Writing in the Boston Globe, columnist Jeff Jacoby argues that harsh gun-control laws haven’t worked in Massachusetts:
IN 1998, Massachusetts passed what was hailed as the toughest gun-control legislation in the country. Among other stringencies, it banned semiautomatic “assault” weapons, imposed strict new licensing rules, prohibited anyone convicted of a violent crime or drug trafficking from ever carrying or owning a gun, and enacted severe penalties for storing guns unlocked. …
The 1998 legislation did cut down, quite sharply, on the legal use of guns in Massachusetts. Within four years, the number of active gun licenses in the state had plummeted. “There were nearly 1.5 million active gun licenses in Massachusetts in 1998,” the AP reported. “In June , that number was down to just 200,000.” The author of the law, state Senator Cheryl Jacques, was pleased that the Bay State’s stiff new restrictions had made it possible to “weed out the clutter.” …
But the law that was so tough on law-abiding gun owners had quite a different impact on criminals.
Since 1998, gun crime in Massachusetts has gotten worse, not better. In 2011, Massachusetts recorded 122 murders committed with firearms, the Globe reported this month — “a striking increase from the 65 in 1998.” Other crimes rose too. Between 1998 and 2011, robbery with firearms climbed 20.7 percent. Aggravated assaults jumped 26.7 percent.
That’s in contrast with its neighbors. Jacoby points to work by John Lott showing that the Bay State’s murder rate has grown relative to its neighbors. At the beginning of its gun “reform,” Massachusetts had 70% of the murder rate of the rest of New England. Now it has 125%.
According to the FBI’s statistics, Massachusetts achieved that result by failing to see the decrease in murders that the rest of New England experienced. One notable exception is that Rhode Island failed to see any decrease, as well, and at 2.4 per 100,000 is higher than Massachusetts’s 2.0. Rhode Island, as we often hear, is in the top 10 states for strict gun laws, and it isn’t at all clear that climbing to the top would reduce violence in the state.