Area Legislators, Gun Owners Debate Bill Calling for More Firearm Regulations
Representative David Linsky’s bill to further regulate the licensing, sale and possession of firearms and increase the sales tax on firearms and ammunition was the hot topic at Monday’s gun violence discussion in Foxborough.
Editor’s note: This is Part I of an ongoing series that examines the issue of gun violence in Massachusetts and Representative Linsky’s proposed bill.
Area legislators agreed during a discussion on gun violence in Foxborough Monday that firearm-related deaths in Massachusetts – and the United States – is a significant problem that requires more than one solution to effectively address.
The two-hour discussion, which was sponsored by the Foxborough Democratic Town Committee, centered on State Representative David Linsky’s (D-Natick) proposed bill - H 3253 - to further regulate the licensing, sale and possession of firearms and increase the tax on the sale of firearms and ammunition in an act to reduce gun violence and to protect the citizens of the Commonwealth.
“I filed this bill to – in one way or another – try to cut down on firearm violence,” Linsky said to the near-capacity crowd inside the McGinty Room of the Foxborough Public Safety Building. … “We as a society need to recognize we have a significant gun violence problem in this country. It is the worst gun violence of any country in the world.”
- Having one standard of the issuance of all gun licenses, giving local police chiefs the ability to evaluate all aspects of an application for a gun license.
- Requires proof of liability insurance for possession of a firearm, rifle or shotgun.
- Requires that all large capacity weapons and grandfathered assault weapons must be stored at gun clubs or target ranges.
- Requires live shooting as part of the curriculum for a basic firearms safety course; this is not a current requirement.
- Requires all applicants for gun licenses and FID cards to sign a waiver of mental health records for review to be destroyed after decision.
- Imposes 25 percent sales tax on ammunition, firearms, shotguns, and rifles; dedicates funds towards firearms licensing, police training, mental health services, and victim’s services.
- Brings Massachusetts into compliance with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
- Limits gun buyers to one firearm purchase per month.
Many gun owners in the audience Monday called into question several of Linsky’s provisions.
“We have criminals committing these crimes and we are being blamed for it,” one gun owner said during the event’s Q&A session. “We have done everything you folks have asked for. We have a white sheet of paper that says we are good people. Yet, every time it goes to taxes you want to weigh more taxes on us because we enjoy firearms and because we keep our firearms for protection.
“I have been involved with firearms since I was 12. I’m 73 years old. I had a son who stole a bag of marijuana from somebody else and was shot in the head dead. The bottom line is it doesn’t make a difference how that death occurs. Blame a particular type of firearm for the ills of society is not going to cut it. The tail is being pinned on the wrong donkey here.”
Another gun owner – with military and law enforcement experience – said bills like Linsky’s proposal are “torturing” the law-abiding citizens because of the horrific actions of a select few.
“We can’t tax the law-abiding citizenry even if it is to fund for the mental health [provisions in the bill],” the man said. “That is not the way to go. We are already taxed to death.”
Another man in the crowd added: “The more we add to the gun laws the worse it’s going to get.”
Linsky and state representatives Jay Barrows (R-Mansfield) and Paul Heroux (D-Attleboro) heard about the bill’s shortcomings for the majority of the 54-minute Q&A session from a room full of concerned citizens.
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Chief among those concerns were provisions requiring “all large capacity weapons and grandfathered assault weapons must be stored at gun clubs or target ranges and 25 percent sales tax increase on ammunition, firearms, shotguns, and rifles.”
Barrows said he plans to represent the majority voice from Foxborough, Norton and Mansfield at Beacon Hill and that voice Monday spoke passionately in opposition of Linsky’s proposal.
“People are concerned with losing their right to bear arms,” Barrows said.
Linsky told the crowd even he realizes his bill isn’t perfect and that it is meant to be “a starting point” in reducing gun violence in Massachusetts.
“I’m trying to make some headway,” Linsky said. “Just want to try and let some people know [about the issue]. Do I hate guns? No.”
Barrows said while there are provisions in Linsky’s bill he can support, the state representative hopes to prevent a “knee-jerk reaction” to the recent tragedy in Newtown, Conn.
“I think too often we get caught up in the moment of the day and we immediately huddle up and come up with something we think is a solution,” Barrows said. “We have got to understand what the problem is before we can come up with the solution and that’s one of the challenges. … What I’d like to see as an outcome is that we provide a safer society but we can’t prevent everything. … Let’s determine what the problem is and come up with a solution.”
Heroux added while it is important to avoid a “knee-jerk reaction” to high-profile events like Newtown, Conn., those tragedies can also call attention to laws with loopholes.
Heroux added his decisions are often made in a “systematic, evidence-based way” and that is how he plans to approach Linsky’s bill.
“There is no easy solution to this,” Heroux said of gun violence. “We wouldn’t be talking about this if there were.”
The three legislators agreed that no single solution will suffice in an effort to reduce gun violence in the state.
“There’s lots of different types of gun violence,” Heroux said. “There’s violence from suicides, school shootings, gang shootings and impulse homicides. All of these are different. What I’m going to try and do is look for ways to reduce gun violence based on the type of violence you are talking about.
“The strategy you use to reduce violence of a gun for suicide is very different than for a school shooting, very different than an impulse kill or gang shooting. Strategies should be used very differently.”
“Each one of the sections is trying to cut down on the different types of violence,” said Linsky. “One section goes to accidental shootings, another section goes to mass shootings, and the other section goes to domestic violence shootings and so on. … One thing I’ve learned in this discussion is there isn’t one single solution.”
Asked what provisions in Linsky’s bill all three legislators could agree on, they collectively pointed to requiring live shooting as part of the curriculum for a basic firearms safety course and bringing Massachusetts into compliance with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
“How the hell aren’t we part of the NICS?” Barrows asked.
Linsky’s reasoning for proposing the firearms regulation bill in January is based on the following statistics he shared Monday:
- “32,000 a year die as a result of firearm violence,” Linsky said. “About half of them are suicides. Another percentage of them are accidental shootings. About 11,000 are firearm homicides.”
- “When you take 32,000 that’s 83 a day,” Linsky said. “Of those 83, eight or nine of them are children. … That’s a problem. Like it or not, that’s a problem. And it is something that we, as a society, have to try to reduce. If you don’t think that’s a problem then we don’t have any business talking.”
While those statistics are alarming, some gun owners felt they were being blamed for the actions of others.
Jay Lewis, a 40-year-old New Bedford kindergarten teacher, said he felt Monday’s discussion was a waste of his time because the purpose of the discussion “is wrong.”
“This is a waste of my time,” Lewis said. “The fact that Newtown, Conn. happened, the fact that this discussion is happening is wrong. We are attacking the law-abiding citizens.”
Foxborough Police Chief Edward O’Leary, who was in attendance prior to the Q&A session, said he found the discussion to be productive and enlightening.
“It was an opportunity to hear different viewpoints from different speakers,” O’Leary said. “I’ve learned something [from concerned gun owners and the state representatives in attendance] and I think it is important to have open ideas so we can move forward and try and reduce the potential for violence.”
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