Today on Beacon Hill, Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino make their cases for tougher gun laws. Also this week, recall elections in Colorado ousted two Democratic state senators who supported the state's new gun restrictions. This photo, taken on Thursday, June 27, 2013, shows a rack of rifles at Firing-Line gun store in Aurora, Colo. (Ed Andrieski/AP)

Today at a State House hearing, Massachusetts residents will have an opportunity to support new gun laws proposed by Gov. Deval Patrick and legislators. Our politicians have led the state and the nation in the passage of comprehensive gun laws and initiatives aimed at keeping our citizens safer from largely preventable gun violence. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2009 Massachusetts had the lowest firearm fatality rate in the nation. But our work is not done.

We made Colorado safer from gun violence. If it cost me my political career, that’s a small price to pay.

– John Morse, ousted Colorado Senate President

Guns continue to pour in from neighboring states with lax gun laws such as Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. In fact, Boston Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives report that over 65 percent of guns traced to crime in Massachusetts come from out of state.

In the devastating wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, Massachusetts lawmakers have proposed a number of new gun laws. Such laws include improving mental health record keeping, universal background checks for private gun sales, limiting gun purchases to one per month to deter gun trafficking, stiffer penalties for gun crimes, and further limiting high capacity ammunition magazines — the common denominator in all mass shootings.

The equation is simple. States with effective gun laws and lower gun ownership rates have low firearm fatality rates, while states with lax gun laws have the highest per capita gun ownership and gun death rates in the country.

Another state making big news recently on this front is Colorado, which according to the latest numbers available from the CDC, has a firearm death rate of 10.7 per 100,000 residents (MA has a 4.0 rate). Colorado has historically lax gun laws, high gun ownership, and is the home to devastating cases of gun violence: the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School and the 2012 shooting at a movie theater in Aurora. Although state lawmakers have traditionally been reluctant to pass gun control measures, earlier this year they approved an expansion of background checks and restrictions on high-capacity ammunition magazines in the hopes of preventing further gun violence.

In their first ever effort to hold recall elections, the National Rifle Association sought to oust five of the lawmakers who voted in favor of the gun measures. Three of those recall efforts did not gather enough petition signatures, but two did, and both senators lost their jobs in the recall vote. It is worth noting that one of the senators was retiring next year anyway and the recall had no impact on control of the Senate. In addition, the election has no bearing on the gun laws that were passed.

This was a symbolic effort by the gun lobby to intimidate lawmakers. The message: If you choose the safety of your constituents over the dangerous policies of the gun lobby, your job will be at risk.

But, as one of those lawmakers, Senate President John Morse stated, “We made Colorado safer from gun violence. If it cost me my political career, that’s a small price to pay.”

Perhaps Mr. Morse should move to Massachusetts, where elected officials have been rewarded for enacting rational gun laws and putting safety concerns over the special interests of the gun industry.


Tags: Guns, Law, Newtown, Security

The views and opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the writer and do not in any way reflect the views of WBUR management or its employees.

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  • williamdiamon

    Yes, let’s pass the Barney Fife Bill. This is when you get only one bullet and have to keep it in your pocket. Then we’ll be just about totally defenseless.

    • X-Ray

      Yeah, and we should also just allow one gallon of a gasoline per car so as to limit drunk driving. It makes about as much sense.

      • williamdiamon

        Or limiting the size of your drink, so you don’t get “fat”.

        • fun bobby

          yes, it reminds one that its not about guns its about control

          • X-Ray

            Its about people, people who misuse firearms. They are called criminals and law-breakers.

