Gun Owners’ Group Issues Loaded Response to State’s Firearms Control Proposal

Members of the Gun Owners' Action League served up a rebuttal to recommendations that called for tighter weapons laws.

Photo by Alex Lau

Photo by Alex Lau

In a harsh response to a new report suggesting the state could reduce gun violence by enacting stricter laws, which was written by a special task force commissioned by House Speaker Robert DeLeo, gun advocates crafted their own recommendations claiming the group’s ideas were based on “flawed” information, and lacked knowledge about weapon ownership in Massachusetts.

“The report delivered last week fails to recognize the failure of Massachusetts gun laws to reduce crime or respect the rights of lawful citizens,” said Jim Wallace, Executive Director of the Gun Owners Action League, a Massachusetts firearm association founded in 1974 to protect people’s Second Amendment rights. “Since 1998, gun violence in the Commonwealth has increased over 200 percent.  If you fail to recognize the symptoms of the failure of the Massachusetts gun law, you cannot properly recommend a legislative cure.”

The grassroots organization, which boasts more than 17,000 members that support educational programs to make gun ownership safe for Bay State residents, said they felt as though they were excluded from the process of crafting the in-depth report released by the Committee to Reduce Firearm Violence last week. The group, made up of police officers, lawmakers, and mental health professionals released a series of 44 recommendations they believe could help reduce gun-related deaths and shootings in Massachusetts, with a focus on making the gun licensing process less confusing, and background checks more stringent. The report—headed by DeLeo— is likely to set the tone for legislation that could get voted out favorably by elected officials this session on Beacon Hill.

While Wallace and members of GOAL commended DeLeo, and the group, for their concerted effort to introduce smart gun legislation, they said in their own report that the committee ignored facts about gun violence, and relied on flawed information to come up with their proposals.

“After a decade and a half of living under the most convoluted and confusing gun laws in the country, our members finally had some hope for relief. Sadly, it is GOAL’s opinion that the committee let our members, as well as the Speaker down,” the group said in their rebuttal. “The report that was released by the Committee fell short of what a nine-month-long effort by professionals should have produced. After thoroughly reading the report it was clear that it was not proofed or vetted by anyone who understands the current gun laws. While there are a few things that could benefit lawful gun owners, the bulk of the recommendations call for more burdens on lawful citizens.”

GOAL’s critique of the recommendations agrees with some of what was proposed by DeLeo’s task force, however, it bites back and “corrects” other measures put on the table, including imposing “civil fines for expired licenses,” and suggesting gun-training be required before purchases. They deemed that recommendation a “mandatory hurdle to exercising a civil right.”

GOAL included references to two House bills they filed to further gun violence prevention, while not stepping on legal gun owners’ rights to bear arms. “If our legislature would truly like to ‘lead the nation’ in gun violence reduction and civil rights protection, [these bills are] the start.”

The state legislature’s commissioned report, and the rebuttal from GOAL, come at a time when Boston has seen a sharp increase in gun violence throughout the city. GOAL’s recommendations were also released just days after Mayor Marty Walsh suggested the city roll out a gun buyback program to get illegal weapons off the streets, in response to the death of a nine-year-old Mattapan boy at the hands of his older brother.

Members of GOAL believe that their expertise in dealing with gun laws on a day-to-day basis could help reduce the amount of violence there is on the streets, including illegal gun ownership and trafficking, to prevent future accidents.

“We look forward to working with the Speaker and the legislature as a whole to alleviate our citizenry from the burdens of crime and laws that continue to persecute the innocent,” the group concluded in their report.

GOAL’s full report and response to the state recommendations can be read below:

2014 GOAL Report Response