industrial Massachusetts now has the most effective gun laws and second lowest firearm fatality rate per capita in the nation, only behind isolated Hawaii.

Speaking to the Boston Globe in May, John Rosenthal, a gun owner and co-founder of Stop Handgun Violence said personalized gun technology “has the potential to change the world of gun violence … We could reduce the majority of gun deaths in this country.”

And the answer is right at our fingertips.

Warren Tolman is an attorney, former state senator, and candidate for attorney general.