          • fun bobby

            yet none of the laws apply to them only those who follow the laws anyways

          • fun bobby

            by some they are. others don’t blame the people but the tool

      • fun bobby

        come, come, ray drunk driving is caused by alcohol perhaps people should need alcohol permits. perhaps after a class a hundred dollar fee and a few months wait and a half dozen pages of paper work they should be granted to only those in whom select unelected bureaucrats find favor. and of course a ban on “high powered” alcohol and a 10 oz limit on the rest. it also makes sense to limit you to one alcohol purchase a month. we don’t want that stuff getting exported

    • fun bobby

      I am going to use that as david linkskys new middle name. david “barney fife” linksky

  • water_buffalo

    I feel gun control can be a VERY dangerous thing in the long run. I can dig Class III restrictions, but the laws in Massachusetts are already a tight enough rope around a gun owners neck. Just leave the legally licensed gun owners of Massachusetts alone, we’re already shunned in our communities (at least from where I come from) and have seemingly powerless representation in the state government, are these measures really necessary? Will they really make us safer? Lets think a little more open minded for just a moment people.

    • fun bobby

      its insane. none of the measure could possibly reduce violence save the state actually following the law and turning over the mental health court records. they have gone above and beyond what even the most eager gun grabbers have even wished for. the arguments in this article are so blatantly incoherent I don’t even know how to respond to it. 60% of crime guns come from out of state so the solution is to further restrict in state sales? what is wrong with these people?

  • X-Ray

    There is no such a thing as “Gun Violence”. Would you call a injury inflicted by a drunken driver as “Car Violence”? Of course not. A gun, even a so-called “Assault Weapon” does not do anything until it is picked up, loaded, aimed and fired. Calling it “Gun Violence” deflects the responsibility from the real cause of the violence, the operator. It also obfuscates the path needed actions to ameliorate the problem by taking the spotlight off the person who does the assaulting.

    These new schemes to “control” guns are only effective in further limiting the rights of the honest citizens, making legal activities difficult, burdensome or impossible. They will not have a significant impact on the criminal or misuse of firearms and will have minimal impact on criminals. Past experience and research performed in conjunction with the so-called Assault Weapons ban have show this to be true. We need better enforcement of exisiting laws and penalties for the real law-breakers and criminals who commit violence using firearms.

  • Massachusetts Refugee

    Does stating that Rosenthal is a gun owner supposed to give him street cred with REAL gun owners and 2nd Amendment advocates? Insinuating that Rosenthal might be a gun owner is a false flag operation by the left. Why doesn’t he and Deval Patrick just come clean and admit their contempt for the 2nd Amendment and that they want an out right ban on all firearms. I don’t have to use deceit to express my opinion, why don’t they do the same?

    • fun bobby

      because then everyone would think they were dangerous retards

    • David F

      Rosenthal claims to be a gun owner. He also clearly stated in a public forum that when he goes duck hunting he is limited to having only 3 rounds in his rifle…

      It’s not legal to hunt waterfowl with a rifle. Perhaps he just hunts them illegally. Or maybe he doesn’t know the first thing about firearms.

      “You cannot hunt waterfowl:
      With a trap, snare, net, rifle, pistol, swivel gun, shotgun larger
      than 10 gauge, punt gun, battery gun, machine gun, fish hook, poison,
      drug, explosive, or stupefying substance.”
      – US Fish & Wildlife Service

  • fun bobby

    wow. I don’t even know where to begin. God help us

  • David F

    “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2009 Massachusetts had the lowest firearm fatality rate in the nation.”

    What makes that possible? Well in 2009, the year Mr. Rosenthal chose for his example, the rate of suicide by fiream in MA was only 1.4 per 100,000. However don’t celebreate beacause we managed to beat the nationional average (5.9) for suicide by other means and have a rate of 6.8 per 100,000 for suicide without a gun. We are number 36 in the nation on that score. The sad reality is that a person determined to end their life will do so, with or without a firearm, no law can fix that.

    Now that we’ve taken suicide out of the firearms equation, because it simply does not belong there, lets look at how MA really ranks in firearm deaths; Accidental discharge of firearms (0 in 2009), Discharge of firearms (undetermined intent) (0 in 2009), and Homicide by discharge of firearms (110 in 2009). As you can see according to the CDC the only other deaths by firearm in MA during 2009 were homicides. According to the FBI there were 172 homocides in MA in 2009. So just under two thirds of murders committed in 2009 in MA a gun was used.

