MA gun group sets the record straight on mandatory live fire

MA gun group sets the record straight on mandatory live fire
AP Photo/Michael Hill

One of the things that pops up when it comes to permitting, carry, or any firearms related certificate is the notion that some entities want to push mandatory training. Let’s ignore the “shall not be infringed” element here, because we’re dealing with states that already have these laws, and states that want to implement them. This is what we are dealing with now. Massachusetts is a state that requires a government permission slip to buy, own, possess, and carry a firearm. In order to get said papers, one must complete a class, and that class does not have to require live fire in order to be in compliance. The topic has been pushed about in the Bay State, with murmurs of pushing mandatory live fire for years, and our friends over at the Gun Owners Action League (GOAL) have some data and sentiments to share on the topic.

For several years Gun Owners’ Action League (GOAL) has been fighting against legislation to mandate so-called “live fire” mandates. The proposals would require anyone seeking a firearm license to undergo a certain amount of live fire training. Some of the bills require a certain number of rounds fired or time spent doing it. Even a few gun owners have said it just makes good sense, comparing it to driving before getting a driver’s license.

Setting aside the fact that driving is not a protected civil right, the question we continue to ask with these efforts is: “What problem exists that these proposals are intended to solve?” The clear answer is, there aren’t any problems. Lawful gun owners in Massachusetts do not have an accidental death problem so why the need to require live fire training?

At GOAL, we encourage folks to get all the training they can get. We currently supply a long list of training courses for all levels [of] experience. GOAL also has a growing list of cooperative certified instructors across the state that offer a host of different training. What we don’t support are government mandates that act as roadblocks to people exercising their civil rights.

That’s exactly right. Driving a car is not a civil right. We can explore the level of infringement to training mandates and permitting for days. In my opinion, they’re infringements. All of it. The criminals grant themselves permits to carry and purchase permits through their own free will to ignore the law. So take Mr. and Mrs. Law-Abiding America, why should they have to jump through hoops when the criminals don’t? In certain regards we literally live in a country where the criminals have more rights than the law abiding citizens.

Something I recently noted on a podcast was that in 2022, I feel there is more access to and exposure to training than there ever has been in history. Beyond that, your average new gun enthusiast in the United States is interested in training, but that’d be voluntary training. The thing that policy makers don’t understand is there is compliance with the law and then quality compliance.

If our lawmakers and executives were really interested in people having a quality experience, training would not be mandatory, but encouraged and possibly subsidized. The training experiences of today versus yesteryear, and those that are not compulsory, are higher quality. Twenty years ago, the idea of a shooting range being a family friendly destination was nearly unheard of. The hurdle of breaking the old guard in the industry standards alone puts us ahead in comparison to the past. People plan trips and vacations around training or shooting experiences.

GOAL is correct in their assertion that these mandates are just roadblocks to exercising a right. Those roadblocks, as GOAL points out further, get amplified in times of crisis.

Keep in mind that during the COVID lockdowns, the Baker Administration singled out the 2A community and shut down all things related to exercising our rights. They intentionally shut down our ranges, the retailers and even mandatory training courses. In short, the government blocked access to mandates that prevented new people from acquiring a license. Knowing this was done intentionally, why would the 2A community ever agree to more mandates.

The obstacle to bound over has been the public safety element of these mandates. With the talking heads saying we’ll all just be safer if we had this extra training. GOAL looks into some of those arguments and makes short order of them.

However, if people still insist on comparing the safety record of the 2A community and licensed drivers, let explore those records in Massachusetts.

According to the latest data (2020) from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) only 1 person died as a result of a gun accident in the Commonwealth in 2020. Compare that to the 374 people that died in accidents on the State’s highways and roads!

GOAL provided a bar graph showing there were also over 1000 deaths the same year due to falls.

It is also important to point out that the State does not spend a penny on firearms safety in the Commonwealth. Case in point, in 2014 GOAL was successful in passing the following law:

Chapter 284 of the Acts of 2014, SECTION 69.  Said section 131P of said chapter 140, as so appearing, is hereby further amended by adding the following subsection:-

     (f)  The colonel of state police shall produce and distribute public service announcements to encourage and educate the general public about: (i) safe storage and transportation of weapons pursuant to sections 131C and 131L; and (ii) importance of firearms safety education and training, including information on places and classes that a person may attend to obtain firearms safety education and training.

To date no such public service announcements have been produced. This is proof positive the State has no interest in safety. Its only interest is to burden the 2A community with punitive laws and mandates.

If the Bay State really were about putting their money where their mouths are, they’d follow through with the initiatives which are statutorily mandated. We know that education is important, but they want to have education at the expense and at the inconvenience of those wishing to exercise their rights, rather than try to make good on their promise to their residents, and offer some minimal education.

The other numbers provided by GOAL on accidental deaths show a maximum of 6 in 2002, with an average number of two accidental deaths a year via firearm in that last 22 years. Concerning those numbers, GOAL made the following stipulation, “* It is important to note that the state does not track whether these accidents were lawful citizens or criminals.” We don’t know if the “accidents” were caused by persons that have the already mandated training that does not include live fire.

The numbers just don’t support why live fire training would need to be included in the training regime.

Something not brought up by GOAL, but I’ll say it, what about liability? Let’s say the state is now mandating instructors to conduct live fire training, who takes responsibility for injured instructors or students though training incidents? I’d say the state would be on the hook for that, especially since live fire has never been a requirement, and they have such impressively low accidental deaths via firearm.

Another consideration is where will this training take place? Massachusetts has a lot of private gun clubs and so-called rod and gun clubs, but not many public, pay to go ranges. It’s just not a big thing up there. Any instructor would have to take their student probably to a private gun club. What if the private gun clubs have rules saying training cannot occur there because of liability? Is the state willing to protect the ranges and instructors in the event of some sort of a lawsuit?

Finally, the live fire of firearms is something that can only be done by those who are not disqualified persons. By having a permit be issued prior to a person even handles a firearm, an instructor would know the person they’re dealing with is not disqualified from possessing firearms and have been thoroughly background checked.

We’re dealing with already flawed systems, why make them more flawed? I’ll take your infringement and raise you another pile of infringements. No thank you.

None of this amounts to a hill of beans. We can talk about things in a rational manner, but in states like Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, California, etc. our rhetoric goes ignored. We can #followthescience to all of these matters, but these anti-freedom states just don’t care. Like everything else to anti-freedom caucus members, the facts only matter when they hiss them out of their own jaw jacking. They’re going to push for their mandates, and we’ll just have to like it. 

I hope that by shedding light on this topic, this is not because GOAL is giving us a coming attraction of what the next legislative session might bring. My suspicion is it might be though. In addition to those worries, who knows what kind of unconstitutional nonsense Governor Elect Maura Healey has for Bay Staters. I don’t want to be a Babe Ruth here, but the Second Amendment could be mortally wounded with Healey at the wheely. Best of luck to our brothers and sisters in Beantown.