Gun violence prevention is more important than ever in the new year as the pandemic continues to exacerbate gun violence, and after a year of increased gun sales, continued police violence, increased risk of suicide and domestic violence, and an increase in city gun violence. In 2020, gun violence was up over 50% in Massachusetts cities, and gun violence has continued to surge in 2021.
On April 10, Delois Brown, a 73-year-old Black woman, was shot and killed by a stray bullet while sitting on her porch in Dorchester. According to her daughter, who was also present, there were at least seven children around when Brown was shot and killed. Brown’s death marks the tenth homicide in Boston this year according to the Boston Police Department.
As gun violence continues to devastate Massachusetts communities, lawmakers at all levels of government need to prioritize gun violence prevention. Though Massachusetts has strong gun safety laws, there is more work that must be done to protect Bay Staters from gun violence.
This session, legislators should prioritize legislation to combat the rising threat of ghost guns, protect our democracy from the threat of armed extremism and intimidation, require live-fire training in order to receive a firearms permit, expand the reporting and analysis of crime gun data, and establish a grant program to create alternative dispatch services to provide unarmed community-based responses to 911 calls where police presence is not necessary. Legislators should also prioritize funding for evidence-based violence intervention and prevention programs that provide grant funding and services to address the root causes of gun violence in local communities that are most impacted by it.
What to know about the gun safety bills introduced in Massachusetts:
- H.2491 and H.2439 would regulate ghost guns by ensuring that any DIY firearms are marked with unique serial numbers, prohibiting 3-D printed and undetectable firearms, and taking steps to ensure these weapons don’t wind up in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them,
- H.2505 and S.1568 would protect our democracy from the threat of armed extremism and intimidation by prohibiting firearms in polling places, in the state capitol and on capitol grounds, and at demonstrations at public buildings.
- H.2486 would require that all approved safety courses include live-fire training, ensuring that all permit holders have demonstrated their ability to safely handle and discharge firearms.
- H.2437 and S.1562 would expand the contents of biennial reporting of data related to gun violence currently required by law in several important ways, to ensure that law enforcement has all the data they need to investigate gun crimes and provide legislators and public officials with the needed information to craft effective policies and strategies to combat gun trafficking and other acts of gun violence.
- H.2519 and S.1552 would create the Alternatives for Community Emergency Services (“ACES”) grant program to support alternative dispatch programs in Massachusetts. By developing alternative responses to emergency and non-emergency situations that do not require an arrest or police presence, the ACES program will help de-escalate volatile situations, ensure access to social services and better protect the physical and mental well-being of communities across the Commonwealth.
What to know about gun violence in Massachusetts:
- In Massachusetts, on average, nearly 250 people are shot and killed and over 680 others are wounded by guns every year.
- An average of 140 people in Massachuetts die by gun suicide every year. Gun suicide accounts for nearly 60 percent of all gun deaths in the state.
- Gun violence costs Massachusetts $1.8 billion each year, of which $92.2 million is paid by taxpayers.
- Homicide levels in major cities in Massachusetts, including Boston, have risen over the past year, as the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the root causes of gun violence and brought unprecedented challenges to the work of local gun violence intervention programs. In the state, Black children and teens are 7 times more likely than their white peers to die by guns.
Statistics about gun violence in Massachusetts are available here, and Everytown’s Gun Law Navigator – which shows how Massachusetts gun laws compare to those of other states – is available here. If you are interested in speaking with a Massachusetts Moms Demand Action or Students Demand Action volunteer, please don’t hesitate to reach out.