Sure, Massachusetts has among the toughest gun laws in the nation, but it’s not an island.
And so while Washington remains paralyzed around any issues related to guns, it’s critical that states — including Massachusetts — do what they can to deal with issues of trafficking, reporting, and tracing the guns that continue to wreak havoc on the streets of our cities.
“One homicide is too many, one shooting’s too many,” Boston Police Commissioner William G. Gross told the Legislature’s Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security.
Gross, who said his department has collected more than 4,000 guns in the past year, more than 2,800 of them considered “crime guns,” is looking for support for a bill that would impose fees, fines, and provide for possible impoundment of vehicles found to be transporting illegal firearms. He’s also looking for increased information-sharing among police departments.
Neither is an academic exercise for Gross. The day before his testimony, BPDNews.com reported the seizure of a fully loaded Beretta (along with some drugs) during a traffic stop. The driver was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm. Hours earlier, another loaded handgun was found in a sewer drain. Police are trying to trace its history.
It was just another day in the life of a city that needs all the help it can get to keep guns off its streets.
Lawmakers have no fewer than 68 proposals before them related to guns this session — yes, even in a state that has recently passed a “red flag” law and outlawed bump stocks. But there are several good ideas out there aimed at closing some remaining loopholes in Massachusetts law and helping control the flow of illegal firearms into the state.
The time is right for an omnibus bill that would give police and prosecutors the tools they need to do that.
• It is beyond shocking that someone could spray a neighborhood with gunfire, putting dozens in danger, and if he has the good fortune to not actually hit anyone, only be charged with a misdemeanor. Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan and Cambridge Police officials are supporting a bill to make it a felony to “intentionally or recklessly” discharge a firearm that “causes a substantial risk of serious bodily injury.”
• Other efforts are aimed at limiting the bulk purchase of guns that too often are then resold and find their way into the illegal market. A bill sponsored by state Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz of Boston and state Representative David Linsky of Natick would limit such bulk purchases to 15 guns a year and require the reporting to police of all lost or stolen guns.
• Their bill would also require that all guns made, sold, or transferred in Massachusetts be equipped with microstamp technology that makes ammunition fired from the weapon easier to trace back to that specific gun. California and the District of Columbia already have similar laws in place.
• And on the theory that you can’t effectively fight crime without good data, another bill would require the data the state has been collecting since 2014 on the source of guns used in crimes actually be analyzed by a university or other nonprofit every two years. That could help pinpoint problematic dealers or other sources of illegal weapons.
It’s easy for a state like Massachusetts to grow complacent on the issue of gun policy. But when the police commissioner of its capital city and the district attorney of its largest county are begging for more tools to fight gun violence, then it’s time for lawmakers to take a look at what remains to be done.
It’s time to up our game here — especially because Washington can’t.