Hi old friends at BMG! I remain as always invigorated by the passion of the netroots and appreciative of your support. I have an issue to share with you today and look forward to your thoughts.
By coincidence, after weeks of research, I filed a bill this week just hours before the San Bernardino massacre unfolded. The bill is currently a docket known as HD 4331, and it would prohibit individuals on the FBI’s terrorist watch list and no-fly list from acquiring firearms in Massachusetts. In the short time since I have filed this, I have heard two recurring themes. Most people either feel that it’s a no-brainer or they are incredulous that this even needs to be filed. I guess that’s the definition of common sense and why the bill now has a list of 27 bi-partisan co-sponsors. If you’d like to read about the genesis of my filing The Salem News covers it all today.
The idea behind this bill is not new. On the federal level, the bill was first introduced in 2007 and since that time, the NRA has successfully blocked its passage. This was on full display this week when a vote miserably failed pretty much along party lines with Democrats in support and Republicans opposed.
I’m quite proud of my own Congressman Seth Moulton, quoted in the Salem News article above, and the rest of our Congressional delegation for their leadership especially after I got a taste of how the NRA operates when my bill became the subject of an “action alert” from their MA affiliate. The email to their members and the legislature said the bill would “create a list” the government could use to strip Americans of their rights. As is so often the case with the way the NRA addresses gun legislation, this description was wildly misleading and inaccurate. Interesting too, at the bottom of the email, there was, of course, a fundraiser. Not missing an opportunity to fundraise after tragedy, this NRA affiliate is raffling off 20 revolvers and rifles, known as the “Lucky 20”.
This legislation absolutely does not “create” any list. It uses an already existing terrorist watch list, administered by the FBI since 2003. This bill proposes that a check with this terror watch list and no fly list be part of a 9-part background check that is already done– designed to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. I encourage you to read yesterday’s Boston Herald story about my bill and the Boston Globe editorial board’s endorsement of it, including an incredible graphic. I was also in studio for NECN’s Broadside with Sue O’Connell last night.
There are, of course, civil liberties concerns with all counterterrorism programs conducted by the federal government, including the terrorist watch list. These programs deserve scrutiny, oversight, and transparency. Interestingly, however, I have not seen our NRA-backed friends support dissolution or greater oversight of the terrorist watch list until now. If you’re on the watch list, you’re deemed too dangerous to fly, or travel in or out of the country; you can have your assets frozen; you can be subject to extra searches and surveillance. None of this has drawn widespread Republican objection. Their objection interestingly only comes up when it could cut in to gun manufacturers’ record sales.
I feel strongly that if you’re too dangerous to get on an airplane, you’re too dangerous to buy a gun. We’ve seen all too often how easy it is for people with dark intentions to purchase guns and use them as tools of mass murder. It happens in this country each and every day. This bill certainly would not solve that issue entirely. Massachusetts has the second-lowest gun death rate in the country, thanks in part to our strong state laws, but it remains far too easy to bring illegal guns in to Massachusetts thanks to lax laws in other states. This glaring problem can only be addressed at the federal level. However, state action can make a dent in gun violence, and send a message to Congress that states are willing to act when they have failed.
A vast majority of gun owners support this step that can help keep guns out of the hands of terrorists. 85% of gun owners also support universal background checks. Unfortunately, the voices of these law-abiding citizens often get drowned out by the extremists at the NRA, more focused on protecting gun manufacturers’ bottom line at any cost – even at the cost of the blood of American citizens.
George Legeros, a Virginia gun owner surveyed by the Washington Post for their story on the silent majority of gun owners who support some steps to stem the tide of gun violence, told the Post that “the NRA doesn’t represent me. For lack of a better word, they are too whacked-out. It’s one thing to be pro-gun. It’s another thing to have no common sense.”
Hopefully common sense will prevail here at the state level and keep guns out of the hands of terror suspects. I’m hopeful other states (besides NJ which passed it in 2013) will follow suit and send a message to Congress that enough is enough. Sadly, there is a dearth of grassroots organization for efforts like this so if you want this passed, please stay engaged with your elected officials (27 co-sponsors at this moment) and active on media.