We don’t often praise the Legislature on firearms legislation, but the Senate’s action Thursday merits it.
On a 28-11 vote, senators removed a provision that would have given police chiefs additional discretion over whether to issue firearms identification licenses for rifles and shotguns.
That had been strongly opposed by gun-rights groups, who argued that the current system of background checks is sufficient, and that granting chiefs additional discretion would constitute infringement of the Second Amendment.
We concur. There is little evidence that granting chiefs more discretion would lead to anything but delays in issuing FID cards to law-abiding citizens.
What was most telling about the Senate’s action, however, was the reaction from John Rosenthal of Stop Handgun Violence, who said discretion was the key provision in the bill, without which “it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.”
That’s odd, because most gun-control advocates have consistently advocated the bill’s other provisions, including real-time background checks for private gun sales, stiffer penalties for gun-related crimes, two-way communication between schools and police, and sharing substance abuse and mental health data.
If, as Mr. Rosenthal said, the discretion provision was the only thing that made the bill worth passing, what were those other provisions doing in there?
A conference committee will now work on a unified bill. Whatever emerges and becomes law, if anything, isn’t going to stop all gun violence. Criminals ignore the law, and perpetrators of mass killings often obtain their weapons in spite of laws and locks, often because of lack of communication within families, or careless and irresponsible storage of weapons.
We urge lawmakers to continue to listen to all sides, and give particular weight to the gun-rights organizations who know the subject best and have long been leaders in gun safety and education, in Massachusetts and nationwide.
Any new law must meet two standards. First, it must not deprive law-abiding citizens of their Second Amendment rights. Second, it should make it more likely that those who choose the path of gun crime will be deterred, apprehended, prosecuted, and imprisoned.
Unless a bill meets both goals, it isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.