    In homicide by firearm, MA has a rate of 1.7, we rank at number 15 in the country. What about the states with lower firearm homicide rates? Mr. Rosenthal says the following:

    “The equation is simple. States with effective gun laws and lower gun ownership rates have low firearm fatality rates, while states with lax gun laws have the highest per capita gun ownership and gun death rates in the country.” [Except when you remove the misdirection of suicide statistics from the equation.]

    Mr. Rosenthal’s website Stop Handgun Violence dot Org has a link page, and the very first link is to the Brady Campaign. The Brady Campaign ranks each state by how strict it’s gun laws are, best possible score is 100, no state acheives it. MA scored a 65 in 2011 and is the third highest ranked state, behind California and New Jersey. Strange, because neither of those two states have a lower firearms homicide rate than MA, in fact they have higer rates. New Jersey’s rate is 2.6 per 100,000 firearm homicides.

    California with the best score from the Brady Campaign of 81 (and the only one with 4 stars) has a rate of 4.0 firearm homicides per 100,000 (the national average is only 3.7, way to excel CA.) So there must be more to it than just passing more gun laws (which the criminals will continue to ignore.)

    Which 14 states have lower rates of firearm homicides than MA? I’ll list them along with their Brady Campaign score in order of lowest rate of firearms homicides to highest:
    New Hampshire 6, North Dakota 2, Vermont 6, Alaska 0, Hawaii 50, Idaho 2, Iowa 7, Maine 7, Rhode Island 44, South Dakota 4, Wyoming 4, Minnesota 14, Utah 0, Oregon 15.

    The Brady Campaign only gives a score of zero to three states, two of them have lower firearm homicide rates than MA. All three have lower rates of firearm homicides than California. Apparently criminals haven’t gotten the message about stricter gun laws meaning less gun crime.

    This isn’t rocket science.

  • David F

    We have low gun ownership here in MA you say. Do we? The FBI keeps records of how many National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) checks are made on a state by state, year by year basis. Records go back to November of 1998 when the NICS system was instituted. So with only a couple of exceptions, every firearms purchase that is done through a firearms dealer in the United States now must go through a NICS check first. The FBI keeps track of those checks.

    From November 1998 to August 2013, there have been 1,770,932 NICS checks run in MA.

    That’s a rate of roughly 26,646 per 100,000. That of course does not account for guns already in the state prior to fall of 1998. Plus if you take a gun to a firearms dealer to sell for you, the new purchaser must go through a NICS check so that will account for some of those checks. However private individuals selling to other individuals do not have access to the NICS system so their sales are not recorded by NICS.

    I would say there are quite a few guns in MA. In just the past 15 years alone, enough guns have been sold to arm 26% of the MA populace. You should remember however that we’ve been buying guns in MA since before the United States even existed.

    I’m an avid collector of guns, believe me we aren’t all just trading guns back and forth here in MA, firearms dealers in the state can’t keep up with demand for new guns. I’ve had guns on order for months; the longest was ordered over 1 year 11 months ago.

    Now lets compare, we have a average rate of 1.5 homicides in MA from 1999 to 2010 according to the CDC. However we have been buying guns at a rate of 26,646 per 100,000 over the past 15 years. So very roughly 0.006% of guns purchased in MA over the past 15 years were used in homicides in MA. No wait that’s wrong, Mr. Rosenthal tells us:

    “Guns continue to pour in from neighboring states with lax gun laws such as Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. In fact, Boston Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives report that over 65 percent of guns traced to crime in Massachusetts come from out of state.”

    Wait just one minute! Are you suggesting that criminals are ignoring the already overly strict laws here in MA? Are you suggesting that criminals are breaking the law by bringing guns illegally into the state and committing crimes with them? Criminals? Say it isn’t so. Maybe we should pass laws making murder, robbery and rape illegal, that will solve the problem! Let’s add making drugs like cocaine and heroin illegal too and fix that issue while we are at it.

