Massachusetts Democrats plan to use the 2023 legislative session to further gun control legislation in the state. The Democrats hold a majority in both the state House and the state Senate. Along with recently elected Democratic Gov. Maura Healey, state legislators and activists have high hopes for a major gun safety package.
Rina Schneur is a leader with the Massachusetts chapter of Moms Demand Action, an organization under the national umbrella organization of Everytown for Gun Safety. According to Schneur, the job of an advocate in a session like the current one is to support survivors, survivor-led organizations, promote gun control legislation and educate the public about firearms.
“One aspect is, of course, supporting survivors and survivor-led organizations,” Schneur said. “We also have a whole effort about public education, and working on that level. … And of course, we are advocating for legislation to improve and make sure that Massachusetts is kept a leader in gun violence prevention legislation, but also to catch up with aspects or loopholes that are missing.”
State Representative Christine Barber, D-34th Middlesex, is one of the members of the legislature who hopes to use the session to tackle gun control issues, among other items on the legislative docket. Barber noted that while Massachusetts already has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the United States, new work is constantly being done.
“While Massachusetts has some of the strongest gun laws in the country, there is more that we can do to address loopholes and invest in communities that face high rates of violence,” Barber wrote in an email to the Daily. “We are working in the House to pass a strong bill that will further protect people in Massachusetts and continue to invest in communities that are most impacted by guns.”
Barber wants to see future gun safety regulations respond to a broader swath of issues than what is currently addressed in Massachusetts law.
“My hope is that we address issues including domestic violence, suicide, and supporting communities, as well as closing loopholes like ghosts guns and the selling of parts to evade current rules,” Barber wrote.
Barber also acknowledged the important role that advocates, especially those from Moms Demand Action, have played in successfully creating more restrictive gun control measures in the state. She explained that Massachusetts owes much of its strong gun legislation “to the work of activists here who have pushed for safer communities.”
“I’m looking forward to continuing to work with local activists on common sense gun control,” Barber wrote.
Schneur hopes to address similar issues to Barber. Schneur and Moms Demand Action are advocating this session for a series of gun control bills, including placing further limitations on ghost guns, improving crime data analysis, improving firearm education and training and barring firearms from sensitive locations, such as polling places.
“One [bill] we are specifically supporting this time around — one which is very much I think in the [minds] of many people — is having some limitations and regulations on ghost guns,” Schneur said. “They are the 3D[-printed] or ones without serial [numbers] that allow people to bypass a lot of the legislation that we passed throughout the years.”
At Tufts, gun control measures are strict and repercussions for possession of a firearm are serious, notes Yolanda Smith, executive director of public safety at Tufts.
“Tufts strictly prohibits the possession of firearms on all of Tufts’ campuses unless the person has the approval to possess the firearms on campus from the Chief of Police of TUPD,” Smith wrote in an email to the Daily. “In the event we find a weapon either on a student or community member, depending on the circumstances, we would either escort the person off campus or seize the gun immediately. Lastly, illegal possession of a firearm is an arrestable offense.”
Although gun control legislation in Massachusetts is among the strongest in the country, gun violence remains an issue in the state, according to Barber.
“Gun violence is a public health issue that affects every corner of Massachusetts. Nearly all of us have been personally affected by gun violence, and thousands of people die prematurely due to firearms,” Barber wrote. “We need to continue to pass common-sense rules to ensure safe gun ownership and keep our neighborhoods safe.”
People who are impacted by gun violence inspire Schneur and her colleagues to keep pushing for gun reform.
“I know a lot of the attention to gun violence prevention comes after some events in the news, and that’s heartbreaking, but there are more than 110 people that die by gun violence every day, and 60% of them are from suicide,” Schneur said. “Of course, many more people are impacted or injured. Survivors of gun violence, family members [and] friends need a lot of support, and we are really here to help them and to make sure that we prevent more [from] joining this horrific group. So that’s what drives me and many of our volunteers.”