October 24, 2023
(BOSTON, MA) – Massachusetts has the lowest gun death rate in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but recent proposed firearm legislation is triggering strong opposition.
The Gun Owners Action Lead (GOAL) held a rally on Sept. 27 to protest against An Act Modernizing Firearms Bill HD.4420 and mock its lackluster introduction to lawmakers by referring to it as the “Lawful Citizens Imprisonment Act.” A crowd of around 150 people gathered in front of the Parkman Bandstand in the Boston Commons chanting the Second Amendment and “We the people” while holding signs that read “Bill HD.4420 empowers violent criminals.”
After hearing speeches from politicians and gun rights groups, the protestors were instructed by Jim Wallace, head of GOAL, to carry the message, “individual civil rights, not subject to a whole second set of rules,” to the State House. Wallace also reminded the crowd to peacefully protest and not violate any safety rules when entering the State House.
Democrat Representative Michael S. Day first proposed this legislation on June 26. The bill has been met with resistance for its range of proposals that includes tracking ghost guns and banning assault weapons.
Gun owners disagree with the bill and find that it infringes upon their Second Amendment rights. “We feel that the existing laws, even though they were confusing, were already pretty restrictive, and a lot of the [restrictions] that people are asking for are already the law [in Massachusetts],”Mike Harris, the director of public policy at GOAL, said in an interview with The Click.
“Why put more [laws] on the book, If you can’t enforce the ones you have? … why add another 142 pages of them?” Renee Gagne, an operating room nurse and the Rhode Island representative for the DC Project, told The Click.
Day believes the current firearm laws in the state need modernization. “We heard loud and clear from GOAL and others that the licensing scheme was confusing in places, contradictory, that there have been multiple laws over the years just layered on top of one another,” Day said in a press release to the State House News Service.
The proposed bill would substantially rewrite the licensing laws to clarify any confusion and make clear what the necessary steps are to obtain a license to carry.
Gun rights organizations present at the rally disagreed on the clarity of the bill and expressed anger about not feeling heard. Kerrie Ann Auclair specifically raised the concern about these restrictions impacting women’s ability to defend themselves, emphasizing the importance of self-defense.
“When you put a gun on the hip of a woman, it creates an equalizer against a bad guy that weighs 200 pounds,” said Auclair, the state representative for the DC Project and an instructor at Armed Women of America. Many women who attend her classes are survivors of domestic abuse or have witnessed violent crimes and seek the knowledge to protect themselves.
Aaron Grossman, leader of the Boston Pink Pistols, raises similar concerns, pointing to hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community such as the 2016Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, as evidence of minority groups’ needs to defend themselves.
“We need to be able to protect ourselves from people who may be trying to hurt us…We want to have tools that let us respond to those disparities in force,” Grossman said.
The overall sentiment of the gun rights organizations was that the solution to gun violence is to enforce pre-existing gun-laws on criminals who break them.
“The other side of the track would say, ‘Well, not everybody should have a gun.’ Absolutely, not everyone should be walking around in our communities,” Gagne said.
After a series of speeches at the rally, protesters walked across the park to the State House in an attempt to meet with House representatives in opposition to the bill. The representatives were in a hearing in the House for the day and unable to meet with the protestors.
Two weeks after the rally, Bill HD.4420 did not pass a vote in the House, nor did the revised bill HD.4607. However, the final revised Bill HD.4135 passed on Oct. 18 on a 120-38 vote. It will now need to be voted on in the Senate before it can get signed in law by the governor.