    Oh wait we did that already, my bad…

    I’m sorry, what was I saying? Oh yes, thanks to Mr. Rosenthals’s new numbers we now know that less than 0.002% of firearms legally purchased in MA are used in homicides.

    So Mr. Rosenthal and our politicians would restrict the rights of all of the law abiding gun owners in the state of MA to punish us for the actions of less than 0.002% of the MA gun buying population.

  • David F

    What does our esteemed Vice President have to say on the matter?

    Vice President Joe Biden –
    “Nothing we’re going to do is going to fundamentally alter or eliminate the possibility of another mass shooting or guarantee that we will bring gun deaths down…”

  • LeftShooter

    This “cognoscenti” article is so intellectually dishonest I almost don’t know where to begin.

    For starters, guns continue to “pour” into MA from neighboring states with lax gun laws (Maine, NH and Vermont). Not really, in fact, according to the latest ATF report, the average “time to crime” of traced crime guns in MA is over 13 years. More of a trickle than a pour, I’d say.

    Next, according to Rosenthal, “The equation is simple. …while states with lax gun laws have the highest per capita gun ownership rates and gun death rates in the country.” OK, let’s choose our previously mentioned three northern neighbors, Maine (41% ownership, 0.8 gun murders per 100,000), New Hampshire ( 30% and 1.0) and Vermont (42% and 0.3). All three are ranked very low in the Brady Campaign Score for Gun Laws with 9, 6 and 6, respectively, (100 score = most restrictive) AND among the very lowest gun murder rates in the nation [Vermont (#1), NH (#2), Maine (#7)]. Hmmm, not so simple–especially when the facts are used.

    The dishonesty (or willful ignorance?) continues. Accounts I read about recalled Colorado Senators Morse and Giron were that they were dismissive of and worked to limit and ignore the testimony and opinions of their constituents who were gun rights advocates. It seemed to me that they made themselves candidates for recall based on at least as much how they acted as how they voted. Arguably, whether or not the recalls change the laws is less important than the message being sent that constitutional-related issues require a higher level of diligence and respect.

    Last, Rosenthal proclaims himself a gun owner and a real-estate developer. Maybe that’s accurate–as accurate as it is that I say that I must be a real-estate developer because I painted my house. To me he shows nothing but disdain and condescension for genuine gun owners trying to protect their rights. (With over 50 pieces of gun legislation currently on Beacon Hill, each and every legitimate gun owner can find many things about which to be concerned and would act that way; Rosenthal doesn’t.)

    The Oxford Dictionary defines cognoscenti as people who are considered to be especially well informed about a particular subject. In my opinion, Rosenthal doesn’t meet that standard for this subject matter, nor does his choice for publication meet WBUR’s normal standard of quality.

  • David F
  • Max

    Mr. Rosenthal,

    you admit that the problem of illegal guns in Massachetts (that is the possession of guns and ammunition by minors and otherwise prohibited persons) is due to other state “lax laws” (Gun violence is more than that actually: gang members and drug dealers in South Boston first need the depraved mind to act, then they may need a gun….) and yet you and our elected officials in their infinite wisdom think that punishing and making criminals out of your fellow lawful Massachusetts gun owners with even more restrictive laws will improve public safety.

    It makes no sense whatsoever. Like the rest of the legislation proposed.

    We have among the most strict arbitrary and punitive gun laws in America already. 450 pages to summarize part of the in Ron Glidden book, widely used by the 351 Massachusetts licensing authorities.

    The Democratic party in Massachusetts, sadly, is out to get and punish local gun owners because they are perceived as a minority that has no consequence to their elected position. A form of Jim Crow for local gun owners, popular among the majority, relentlessly draconian with the minority. But minorities have rights too.

    You forget one thing, Mr. Rosenthal: for all your hubris and partisanship, we still all live under the protections of the same US Constitution, and we are a constitutional republic, aren’t we? And gun owners trying to defend their second amendment rights from a bully majority are still your fellow citizens, not some enemy to destroy or criminalize or to separate away from, creating little enclaves of similarly-thinking citizens, as you suggested the former Colorado elected official should do. What a sad view of America you have!

