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Tougher gun laws needed to combat violence in Boston

Daniel Conley | 5/16/2013, 7:22 a.m.
Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley (center) meets with Boston Public Schools students, State Rep. Russell Holmes (left foreground) and John Rosenthal of Stop Handgun Violence (far left behind Holmes) at the Dorchester Youth Collaborative to discuss the teens' concerns.

 This loophole affects as many 25 percent of our gun convictions, oftentimes among the most serious cases — the ones involving search warrants based on long-term drug and gang investigations. This bill will close the loophole and provide the same penalty for the same gun no matter where it’s recovered.

The bill would also would require handgun firing pins to be microstamped with a unique identification number that’s then transferred to shell casings, making it easier for investigators to identify the firearms used in fatal and nonfatal shootings.

The technology exists, it’s getting better every day, it’s required under a 2007 law currently on hold in California and it’s being looked at in six other states. It was the subject of a 2008 federal bill advanced in the Senate by Ted Kennedy. There are few cases tougher to crack than street shootings with no witnesses, and this change would have an immediate effect on our ability to solve them.

This bill would also force gun owners to carry insurance to cover accidental or unlawful injuries inflicted with their firearms. This would not extend to lawful cases of self-defense, but it would apply to the hundreds of injuries and fatalities each year that are the direct result of negligent or improper use of firearms.

Despite what critics of this proposal say, I think most people would agree that if we require a license, registration and insurance to drive a car, why shouldn’t we expect the same of a gun? We all recognize gun owners Second Amendment rights, but with every right comes responsibilities, and keeping guns out of the wrong hands is a responsibility we all need to embrace.

In March, the Journal of the American Medical Association released the results of a four-year study correlating gun legislation and firearm-related fatalities. Their findings were unequivocal — a higher number of state firearm laws are associated with a lower rate of firearm fatalities, overall and for suicides and homicides.

The good news is that Massachusetts was at the top of the list for high legislative strength and low rates of gun fatalities. But the bad news is that homicide remains the single leading cause of death for young people aged 15 to 24 in Massachusetts. We can do better — and we will.