America, Massachusetts Would Like To Have A Word With You About Guns.
More regulation, but you get a free kitten.
Now that the NRA annual meeting has left Dallas and the news, and its festival of happy gun-humpers have all gone home to coo over the adorable 4-year-old who so enthusiastically played with a bolt-action rifle in a video, we bring you some thoughts on guns from the junior US senator from Massachusetts, Ed "Yes I've Met Elizabeth Warren" Markey. He'd like to remind America that rolling over and doing whatever the NRA wants isn't the only approach to gun laws:
In Massachusetts, would-be gun buyers "must complete a four-hour gun safety course, get character references from two people", and have a one-on-one interview with a police officer.— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) May 6, 2018
We have the lowest gun death rate in America. Let's do this everywhere.https://t.co/4ZRyCV0NSF
Markey links to this in-depth HuffPo piece by Jonathan Cohn on the strict gun laws in Massachusetts, and also to a summary of the gun bill he introduced in the Senate the day of the school walkouts that marked one month after the massacre in Parkland, Florida. Markey isn't such a starry-eyed fool as to try to impose Massachusetts-style laws on the whole country just yet, but his bill would offer states incentives to adopt similar laws.
Just how unconstitutional and liberty-hating are the gun laws in the state where Paul Revere famously went to warn the British that they weren’t gonna be takin’ away our arms, by ringin' those bells and ridin' his horse? Golly, he mightn't have even bothered, for all the tyranny they've got in the Bay State! Would-be gun owners in Massachusetts have to
complete a four-hour gun safety course, get character references from two people, and show up at the local police department for fingerprinting and a one-on-one interview with a specially designated officer. Police must also do some work on their own, searching department records for information that wouldn’t show up on the official background check.
See? Onerous and oppressive! The system originally applied just to handguns, but was expanded to include long guns in 2014 following Sandy Hook. Cohn explains the police background checks go well beyond the quickie instant search of the
National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) most states use for firearms purchases; instead, police check local records not just for criminal convictions, but also for police or emergency calls involving the applicant.
HuffPo looks at an example involving a guy from Newton who in most states would be able to purchase a gun, because he hasn't ever been convicted or even arrested, and had never been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility. But in Massachusetts, police can deny a firearms permit if they believe the applicant may pose a threat to themselves or others. Here's what the Newton guy's police check also turned up:
Police records showed eight visits to his home from 2008 to 2012, each time in response to calls from family members concerned about his behavior. On one occasion, according to the police account, the man had punched a picture frame and lacerated his hand; another time, he had been wielding a knife and threatening to commit suicide. Officers took the man into protective custody after three of the visits, the reports said, and at nearly all of them he was intoxicated.
The city's police chief filed a report explaining why the guy was denied a gun, and he exercised his right to appeal that decision in court, saying he's gone through alcoholism treatment and has had no incidents since 2012. The judge agreed with the police assessment and turned down the appeal, and now the guy is appealing the judge's decision, because while the Massachusetts law is strict, it has some wicked due process, too. The ability to appeal denied applications ensures the chance for an applicant to make their case, and discourages police from arbitrarily denying a permit -- in the Newton case, the police chief had to write a five-page report detailing the incidents supporting the decision. It seems like a system that truly balances the right to have a gun with the need for public safety, although of course the NRA and others argue that letting police review and reject gun permits is the first step toward a police state. Which of course they also say about any other gun law.
At least one federal judge has upheld the police review system in a case from Boston and Brookline, where people wanting permits to carry guns full-time had argued they shouldn't have to justify their reasons to the cops -- that one's still being appealed upward. And in April, a federal court upheld the state's assault weapon ban, consistent with the Supreme Court's decision not to hear appeals against similar laws in other states. The argument that Massachusetts is infringing the sacred Second Amendment is undercut by the fact that over 90 percent of applications are approved. As of yet, there hasn't been a test case, since the extension of the review process to long guns only went into place in 2014 -- pro-gun advocacy groups are undoubtedly laying the groundwork and looking for an ideal plaintiff to challenge the law. The Supremes haven't actually taken a Second Amendment case since Heller in 2008, and seem to be avoiding the issue.
Now Ed Markey would like to take Massachusetts style gun laws national, with a bill he cleverly calls the "Making America Safe and Secure" (MASS) Act, because he is apparently addicted to cute acronyms -- which would be no bar to buying a gun in Massachusetts, although a repeated history of dad jokes could garner extra scrutiny. The bill (full text here, one-page summary here) wouldn't mandate any changes in state law, but would instead fund $20 million in Department of Justice grants to encourage states to adopt stricter gun laws, seed money for states that would like to take action that really would keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have the damned things. The bill also recognizes that not all states might want to have police as the ones making the decisions about who gets a gun, too: It specifies only that, to qualify for a grant, gun purchases be approved by a "local licensing authority" that could be police or some other local body put in place to do the reviews. Heck, let's dream big: How about inviting members of local NRA chapters to serve on such a civic-minded review board? (Yeah, maybe in a non-voting advisory capacity...)
The point here isn't that Markey's bill would be the only solution to gun violence, although Massachusetts having the lowest gun death rate in the nation is a persuasive bit of evidence. It's that there are lots of solutions that fall between the NRA's dream world of a society that's very polite because they might be shot at any moment, and the straw boogeyman that any restriction on gun ownership leads inevitably to gun confiscation and tyranny.
Also, how's this for timely? The city of Boston is commemorating the 200th anniversary of Paul Revere's death today. With a wreath at his grave, readings from his obituary, talks by historians and descendants of Revere, and some actual bell-ringing, which ought to make Sarah Palin feel vindicated.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.