As the debate over gun control churns in the wake of another horrific mass shooting, I’d like to take a moment to present the step-by-step process by which I became a licensed gun owner in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
STEP 1: I enrolled in a four-hour firearms safety course registered with the state.
STEP 2: I joined a properly licensed gun club to demonstrate I was merely interested in hunting and recreational shooting. While this was by no means mandatory, it was encouraged by my local police department.
STEP 3: I then visited my local police station, where I presented my application for a license to carry, my firearm safety certificate and a letter from my gun club stating my membership was in good standing.
STEP 4: Along with my paperwork I had to pay a $100 application fee. NOTE: In Massachusetts a firearms license is only valid for six years, and the $100 application fee is due any time I reapply.
STEP 5: I sat through a face-to-face interview with a police officer and submitted to a preliminary background check.
STEP 6: My photo and fingerprints were taken and filed digitally with the Massachusetts State Police, along with the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health and the national criminal records database.
STEP 7: I made an appointment at the police firing range on Moon Island in Boston Harbor to demonstrate my proficiency with a firearm in front of a state trooper.
STEP 8: I waited approximately 30 days for my license to be approved.
STEP 9: My class A license to carry arrived in the mail.
STEP 10: I visit a nearby gun store, which by law is registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms as well as the Massachusetts Firearms Records Bureau. After presenting my license to the clerk, I was then allowed to browse the store’s inventory.
STEP 11: I selected my very first firearm: a 30/30 Winchester Model 94, a tried and true staple of New England deer hunting.
STEP 12: While in the store I submitted to yet another background check, this time over the phone with the FBI.
STEP 13: I waited three days.
STEP 14: I returned to the store and picked up my Winchester 30/30, effectively adding my name to the list of over 250,000 legal gun owners in Massachusetts.
... in Massachusetts we know our history and we know the significance of the second Amendment. However, we also understand that owning firearms is an immense responsibility...
The question I’m most often asked is, “How long did the whole thing take?”
From start to finish, the entire process unfolded over the course of several months, but then again so did acquiring my driver’s license and first car. In fact, one could argue automobiles and firearms are equally lethal machines: each responsible for over 30,000 deaths per year in the United States; so perhaps there’s justification for requiring patience in this endeavor.
But was acquiring a license to carry any more of a bureaucratic hassle than getting my driver’s license at age 16? I would say no.
As a gun owner, I’m perfectly comfortable with the notion of sensible gun control, and in the stark light of recent tragedies, I’d say the process of acquiring my first firearm in Massachusetts was exactly as difficult as it needed to be.
Some vocal conservatives are quick to accuse Massachusetts of being a bastion for the liberal elite who are grossly out of touch with the fundamentals of the Second Amendment. It seems they’ve forgotten this is where the “shot heard round the world” was fired in the name of Independence; where simple colonists in 1775 formed a militia and rose up in arms against a formidable force of British Army regulars.
You’re welcome, by the way.
Trust me, in Massachusetts we know our history and we know the significance of the Second Amendment. However, we also understand that owning firearms is an immense responsibility, and we have carefully balanced our right to keep and bear them with what I would argue are an appropriate amount of institutional safeguards.
... There is data to suggest our state gun ownership laws are working.
Is it a perfect system everyone can agree on? Certainly not. But in a time when contentious shouting has largely supplanted meaningful debate, perhaps that’s too much to hope for. However, there is data to suggest our state gun ownership laws are working. Well, that is to say, they seem to work better than the gun policies of most other states. In a recent study, Massachusetts stands out as having one of the lowest rates of gun-related deaths, second only to Hawaii, a state with a population one-fifth our size.
Clearly the epidemic of gun violence is an issue that needs to be addressed on a national level. For any gun owner or gun rights advocate to suggest otherwise is not only stubbornly myopic, but inhumane.
So if we’re earnestly looking to take steps towards reducing the number of gun-related deaths in the United States while respectfully preserving our Constitutional right to legally own firearms, perhaps the rest of the country should, once again, look to Massachusetts to lead the way.