    Unluckily for Mass gun owners, the only option they will have after this round of Beacon Hill craziness are the Federal courts and the hope they will have the courage to act. Not a given. But that is where they will have to seek a redress of our grievances.

    A lot of the legislation proposed affects the core for the second amendment as interpreted in Heller and McDonald.

    1. arbitrarily reducing the magazine size from 10 to 7 has no rational basis, a standard that cannot be used for gun laws anyway. At some point the reduction in magazine size affect self defense. If you think it does not, then you should force cops to live by the same rules (7 rounds, no semiautomatic pistols) and see how that goes.

    2. the exceptions for retired police officers violate equal protection of citizens and create a class of citizens with more rights. that is the stuff from other times and other countries, not America.

    3. provision against LTC-A licenses (they are banned) would de facto constitute a ban on any semiautomatic pistol or rifle in Massachusetts, all firearms lawfully possess, in commerce for the past 100 years and “in common use”, again violating Heller. Let’s remember that to posses the widely owned Beretta 92 or the historical M1911 handgun, no matter the size of the magazine, may that be 8 or 10 (the maximum legal in the State for new magazines), one requires an LTC-A license in this state, because they can be fitted with magazine larger than 10 rounds, even if one do not possess them. There are no commercial pistols that cannot accept large capacity magazine. none. The last pistols with a fixed magazine and top loading are from world war I. Abolishing LTC-A means to abolish possession by common citizens and permanent residents of 99.999% of pistols out there. A first in the US history. This is how extreme this legislation is.

    4. forcing surrender of firearms- without compensation – to gun ranges or police department as some of the bills mandate is a totally antiamerican attack to private property obtained lawfully. that is what some bills are mandating.

    I guess Mr. Rosenthal takes the “England” portion of “New England” too literally: we are still in America, and if it takes another supreme court decision to clarify that in the minds of local extreme politicians and anti-second amendment activists, so be it.

    • fun bobby

      wow I had not even heard about those proposals. they sound insane like the new NY and NJ laws. meanwhile boston is awash with gun violence and they don’t issue LTC-A for the most part in violation of the law

  • the socialist republic

    we need tougher gun laws as much as joe biden needs to lose more brain cells

  • ronpies

    Excellent piece, Mr. Rosenthal! At least there is a measure of sanity in Massachusetts, regarding reasonable restrictions on firearms. That will save many lives, as is clear from the overwhelming evidence across states and nations. –Ronald Pies MD

    • fun bobby

      are you being facetious? do you even know what laws are being proposed? perhaps you could explain how each will “save many lives”? yes Vermont is practically a war zone while Chicago is as safe as can be. must be right?

  • fun bobby

    Today at a State House hearing, Massachusetts residents will have an opportunity to support new gun laws proposed by Gov. Deval Patrick and legislators.
    Hmmm, i would like to see some photos of the people who were there to support the absurd draconian restrictions devil has proposed. i am sure there was a crowd there to oppose them.

  • gossipy

    This article is inflammatory and biased. Clearly the writer is ignorant, as are most who want “tougher gun laws”. It’s not the guns themselves. It’s those who shouldn’t have them, which does not include law abiding citizens. I have to agree with all the previous comments about limiting alcohol and gasoline. It’s the same bandaid.

  • X-Ray

    Note that the Navy Yard shooter followed the advice of the VP Biden, who, when asked what kind of a firearm he suggested for defense (apparently instead of the evil semi-automatic Assault Weapon which the VP sought to ban) answered a shotgun. That’s what the shooter did, he bought a shootgun. He didn’t buy it at a gun show. And he passed the Federal background check, even though he had previous problems with illegal use of firearms. And, apparently he had had mental probelms. The shooter didn’t use an “assault weapon”. So we need more firearms laws.


    John is nothing but a pampered rich bully of the same lying ilk as Bloomberg.