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Massachusetts Gun Law Sets the Wrong Precedent

Submitted by Sam Bocetta

As of November, Massachusetts has become the first state to ban bump stocks, the controversial firearm accessory that was used by Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock to fire rapidly into a massive crowd at the Route 91 Country Music Festival.

Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito signed the bill earlier this month while Governor Charlie Baker was out of the state. In a statement, Baker’s spokesman Brendan Moss had this to say about the new legislation: “Governor Baker and Lieutenant Governor Polito support the Second Amendment to the Constitution and Massachusetts’ strict gun laws, including the ban on assault weapons and bump stocks, and are pleased that the commonwealth continues to lead in passing common sense reforms.”

This rather paradoxical proclamation comes just weeks after similar legislation was introduced by Florida Representative Carlos Curbelo and Massachusetts’ own Seth Moulton. The bipartisan bill was intended to abolish the manufacturing, sale, or use of bump stocks.

California Senator Dianne Feinstein had introduced her own bill to ban bump stocks and assault weapons. Fortunately, common sense prevailed and her efforts to pass such legislation appears to have stalled on Capitol Hill.

However, Massachusetts’ move to also ban common, off-the-shelf AR-15 accessories presents a legal conundrum that doesn’t sit well with responsible gun owners. And Mr. Moss’s assertion that MA governor Baker supports the Second Amendment seems like the latest example of “action speaks louder than words.”

The action the state has taken runs counter to this claim. After all, those who understand the Constitution understand that our 2nd Amendment was put in place to protect us from a government that is out of control. Indeed, a government who would try to strip us of our fundamental freedoms is the kind of government the 2nd Amendment was designed to prevent.

And it doesn’t stop there. One would think that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment would make restrictions on gun ownership verboten for those of us who aren’t part of the Second Amendment “militia.”

The Clause in question has been read into the Fifth Amendment to prevent the federal government from discriminating against minorities, meaning that any U.S. citizen should be able to reap the benefits of the Second Amendment and all other amendments.

Of course, this isn’t the first time our rights have been trampled upon. The now-expired Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 sought to restrict us from purchasing or possessing high-capacity magazines. And you’ll recall that in 2015, Democrats were pushing legislation that would have outlawed the Glock 19 handgun among other “dangerous weapons.”

Every time a mass shooting occurs in this country, the political debate becomes about the Second Amendment, but it doesn’t ever seem to become about the modern world and how our society actually operates.

For instance, you are not likely to hear a politician on either side of the discussion reference the overwhelming amount of college campuses that allow concealed carry (eleven states allow it and 23 others leave it up to the individual schools or universities to decide). For the eleven states that permit concealed carry guns on campus, shooting incidents have been few and far between.

Another thing that’s not commonly addressed: For every 100,000 people, only 11 die from gunshots each year. That’s less than the number of people who are killed by automobiles (12 per 100k), medical malpractice (33 per 100k), alcohol (also 33 per 100k), tobacco (150+ per 100k) or morbid obesity (133 per 100k). This is to say nothing of co-morbidity (depression and alcoholism, alcoholism and drug abuse, etc.) which is another leading cause of death.

When you put it in perspective, guns are one of the least likely causes of death in the United States. The trouble is, politicians look at mass shootings as the paradigm when it comes to firearms, ignoring the wealth of responsible US citizens who safely own and operate guns without posing any threat to their fellow Americans.

All across our great nation, there are competitive shooters and hunters who enjoy target shooting and small game hunting. Virtually none of them have been convicted of a gun-related crime. Furthermore, two-thirds of our annual gun deaths are suicides. And as a matter of fact, homicide rates have plunged since their zenith in 1980.

Individual states have a multitude of programs in place to reduce the number of homicides among minorities including community centers, outreach programs and centers for at-risk youth. Gun violence can be further discouraged by smart policing and universal background checks.

Quite frankly, there is no logical reason why the people of Massachusetts—or any other state—should have to surrender their bedrock rights and they don’t have to. For those who reside in MA, it is important that they understand state law.

A prevailing myth is that open carry is prohibited in Massachusetts under any circumstance. The reality is much different; the Supreme Judicial Court ruled in favor of the defendant, a man who had legal possession of a handgun, in FRB v. Simkin, a case that was brought against the gun owner after he disclosed to a medical technician that he was in possession of a holstered firearm and the technician became alarmed.

So, although the Massachusetts bump stock bill seems to set a bad precedent, we the People have the means to preserve our Second Amendment right. Contact your local and state government officials and let them know how you feel about legal gun ownership.

As Martin Luther King famously proclaimed, “…the right to defend one’s home and one’s person when attacked has been guaranteed through the ages by common law.”

Now is not the time to break with tradition. In the age of ISIS, animosity and theft, every American deserves the right to defend themselves and their loved ones. And in a civilized society, every hard-working citizen should be able to blow off some steam at the range or in the woods.

I’ll leave you with one more quote that is worth pondering when we think about the laws that govern our land. “That rifle on the wall of the labourer’s cottage or working class flat is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there.” (—George Orwell).