The ink had barely dried on “Strategies for Reducing Gun Violence in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” a report commissioned by House Speaker Robert DeLeo in the wake of the mass shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, when we heard about Boston’s 10th homicide victim, a 9 year old named Jan Marcos Pena. According to news reports, his 14 year old brother was charged with involuntary manslaughter and illegal gun possession.
Based on what we read in the report, Massachusetts already has some of the strongest gun laws in the nation. Of all the states, only Hawaii has a lower rate of gun death than Massachusetts. While some 13 per cent of Massachusetts households report having a gun, compare that to other parts of the country, where 1/3 of households have guns. While the gun death rate nationwide is over 3 times higher than it is in Massachusetts, more than 2,000 people in the Bay State died as the result of gunfire during the most recent decade.
We think that’s way too many, as does the report commissioned by Speaker DeLeo. The report concludes that we need to do more to prevent gun violence, and includes numerous recommendations about what Massachusetts can do, with an eye toward legislation. The report is an excellent resource for anybody who cares about this very serious issue.
Here in the City of Boston, the Boston Globe reports that the death toll from shootings in January was higher than any time in the last several years. Just over a year ago, WBUR did a segment about Massachusetts gun crimes rising despite strict laws. During the course of an interview with Professor James Alan Fox, a professor of criminology, law and public policy at Northeastern University, he cited two compelling facts: (1) Guns recovered from Massachusetts crimes were not purchased in Massachusetts, but in states with far more lenient gun laws; and (2) Over half the guns recovered in crimes can be linked to fewer than 1% of gun dealers.
We read that mass shootings – such as the 20 children and 6 adults massacred at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, the 7 co-workers shot at Edgewater Technology by a disgruntled employee using a variety of firearms, or the 12 students and 1 teacher killed at Columbine – are a statistically small portion of shootings overall. But that’s not much comfort to those of us who have lived through these events.
We live in a nation where the sale of so many goods –including barbeque grills, cribs, gasoline, swimming pools, pharmaceuticals and all-terrain vehicles come under tight regulation. Even with the protections afforded by our Constitution under the Second Amendment, it seems to us guns need to be regulated more effectively.