Gun Reform Legislation is Now Law!
Reducing the number of guns in our state, and better tracking of who can purchase guns, are critical ways to reduce violence in our communities. Although we had hoped for national gun reform legislation to happen, after tragedy struck in Newtown, Connecticut, Massachusetts lawmakers were finally willing to take a step forward on this issue. B-PEACE joined the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, a group of dedicated people from churches, synagogues, and community organizations such as Citizens for Safety, Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action, the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, and Stop Handgun Violence. Many were veterans in the fight against gun violence. They led the way through political strategizing and lobbying. It was amazing to see how many different organizations came together to work on this legislation. Without their dedication, we would not have achieved so many of our priorities in the bill.
How we won:
After many months of hard work (preceded by decades of effort by many peace champions and local activists) gun reform legislation was signed into law in August 2014. This bill was the result of a coalition of many groups coming together with hundreds of individual leaders taking the time to call, write, and visit with legislators. The B-PEACE for Jorge Campaign brought Episcopalians to all five of the state-wide gun reform hearings, and we had a strong presence at the State House hearings and rallies on the bill. Through our Gun Reform Toolkit, parishioners were trained to advocate on the legislation to their congregations, communities, and legislators. More than 57 parishes across the Diocese were involved in our efforts on gun reform!
What we won:
Many priorities for which we advocated were passed, including:
- Requiring registration and background checks for all gun sales in Massachusetts;
- Bringing the Commonwealth into compliance with the Federal NICS background check system while protecting mental health counseling privacy;
- Giving police chiefs discretion in issuing rifle and shotgun licenses (the NRA’s chief objection to the bill);
- Advancing suicide awareness and prevention in the Commonwealth through a multifaceted approach; and
- Collecting trace data so we know the origin of guns used in crimes or suicide.
Additionally, the bill requires schools to better address mental health needs of students and to have school safety plans. And the bill mandates that a school resource officer be assigned to every district. A felony conviction will disqualify a person from obtaining a gun license, and gun dealers are required to conduct criminal record checks on employees. Massachusetts will create a State Police task force to explore how to best address gun trafficking issues as well.
What still needs to happen:
B-PEACE will continue to push for other meaningful legislation that relates to gun violence, including restriction of bulk purchases (often called “one gun a month”), funding for important programs that are shown to prevent violence, such as youth jobs and other youth services, and legislation related to treating violence as a public health issue.
We will also do whatever we can to support gun reform efforts on a federal level, and will encourage gun reform in other New England states which affect illegal trafficking of guns in Massachusetts.
In partnership with the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, B-PEACE is also focusing on implementation of the new law. This includes regulations in the following areas:
- Ensuring a NICS background check is performed for all private sales;
- Making clear that the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police may deny issuance of a license to carry and/or challenge issuance of a firearms identification card on the grounds of “risk to public safety” if the applicant presents a risk to themselves or others in their household; and
- Ensuring that data is collected, analyzed and reported to permit law enforcement and public safety, particularly relating to the risk of bulk purchasing as it relates to gun trafficking.
We are continuing to study the law and determine which aspects will require further regulation, funding, and reporting of data collected. With a new Governor and administration coming in January, it is important that we are vigilant about ensuring that the law is carried out fully, and that data is collected so we may be an example to other states and federal lawmakers.
Thank you to everyone who made their voices heard and contributed to this success! We look forward to continuing to work with you to keep moving forward on this critical issue. If you would like to be involved in the work we are doing this year, please contact leaders in the B-PEACE for Jorge Gun Reform Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IMPORTANT: There is a piece of gun reform legislation that needs your support. To learn more, click HERE!
The Gun Reform subcommittee’s goal is to mobilize Episcopalians to get engaged with the legislative dimension of our collective effort to work against gun violence and towards peace.
Many Episcopalians are pushing for reformed gun laws both in Massachusetts and on the federal level. The B-PEACE for Jorge Campaign’s Gun Reform and Public Policy Committee, led by Ned Notis-McConarty and Tinka Perry and advised by Kathie Mainzer, founder of Citizens for Safety, is working with state and federal organizations, including the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence and Mayors Against Illegal Guns, to work for meaningful gun reform that will keep dangerous weapons off our streets and out of our communities. Calling, writing and e-mailing legislators to let them know you care about gun reform can make a difference.
One of the greatest contributions of the Gun Reform subcommittee to B-PEACE has been the congregational resource toolkit. This toolkit is designed to empower congregation leaders to engage their communities in a well-structured and productive conversation about the legislative process and gun law reform. This toolkit can be accessed HERE.
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To contact the Gun Reform subcommittee, please email