Leading the Way on Gun Violence Prevention
On December 14, 2012, twenty school children aged 6 and 7 were savagely murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, along with six adults. I was working in the White House at the time. Visibly shaken, President Obama described it as the worst day of his presidency. This unspeakable tragedy called for aggressive reforms to ensure that nothing like this could ever happen again. Around the country, there were calls for sensible reforms to our broken national gun laws, greater investment in mental health services, and more research on gun violence prevention.
But the NRA and its allies in Washington dug in and blocked sensible reforms. Even after Sandy Hook, paralysis gripped Washington and stymied meaningful steps to protect our communities.
Time and time again, from the Pulse Nightclub to San Bernadino to Las Vegas, the nation has been devastated by shocking mass shootings followed by hollow “thoughts and prayers,” calls for dialogue . . . and further inaction.
Almost six years after Sandy Hook, Congress has still failed to act and we continue to live through one unspeakable tragedy after another.
Never again didn’t last very long.
Yet again this week, the nation mourns 17 more deaths at the Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. And this time, young people are leading the way in demanding action.
Here in Massachusetts, we are fortunate that our gun laws are more sensible than those in most other states, and vastly superior to the rules that apply at the federal level. And we are blessed with an Attorney General, Maura Healey, who has led the way.
But even here, there is more that we can and must do. Here are three suggestions for steps we can take right away in Massachusetts.
First, the legislature should move quickly to pass the “extreme risk protective order” bill recently introduced by Representative David P. Linsky. This measure would take dangerous weapons out of the hands of potentially violent individuals by allowing their family members to seek a court order temporarily barring them from buying or possessing guns.
Second, Massachusetts should step up to help fill the gap in gun violence prevention research created by the federal “Dickey Amendment.” This outrageous rule — passed by Congress in 1996 — prevents the Centers for Disease Control from using its funding to promote gun control. As a result, gun violence is the least-researched cause of death. As former executive director of MIT’s domestic poverty lab, J-PAL North America, I have seen first-hand that good data is essential for creating good policy. Our failure as a nation to secure the evidence needed to reduce gun violence is shameful. Congress should repeal the Dickey amendment. In the meantime, Massachusetts should work with other states, universities, foundations, and the private sector to fund and promote this research.
Third, Massachusetts should resist federal legislation aimed at allowing concealed carry reciprocity and coordinate efforts with other states to prevent this infringement on state rights. Massachusetts should be able to determine our own standards for who can carry firearms in public places.
Our hearts break for the victims of the Stoneham Douglas High School massacre, as well as their families and friends. We must honor their memory — and protect our families and communities — by stepping up, fighting back, and leading the way on real reforms.
Quentin Palfrey is a Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts. He previously served as Senior Advisor for Jobs & Competitiveness in President Obama’s White House Office of Science & Technology Policy and as an Assistant Attorney General in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office. More information about his campaign is available here: www.quentinpalfrey.com