Make American great again? More like make America Massachusetts.
That’s what Sen. Ed Markey is proposing when it comes to addressing the nation’s gun violence “epidemic,” even as President Donald Trump is backing down on his promise to tighten firearm rules.
Backed by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and a number of local police chiefs, Markey announced in a press conference Monday his plan to introduce legislation in which the federal government would incentivize the other 49 states to adopt gun safety laws similar to those in place in his home state.
Markey said that while there was still more work to do, Bay Staters should be proud to have the “strongest and most potent gun laws” in the country, which he cited for a 40 percent reduction in gun deaths in the state since 1994.
“Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said that each of the 50 states has the power to be a laboratory for developing new programs and policies,” the Democratic senator said Monday. “Right now, Massachusetts serves in that role for the other 49 states when it comes to gun safety legislation.”
The Making America Safe and Secure Act (appropriately coined the MASS Act) would authorize the Justice Department to make grants totaling $20 million each year for the next five years to states that, like Massachusetts, require their residents interested in owning, purchasing, or selling a gun to acquire a firearms license from their local police department. Markey said such firearms licensing requirements are the “most life-saving” gun laws on the books.
The bill would encourage states to require residents to go through a background check and do an in-person interview with their local police chief in order to obtain a license. First-time applicants would also have to complete safety training and provide references stating that he or she is of sound mind and character, accordin to Markey’s office.
The bill would allow states to authorize a different licensing authority, but Markey spoke highly of the structure in place in Massachusetts, which gives that authority to local heads of police.
“Police chiefs know the residents of their communities,” the senator said Monday. “They know how many times police officers have been called to a home. They know who has exhibited behavior that suggests a risk to public safety. And they have the direct responsibility — and the vested interest — in making sure that those who should be allowed to own a gun do not get their hands on a dangerous weapon.”
Markey’s legislation would give police chiefs discretion to deny, suspend, or revoke a firearms license if they consider an applicant to be a danger, though the states would also have to set up a judicial process through which residents could appeal such a decision. Several local Massachusetts police chiefs, including Boston Police Commissioner William Evans, voiced their support for the proposal Monday.
Per Commissioner Evans, “Since they’re not listening to the adults in Washington, hopefully, they’ll listen to the students. It’s way too easy to get a gun in this country. Extensive background checks and common-sense guns laws keep people safe. I support @SenMarkey’s bill." pic.twitter.com/R300w8Z8d9
— Boston Police Dept. (@bostonpolice) March 12, 2018
— Arlington, MA Police (@ArlingtonMAPD) March 12, 2018
— Peter J Koutoujian (@PeterKoutoujian) March 12, 2018
Markey said that the animated gun safety movement in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting wasn’t something that was going to fizzle out like past pushes for new laws. Noting that Massachusetts was also first in the country to pass sweeping legislation on health care coverage and same-sex marriage, he said the Bay State should again serve as a national model.
“Massachusetts has once again set a standard,” he said. “It’s for gun safety. It works.”