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We spearheaded the state’s 2014 gun law; new legislation can build on it

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SCCJ Professor Jack McDevitt, and University Fellow for Public Life Robert DeLeo, reflect on the gun laws they helped instate in 2014 in this oped in CommonWealth Magazine.

For nearly 10 years Massachusetts has been one of the states with the lowest rates of firearm deaths. Firearm deaths include homicides and suicides by firearm and firearm accidents. Most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the annual firearm death rate in Massachusetts is 3.4 per 100,000 residents while the national firearm death rate is 14.7 per 100,000, or nearly five times the rate in Massachusetts.

This low death rate is due to strong state level legislation, which has helped produce a relatively low firearm ownership rate. Massachusetts has been viewed as a model that many other states copy to keep their population safe.

One problem with firearm legislation is that new technologies produce weapons not even envisioned 10 years ago and firearm manufacturers often shift the way they build firearms to skirt state level legislation. So as the firearm market changes, so too must the legislation intended to reduce firearm violence.  

In 2014, we worked together to update Massachusetts firearm laws following the mass killings of school children in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. Following that mass homicide, one of us, as speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, formed a task force, chaired by the other, a Northeastern University expert in criminal justice issues, to determine if additional legislative changes might make the Commonwealth even safer.

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