In the wake of increased shootings and murders in the Boston area this year, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is pressuring state lawmakers to pass a new gun law bill that would limit gun buyers to one firearm per month. The new bill would also encourage the Massachusetts District Attorney’s Offices to seek to deny bail to those charged with Unlawful Possession of a Firearm; as well as limit the use of certain firearms at gun clubs and shooting ranges.
Unfortunately for Massachusetts’ Governor and those lawmakers in favor of passing such a bill, doing so would do nothing to stem the violence that has plagued the inner city. It is well-documented that the overwhelming majority of, if not all, crimes involving guns are committed with unregistered or illegal firearms. Limiting citizens’ rights of those who have been screened and issued valid gun licenses will have absolutely no impact on curbing inner-city violence.
When someone with a gun license purchases a firearm, he/she is not only checked by the local police department, but also screened through the FBI database. Each time someone buys a gun, the gunshop owner checks with the FBI prior to issuing the gun. Additionally, each gun is designated with a serial number, so even if that person then transfers that gun to another person, it must then be re-registered to that new buyer. A gun owner cannot, for example, buy a gun and simply give it to anyone he wants.
Having represented numerous clients charged with Gun Crimes and Crimes of Violence, I can attest that most, if not all, my gun cases have involved firearms that are old and from which the serial numbers have been removed. In most instances, these guns are brought illegally into Massachusetts from other states with more lenient gun purchasing laws – not transferred to ‘criminals’ from lawful registered gun owners. In many other instances, the crimes committed in Boston’s inner-city are with ‘community guns’. A ‘community gun’ is one that is stashed in a certain place in a particular neighborhood, the location of which is known to several people.
The solution, in my opinion, is not to enact stricter gun licensing requirements, but rather to implement more efficient police investigative practices and community relations. Massachusetts already has one of the toughest, if not the toughest, gun licensing laws in the entire country. The crimes of violence that has plagued Boston in recent months were not committed by licensed gun owners, nor is there any indication that the weapons used to commit these crimes were enabled through licensed gun owners.
…and denying bail as a matter of course to all those persons charged with unlawful gun possession? What ever happened to the presumption of innocence? The objective and only objective of bail is to ensure the person’s next appearance in court. It should not be a mechanism to ‘get someone off the street’ or impose a de facto penalty simply because you have been charged with a crime, no matter what it is.