The true measure of gun violence

Gun owners staged a large rally outside the State House yesterday. The show of force came as state and national lawmakers move toward tightening restrictions on firearms, whether through background checks, weapon style and magazine capacity, or purchase volume. In Massachusetts, Rep. David Linsky is pushing to make gun owners carry potentially expensive liability insurance. Maryland just passed a tough gun control measure, including a ban on assault weapons, magazine-size limits, and fingerprinting of gun license applicants, while Connecticut’s governor is preparing to sign a tough new gun bill into law. Even as pro-gun laws are gaining ground in some states (see the small Georgia town requiring residents to bear arms), in Washington, DC — a town wholly owned by the NRA — Congress is debating a significant background check expansion.

It’s against that backdrop that the Massachusetts Gun Owners Action League, the state equivalent of the NRA, rallied a thousand flag-waving activists on Boston Common. The Globe’s write-up of the event focuses on arguments about constitutional freedom. But the rally also tried, and failed, to bring math to a freedom party. The AP reports that Jim Wallace, the gun league’s executive director, argued that states shouldn’t tighten their gun laws because gun laws don’t work. “We have 15 years of evidence in Massachusetts that gun controls are simply an abject failure,” Wallace argued. “It’s a social experiment that didn’t work.”

Wallace’s problem is, the evidence of ineffectual gun laws doesn’t exist.

The recent bout of rhetoric about ineffective gun laws stems from a February Globe report, which said the number of gun deaths in the Massachusetts had risen, even as the state had pushed through the country’s toughest gun laws. For instance, the Globe noted that the number of “murders committed with firearms have increased significantly,” and that assaults had spiked as well.

The Globe report blurred the numbers, because the story’s lead didn’t measure the gun violence correctly. Quantifying the number of gun crimes that occurs in any given period doesn’t do anything to measure the prevalence of gun crimes in any given place, because a straight sum of the number of crimes doesn’t account for population. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention measures gun deaths and injuries by population. CDC numbers show that Massachusetts has the country’s second-lowest gun death rate. The state’s firearm death rate has also fallen sharply — by nearly one-third — since 1995, when Massachusetts activists began pressing for stricter gun laws. (See CommonWealth’s Winter issue, which profiled Stop Handgun Violence founder John Rosenthal.)

What’s more, firearm death rates are directly correlated to the strength, or lack thereof, of a state’s gun laws. Most of the guns Massachusetts police seize and trace come from outside the state’s borders. Massachusetts is one of three states where less than 35 percent of crime guns originate within state borders; the other two are New York and New Jersey. It’s no coincidence that these three states also have the country’s lowest gun fatality rates, while states with loose gun laws have far higher fatality rates, and a vastly greater share of their crime guns originating in-state. The problem isn’t Massachusetts’s gun laws; it’s everybody else’s.



Gov. Deval Patrick offers a muted response to the narrower, House-Senate tax plan, CommonWealth reports.

Curt Woodward, a guest columnist for WBUR, criticizes Gov. Deval Patrick for lamenting the media’s coverage of the business community.

Bristol Sheriff Thomas Hodgson says nearly half of his correctional officers have signed a petition calling on the executive board of the guards’ union to let them vote on a contract Hodgson offered.

The Globe looks at the new reform regime in charge of the state’s Probation Department.


Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch jumped into the fray over a proposed Asian supermarket in North Quincy, saying charges that opposition stems from racism are “insulting and disingenuous.”

A survey by Lowell’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Task Force indicates parents overwhelmingly feel teens should have access to birth control even without parental permission, but Lowell High School does not make contraceptives available, the Sun reports. A recent report indicates Lowell has the eighth highest teen-birth rate in Massachusetts.

Weymouth officials are trying to calculate the costs of an arbitration award that gave firefighters a raise for the 2012 and 2013 fiscal years while at the same time excoriating both the town and the union for an acrimonious relationship.


Joan Vennochi says a casino at Suffolk Downs is not as sure of a bet as it might have seemed a couple of weeks ago.


As part of its series, “Broken City,” on dysfunction in Washington, the Globe travels to the First Congressional District in Kansas, where residents hate government spending (except for farm subsidies and agriculture inspectors), have a weakness for Lee Harvey Oswald jokes, and are four-square behind their Republican congressman, who thinks John Boehner and his own party leaders have gone soft.

From Mother Jones: “Will Elizabeth Warren be a Deal Maker or a Dragon Slayer?”

In the American Spectator, former Reagan aide Jeffrey Lord says US Rep. Michele Bachmann is getting a real “Borking” because she’s a conservative, not because she did anything wrong.


Massachusetts Republicans held a conclave in Braintree to figure out how to gain a foothold in the state. Best line came when moderator Michael Graham asked a panel how the GOP can win here and Charlie Baker responded, “Why are you asking me?”

Rep. Stephen Lynch calls foul on national Democrats, whom he accuses of sandbagging him in favor of Rep. Ed Markey. Joe Battenfeld compares Lynch to Scott Brown.

Suffolk County DA Dan Conley officially announces that he’s in for mayor. City Councilor Rob Consalvo says he is too. The Herald wonders whether the Hyde Park end of the mayoral pool is getting too crowded.


Preview of coming attractions: A “super” Walgreens in downtown Washington provides a good sense of what is headed for Downtown Crossing in Boston.

The payroll processing company ADP says the private sector added 158,000 jobs in March, with the lack of construction jobs being the biggest drag on growth.


Attorney General Martha Coakley filed suit against a Brockton-based for-profit school that she says falsely promised students jobs upon graduation and made deceptive claims about placements. Here’s the WBUR report.

Need a novel idea for improving public schools? The Cape Cod Times suggests parenting classes for high school students.

The Crimson takes a deep dive on the issue of concussions among student athletes and concludes that although Harvard is taking lots of steps to protect students, it isn’t enough.


A blockbuster health merger is in the works, with Lahey Health (which owns Beverly and Addison Gilbert Hospitals) talking with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Atrius Health, the Gloucester Times reports.


The only competitor with incumbent contractor Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail for the $1 billion contract running the state commuter rail system may drop out. The company charges that the MBTA has not handed over information on commuter rail labor costs as promised.

JetBlue energizes the long moribund Worcester Regional Airport, the Telegram & Gazette reports.

A Quincy woman’s video showing a Red Line train door that wouldn’t close prompts inspections of older Red Line cars, NECN reports.


Manchester residents ban the plastic bags used by convenience stores, grocery stores, and pharmacies, the Gloucester Times reports. Meanwhile, Pittsfield considers banning styrofoam containers.


An international collaboration of 86 journalists in 46 countries yields detailed — and damaging — reports on who uses offshore tax havens, the Nieman Journalism Lab reports. Here’s one report from The Guardian.

CommonWealth’s Michael Jonas is serving as ombudsman for the Dorchester Reporter’s coverage of the state Senate race in which state Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry, wife of the paper’s  publisher, is a candidate. Jonas weighs in this week on two items related to the paper’s reporting on South Boston candidate Maureen Dahill.  Here is his initial column from February laying out the ombudsman’s role.