Do Gun Laws Make Us Safe?

              If I had to quickly name the two most beloved regulatory strategies being promoted by Gun-control Nation, it would be: 1) expanding FBI-NICS background checks to secondary sales; and 2) ‘red flag’ laws. Well, maybe safe-storage laws are also up there near the top of the list, as well as permit-to-purchase (PTP) laws.  Taken together, the current narrative is that if you lived in a state where all these laws were on the books, you would be living in a state which would not suffer from gun violence.

              I happen to live in a state – Massachusetts – whose gun-regulatory environment contains all those laws. And the Bay State has another gun-safety law, shared only with California, namely, that no new gun can be sold in the state unless it is certified as having a child-proof safety design. Oh yes, I forgot. You can’t even purchase ammunition in Massachusetts unless you possess a valid gun license issued by the State Police.

              Thanks to all these laws, Massachusetts is currently ranked by Giffords and Brady as the ‘safest’ state.  It also has one of the lowest rates of gun violence of all 50 states, according to the  CDC. Because of its comprehensive gun laws, Massachusetts is so protected from gun violence that even a state resident like David Hemenway, a foremost authority on gun violence, admits to feeling very safe. 

              The safe storage law deserves special mention because Massachusetts is the only state in which you can be charged with a felony if any gun in your home is not either locked away or equipped with a ‘tamper-proof’ device, whether an injury with that gun occurs or not. If the cops come into your home and Grandpa’s old shotgun is sitting over the mantlepiece without a trigger lock, you could spend some time at Concord, and I don’t mean Concord as in Paul Revere’s ride. Concord is the state pen.

              The gun laws in Massachusetts are so strict that not only can’t you own a gun without first taking a safety course, you then have to be interviewed by the police who have discretion as to whether or not to grant you a gun license even if your background check comes up clean. You can’t even walk into a gun shop and put your hands on a gun without first showing your gun license to the dealer before he hands you a gun.

              There’s only one little problem with all these laws which make Massachusetts so safe. The problem is that, in terms of gun violence, Massachusetts was just as safe before all those laws were passed and went into effect. With the exception of the ‘red flag’ law, which Governor Baker signed this year, all the other gun regulations – secondary background checks, childproof design, PTP, ammunition purchase requirements, safe storage, have been on the books since 1999.

              Of course the fact that Massachusetts is such a ‘safe’ state doesn’t necessarily mean anything to someone who lives, for example, in the city of Springfield, which is where I happen to live. Last year, Springfield recorded 14 gun homicides, giving the city a gun-violence rate of 11, almost three times the national rate and five times the overall state rate. My office is located four blocks away from the intersection of Stebbins and Union Streets. This year, two men have been shot within 50 feet of the corner. Isn’t it wonderful that all the state’s gun laws make David Hemenway, who lives in a fancy suburb of Boston, feel so ‘safe?’

              I don’t know why Massachusetts, with all its gun laws, has so little gun violence and neither does anyone else. I also don’t know why some neighborhoods in this ‘safe’ state suffer from extraordinarily-high levels of gun violence, and neither does anyone else.

              But I do know this: every one of those shootings involved the use of a gun. And there’s no law in Massachusetts or anywhere else which does anything to get rid of guns.

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5 thoughts on “Do Gun Laws Make Us Safe?

  1. “…in terms of gun violence, Massachusetts was just as safe before all those laws were passed and went into effect….” That’s my problem with a lot of the advocacy research that tells us how well gun laws make us safe. Seems to me that it could be just the reverse: cultures that are already safe tend to pass more gun laws.

  2. Massachusetts has fewer gun owners & is more amenable to stricter gun laws. So there is some confusion regarding which is the cause & which is effect. The only way to judge if a particular gun law has an effect is studying stats before and after it’s passage and the same for an adjacent state over that same time period where no such law was passed.
    Presently, I’ll bet most crime guns in Massachusetts come from other states.

  3. Adjacent states can have different sociologies and crime stats, so that is sometimes comparing apples and oranges. The Hopkins folks used the “synthetic Connecticut” method in their paper and used multiple states vs. one target state. then Donohoe used the synthetic method and threw in the universe, which I think is GI/GO.

  4. Except just north of Massachusetts is Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire, with damn near the minimum of gun laws (New Hampshire is the most gun friendly location in the known universe) and they have nothing that could rival the blood soaked streets of Lynn, Lowell, Boston, New Bedford, Springfield, or Fall River.

    Now we can argue that those cites are massive urban areas that those Northern New England States just don’t have, we could argue about gangs and drug problems, we could argue about a lot of things, and all of those things are NOT guns or gun availability.

    So indeed gun laws demonstrably don’t make us safer, because you are much safer in Manchester New Hampshire than you are in Boston Mass. Yet one has the most restrictive gun laws in the country, and the other has the least restrictive gun laws in the WORLD (and since we haven’t discovered armed extra terrestrials, the Universe).

    So nice try

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