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Boston Globe wants state to tilt at gun control windmills

AP Photo/Haven Daley

The Boston Globe is a major paper in the biggest city in a gun-controlled state. It’s unsurprising that they support gun control. In fact, if you look at their editorials over the last few decades, I doubt you’d find a single one taking issue with gun control of any kind.

Now, though, the paper thinks that the state of Massachusetts should push back against the Bruen decision.

The recent Supreme Court decision easing restrictions on gun ownership is worrisome in its own right. But there’s reason to believe the conservative majority will go even further. And that could spell trouble for states like Massachusetts with strict gun laws in place that have proven to be effective.

But there is a way for the Commonwealth to sustain its admirable, decades-long effort to limit gun violence in a nation awash in it.

First, lawmakers need to mount a pre-emptive defense, shielding the state’s gun laws against legal challenge. And then they should go on the offensive, expanding Massachusetts’ gun control regime in smart, targeted ways.

Jack McDevitt, director of the Institute on Race and Justice at Northeastern University and a longtime gun violence researcher, says the Legislature could, for instance, require local police to check in with family about an applicant’s mental health before issuing a license.

The idea is to build into the front end a practice that now plays out on the back end; if someone already has a gun, the state’s “red flag” law allows family to petition a court for removal of the weapon if they fear their loved one is a threat to themselves or others.

The trick would be ensuring a focus on that sort of acute threat; research shows that, while certain kinds of mental illness are associated with elevated risk of suicide and homicide, violence among people with those diagnoses is still rare.

In other words, they’re suggesting the state start tilting at windmills by pushing policies that will likely end up in front of this exact same court.

Look, I get that they’re not fans of the ruling.

The problem that the Globe doesn’t comprehend is that this isn’t about public safety. It’s about people’s rights. Even if guns were a public safety problem–they’re not, but let’s pretend they are–then it still wouldn’t matter because we have a right to keep and bear arms. That right is the only one that the Constitution says “shall not be infringed.”

That means rather than pushing for this insane idea of trying to work around Bruen–something that won’t go the way the editorial board believes–they should instead be looking at ways to reduce violent crime that doesn’t try to penalize law-abiding citizens first.

We already know there are programs that can work to reduce violent crime. Further, these don’t pretend that murder committed with a gun is somehow more heinous than a murder carried out with a knife. They work across the board, as it should be.

That would be a much better focus than trying to get around Bruen.

Unfortunately, we know how Massachusetts is. They love them some gun control so they’re likely to do the very things the Globe’s editorial board called for. They’ll find as many “workarounds” as they possibly can–at least, what they think are workarounds–and still infringe on people’s right to keep and bear arms.

Meanwhile, Massachusetts won’t become any safer.

The best thing the state has done for public safety is to adhere to the Bruen decision’s ruling regarding “good cause” requirements.

Now, thousands of law-abiding citizens will be able to protect themselves and others in one of the most anti-gun states in the nation.

That will make people safer, not platitudes and not editorial boards pontificating on things they don’t understand.

Aug 18, 2022 5:30 PM ET