On Preventing Gun Violence

Mass. attorney general Maura Healey

Nine members of the Women’s Committee just sent a letter to the editor to both the Martha’s Vineyard Times and the Vineyard Gazette. It supports Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey’s recent op-ed in the Boston Herald insisting that “every strategy to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of dangerous people needs to be on the table.”

We also call for the passage of H3610, a bill providing for an ERPO (extreme-risk protection orders) law. The bill, currently before the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, would enable courts to temporarily prohibit a person from possessing or purchasing guns if law enforcement or immediate family members show that they pose a significant danger to themselves or others.

If Florida had an ERPO law, it’s likely that the arsenal of the alleged Parkland high school shooter could have been confiscated.

Here’s the text of the letter:

To the Editor:

In the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 dead, at least 14 wounded, and countless bereaved, we stand with Attorney General Maura Healey when she says that this “is not a reality we can accept.”

We stand with her, too, when she adds that “every strategy to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of dangerous people needs to be on the table. That includes common sense reforms like universal background checks, giving police discretion to deny licenses to domestic abusers, and allowing the Centers for Disease Control to research gun violence.”

Massachusetts has been a leader in showing that thoughtfully written and effectively enforced gun laws can reduce gun deaths without impinging on the rights of responsible gun owners. At present, however, Massachusetts doesn’t have an extreme-risk protection order (ERPO) law, which would enable courts to temporarily prohibit a person from possessing or purchasing guns if law enforcement or immediate family members show that they pose a significant danger to themselves or others.

A crucial bill to rectify this — H3610, “the Decker bill” — is in the state legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security. Our state representative, Dylan Fernandes, is a co-sponsor of the bill. Please consider calling the co-chairs of the Joint Committee to urge that the bill be reported out of committee favorably. The co-chairs are Rep. Harold Naughton (617-722-2230) and Sen. Michael Moore (617-722-1485). You can also call House Speaker Robert DeLeo (617-722-2500) to express support for the bill.

Before the February 14 Parkland shooting, there had been frequent reports and complaints about the alleged shooter’s erratic and sometimes violent behavior. If Florida had an ERPO law (it doesn’t), his ability to buy firearms could have been curtailed and his arsenal confiscated.

Thoughts, prayers, and passing the buck have not solved the gun violence crisis and never will. It’s long past time for Congress to heed Maura Healey’s insistence that “every strategy to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of dangerous people needs to be on the table.”

For more information on these issues, including legislative updates, readers are urged to contact Everytown for Gun Safety and the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence.

Ann Wallace, Cathy Walthers, Kathy Laskowski, Maggie Brown, Margaret Emerson, Max King, Nan Byrne, Sarah Nevin, Sheila Lyons, and Susanna J. Sturgis