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More guns in right hands

News telegram.com
Thursday, April 23, 2015

An analysis of gun ownership in Massachusetts conducted by the Boston Globe shows a sharp increase in the number of Class A licenses since 2008, with a noticeable uptick ahead of more stringent laws enacted last year.

There are more than 355,000 gun licenses of all types in Massachusetts. Yet Massachusetts remains what it has been for years among the safest states. Even as the number of licensed gunowners has increased sharply, there has been no proportionate increase in the number of gun deaths.

The obvious and immediate lesson: Gunowners in Massachusetts are overwhelming law-abiding citizens. Whether their purposes are hunting, sport shooting, or self defense, they take the law and their responsibilities seriously.

Unfortunately, that has never been true of lawbreakers. Those who violate the rules, using guns to threaten others or in the commission of crimes, ignore existing laws, and won't be deterred by new ones.

Massachusetts already has plenty of laws to curb illegal use of firearms, but fails to fully and vigorously enforce them. The decades-old Bartley-Fox law, which promised a year in jail for anyone illegally possessing a gun, is the prime example of a law that sounded good, but was never widely or consistently enforced.

Despite the plethora of laws already on the books, there are those who continue to push for further restrictions, even as statistics show that new laws primarily impact the law-abiding, not the criminals.

The recent rise in gun ownership in Massachusetts, then, is primarily the result of involved and engaged citizens asserting their constitutional rights out of concern over government restrictions.

The message to lawmakers and gun-control advocates are two.

First, the vast majority of residents who own guns pose no threat to themselves, their neighbors, or the general public. They are not the enemy, and should not be treated as such.

Second, law enforcement and legislation should focus on criminals, starting with strict enforcement of existing laws.