On Tuesday, the National Association for Gun Rights — a Second Amendment advocacy group that bills itself as a conservative alternative to the National Rifle Association — issued a “travel advisory” for Massachusetts. The glorified press release warned gun owners about a sweeping reform bill introduced late last month that includes, among other things, proposals to prohibit carrying guns in private businesses that haven’t given their consent, create a live-fire training requirement for license applicants, and expand the state’s assault weapons ban.
The bill also zeroes in on ghost guns: Its author, state Representative Michael Day, told WBUR that the Boston Police Department reported a 280 percent increase in the number of homemade, untraceable firearms recovered in the streets between 2019 and 2021. Massachusetts’ top prosecutor, Attorney General Andrea Campbell, has voiced support for stricter ghost gun regulation, noting that her office can’t bring unlawful possession charges unless a firearm is “fully functioning” — meaning that if a gun is disassembled, they have no case.
Massachusetts has long been viewed as a “beacon” for gun safety laws, per The Economist, and passing the new omnibus bill would be another feather in its cap. There’s a problem, though: Recent investigations by The Boston Globe show that, while the state can pass strict regulations, enforcement is another issue. The Globe found that local police departments were consistently failing to inspect gun dealers, and that the country’s largest cluster of federally licensed firearms manufacturers and sellers, located in a textile mill 45 minutes outside Boston, were openly defying the state’s assault weapons ban.
The state has benefited from gun manufacturing, too. An estimated 21 million firearms, or 16 percent of the country’s new stock, were produced in Massachusetts between 2000 and 2020; the industry brings the state revenue and new jobs.
The state Senate stalled action on Day’s omnibus bill for a couple of weeks, before squabbling with the House over whether to send it to a committee the author chairs and, ultimately, voting to refer it to a different panel. It’s still locked up in procedural issues, a delay Day characterized as “astounding.” “The longer we sit on this,” Day said, “the longer people succumb to gun violence in our neighborhoods.”
ICYMI From The Trace
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Gun Deaths Dropped Slightly in 2022 — But Were Still High: More than 48,000 people died of gunshot wounds last year, with suicides up and homicides down, provisional CDC data shows.
What to Know This Week
Houston Police are responding to high-priority calls like shootings at the slowest rate in decades. Responses are consistently delayed on the city’s south side, a predominantly Black and low-income area. [Houston Chronicle]
Family members of victims of the 2022 mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, filed suit against a number of social media platforms, gun retailers, and the shooter’s parents over their role in the attack. [NPR]
The FBI’s national crime database is missing information from more than 6,000 law enforcement agencies, including from New York City and Los Angeles. Politicians are taking advantage of the incomplete statistics. [The Marshall Project]
A new lawsuit alleges that Washington, D.C., is violating the Americans With Disabilities Act by sending armed police officers to respond to mental health emergencies, instead of mental health providers. According to the complaint, the city has left its mental health crisis response team understaffed and underfunded. [The Appeal]
As the Biden administration wages a legal battle to crack down on ghost guns, communities across the country are suffering from a frightening phenomenon: Teenagers have discovered that they can easily acquire components to build an untraceable firearm, and they’ve been shooting their homemade guns with alarming frequency. [The Washington Post]
A Dallas Police officer had a decade-long history of violent behavior and excessive force, but he wasn’t fired until he shot and killed a woman while on duty. Over the years, the department had repeatedly cleared him of wrongdoing. His case reveals deep flaws in how the law enforcement agency investigates the officers in its ranks. [The Dallas Morning News]
Gun Owners of America, a gun rights group, is suing the ATF over its “zero-tolerance” policy on lawbreaking firearms dealers, an approach the agency implemented after the Biden administration ordered it to take a stricter tack during inspections. [Washington Examiner] Context: Last year, after the Biden administration issued the new guidance, the ATF revoked gun store licenses at a higher rate than any year since 2006 — but the agency conducted far fewer inspections than in previous years, and its inspections program has long been lenient and conciliatory toward gun dealers.
Nearly two days before a gun rampage in Philadelphia’s Kingsessing neighborhood, a woman phoned 911 to report a shooting on the same street that would be attacked — but the police never showed up. Authorities now say the same man, armed with the same weapon, carried out both acts of violence. [The Philadelphia Inquirer]
San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers’s office was the subject of numerous complaints, ranging from corruption and a “fear-based” culture to a failure to conduct basic police work. Then came the mass shooting in Cleveland, Texas. [Associated Press]
We want to hear from you. The Trace’s Selin Thomas is looking to speak with people about firearm purchases. If you’ve ever thought about buying a gun, or talked to a family member about it, share your experience by responding to the appropriate questionnaire below:
Serenity Wilson, 16, was a social butterfly who could make just about anyone smile: “She just put the spark in everybody,” her mom told WTHR. Wilson was shot and killed on July 3, at a party ahead of the Independence Day holiday, in Indianapolis. She was a rising high school junior — just starting to learn how to drive — on the honor roll and a member of the dance team. Wilson brought joy to her family, they said, goofing off and playing Roblox with her younger siblings. People were drawn to her, her uncle said. She was “always happy, smiling,” her mom continued. “She was a beautiful kid.”
19 Gunshot Victims Went to a Small South Baltimore Hospital. They All Lived.: “There still wasn’t enough space, and there weren’t enough medical staff. Workers started coming down from the ICU, pediatrics and other departments. Someone from obstetrics checked on a patient who thought she might be pregnant. Several workers who live nearby came from home. … They leaned on their training: the ABCs of treatment. That stands for airway, breathing and circulation. He added something of a D, delivering care through the ‘organized chaos.’” [The Baltimore Banner]
“How many more of these guns are out there? How many more of these guns are in my community?”
— Michael Winfield, whose 17-year-old son, Calvin, was shot and killed by another teenager wielding a ghost gun, on the proliferation of homemade firearms among young people, to The Washington Post