The Second Amendment is a divisive Constitutional right. But it should not be. There are a lot of crimes done with guns. There is a lot of legal recreation done with guns, too. The two are not the same.
There is a legal, responsible and proud gun culture in America that feels it is on the defensive. I am not a gun owner but I have come to know, understand and respect this gun culture in our community. They do not cause gun crimes. They are just as appalled with the illegal use of a gun as are non-gun owners. Anytime someone abuses the Second Amendment, they are concerned their rights are going to be curtailed.
Think of it like this. Anytime someone yells fire in a crowded place, which is illegal and an abuse of the First Amendment, how would you feel if your speech were curtailed?
I am a Massachusetts State Representative and I have filed several bills that concern guns.
Reducing Gun Violence
The first was my bill (H3501) to reduce gun crimes where they are happening by the people doing them. In this I create a $3 million grant program (which would be easily recouped through reducing the costs that come with gun crimes). This grant program would offer money to municipalities with the highest gun violence in the Commonwealth. The money would be used exclusively for police departments training to hire experts who have a proven track record in implementing evidence-based means of reducing gun offenses. This would include measuring the outcomes of such programs.
In my bill I listed several evidence-based gun violence reduction strategies. If anyone wants to see the evidence that these work, just ask; I have the reports. The approaches reduce gun crimes where they are being done by the people doing them. No one's rights are infringed upon. For example, NYC recently implemented a program of stop-and-frisk. This was a disaster because the police weren't properly trained. However, in Kansas City in the 1990s, stop-and-frisk was done correctly due to training. Stop-and-frisk is a legal police procedure per SCOTUS Terry V. Ohio under certain circumstances. My grant program would offer training to police in high gun violence areas on this procedure.
My gun violence prevention grant program was a chance for the pro-Second Amendment legislators to show they supported an evidence-based way to reduce crimes with a gun without infringing on the rights of others. The Chair of the Public Safety committee has told me that my bill will likely be included in a larger Democrat filed gun-violence reduction bill for my use of evidence-based interventions and meaningful performance metrics.
Protecting the Second Amendment
Another bill I filed concerns legal gun owners' right to renew their license to carry or their firearms identification.
I have received numerous calls from constituents who are concerned that they are in violation of the MA firearms laws. They have all indicated that they have completed the renewal process for their Firearms Identification Card (FID) or License to Carry (LTC) in a timely manner but have yet to receive their renewed FID or LTC, leaving the constituent in violation of the law.
In speaking with the Executive Office of Public Safety, I learned that because of an increased volume of applications and more in depth background checks, the state has fallen behind, consequently leaving many citizens no longer legally allowed to carry a firearm.
My bills extend FID renewals beyond the 90 day grace period (HD3882) and HD3905 extends LTC renewals up to 180 days, requires police departments to issue a receipt indicating that the citizen has applied for a renewal and that in the renewal period all rights and privileges are preserved.
By no fault of their own, many citizens who have done everything that was required of them by the law are no longer allowed to exercise their Second Amendment right. It is imperative that a solution was proposed. My bills are a temporary solution intended to give the state more time to deal with the backlog of renewal applicants and not penalize law abiding citizens.
I have nearly 40 co-sponsors for these bills, bi-partisan support from both chambers and parties, including Republican leadership in the House and Senate. These bills were a chance for the vocal anti-gun legislators to show they are not opposed to all things gun. These bills resolve an administrative issue. Even though I filed this bill late (anything filed after the first two weeks of a legislative session is a 'late file') I was able to get this bill a committee assignment to start the fight to make this law.
I represent the people in my district -- regardless of party affiliation. Gun violence is a problem that needs to be addressed. But it should not come at the cost of alienating people who support a legally recognized and Constitutionally protected activity. In my opinion, all legislators should respect both sides of an issue and strive to create solutions based on respect for both sides of the issue.
Paul Heroux of Attleboro, MA is the State Representative for the Second Bristol District in Massachusetts. He can be reached at 508-639-9511 or firstname.lastname@example.org.