Like many of you, I have been continually disheartened by the never-ending cycle of gun violence across our country and the lack of action by our leaders in Congress to address this crisis. I don’t use the term “crisis” lightly. I use it purposefully because the rate of gun violence in this country has truly reached a crisis-level:
- Preschool children were killed by guns in greater numbers than police officers in the line of duty from 1999 through 2013 (with the exception of 2004);
- There have been at least 239 school shootings nationwide since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting;
- 96 people die from gun violence every single day, 7 of which are children and teens;
- 35,141 people die from gun violence every year, 2,737 of which are children and teens; and
- 1 out of 3 homes with kids have guns and nearly 1.7 million children live in a home with an unlocked, loaded gun.
These statistics are disturbing. We cannot continue to sit back and do nothing and wait for the next tragedy to occur.
While we are lucky to live in a state with a federal congressional delegation that has not and will not back down on gun control (no matter how much money the NRA puts out to defeat them), the immediate response by too many of our other congressional leaders involves a stale narrative of thoughts and prayers and a worn-out statement about how now is not the time to talk about gun control. The fact of the matter is: thoughts and prayers will not solve this problem, but legislative action can.
In Massachusetts, the legislature has prioritized public safety by historically taking a strong stance against gun violence. I am proud to live in a state that has banned semi-automatic assault weapons and large capacity ammunition feeding devices as well as bump stocks and trigger cranks, and one that has not even considered arming teachers in our schools. The gun-related mortality rate in Massachusetts is the lowest in the country, at 3.4 per 100,000 residents, and that’s a direct result of our strong gun control laws. Even so, there are steps we can take right now to make our gun laws even stronger.
Hundreds of students from the 4th Middlesex and throughout the Commonwealth recently participated in the National School Walkout and visited the State House to advocate for legislation that would make it easier to confiscate guns from dangerous or unstable individuals. Specifically, the legislation (H.3081/H.3610) would establish extreme risk protection orders to allow family members, healthcare providers, or law enforcement officers to petition a judge to temporarily suspend an individual’s access to firearms if they are deemed a danger to themselves or others. Studies have shown that individuals who are experiencing a crisis and are engaged in dangerous behaviors are significantly more likely to commit an act of violence towards themselves or others within the near future. Tragically, the current legal framework rarely provides a mechanism for witnesses of this behavior to take preventative action before a tragedy occurs. This legislation empowers families, healthcare providers, and law enforcement with a tool to prevent suicides and other violent gun deaths. Five states have already enacted similar “Red Flag” laws, and I strongly believe we need to follow their lead to make our schools and public spaces safer.
Additional steps we can take to enhance public safety in Massachusetts include limiting the number of firearms that may be purchased at one time, imposing a waiting period on firearm purchases, and requiring unlicensed firearm sellers to conduct a background check on the purchaser. We must also continue to educate our students and faculty and expand access to mental health services.
We can and must do better, and we are not alone in this fight. I will continue to stand with the majority of Massachusetts residents who believe the state’s laws covering firearms sales should be stricter. To show my strong support for gun reform, I plan on attending the March for Our Lives, which will be held this Saturday, March 24. More information about the march can be found at this link. I hope to see you there!
If you have any questions, please always feel free to reach out by phone at (617) 722-1432 or by email at Cindy.Friedman@masenate.gov.