Common sense calls for controls on illegal weapons

A universal ban on firearms is not only unconstitutional, but it is not going to solve the persistent scourge of gun violence on the streets of Dorchester, Mattapan, or any other American neighborhood. But taking common sense steps to curb the cascade of illegal weapons is something that our state government can — and should — do with a quickness.

A bill introduced by Governor Deval Patrick last year and just now making its way towards the full Legislature is a good step in that direction. Patrick’s bill — H. 4102— will limit the amount of guns that someone in the Commonwealth can buy to one per month and facilitate the process by which individual gun owners report the re-sale of their private weapons.

Advocates say that this cap will help drive gun traffickers out of business by restricting bulk purchases by so-called “straw buyers.” James Alan Fox, a criminologist who supports the bill, notes that a similar law passed in Virginia in 1993 put a dent in its flow of illegal guns. In Massachusetts, where federal authorities estimate that at least one-third of all guns seized from criminals originated within our borders, such a law could have an immediate impact.

And while the pipeline of weapons illegally shipped south from neighboring states like New Hampshire won’t be impacted by a Massachusetts crackdown, Fox notes correctly: “how can the Commonwealth expect other states to place limits unless we do so first.” It’s time for lawmakers to send a firm message that we are serious about attacking street violence from all directions. Targeting the source— illegal handguns— is a sensible start.

– Bill Forry

Replacing St. Fleur: Wait for the fall
A non-profit organization — the New Democracy Coalition— has called on Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo to appoint an interim delegate to replace Marie St. Fleur in the Fifth Suffolk district. St. Fleur left the seat vacant last Friday when she officially resigned to take a job in the Menino administration. Four candidates— all Democrats— are vying to replace St. Fleur in a contest that will be, effectively, decided in September’s primary.

The timing of St. Fleur’s departure for City Hall is unfortunate— coming as it does just before a busy budget cycle in which the people of her district should have a voice. But, it is hardly unprecedented. Her predecessor, Charlotte Golar Richie, similarly left the Fifth Suffolk seat vacant when she joined Menino’s cabinet in 1999, triggering a special election several months later — won by St. Fleur.

St. Fleur’s office, like Richie's, will maintain a staff to handle constituent concerns and neighboring state reps will step in when needed to speak out for the Fifth’s electorate. The regularly scheduled fall elections this year will follow a similar pace and the voters — not legislative power brokers — should be left to decide who will next represent them at the State House.
– BF