Yesterday I was driving home from my office on the interstate loop which runs right past the Smith & Wesson factory in East Springfield, MA and I saw the billboard – the pic is above. For a second, I thought maybe S&W was advertising its AR-15 assault rifle but I’ve never known the company to go in for billboards to push their brand. Plus, the AR-15 produced across the highway from this sign can’t be sold in Massachusetts anyway. So, what’s going on?

              What’s going on is Manuel Oliver and his wife, Patricia, who lost their son in the Parkland massacre have started an organization, Change the Ref, to raise more awareness about gun violence through public art and other initiatives and events. When this billboard went up in Springfield last week, it immediately hit all the media stations in the area which carried stories over the next several days.

              The billboard is also stuck up in Boston, and the project is sponsored not only by Manny and Patricia Oliver, but also by a Massachusetts group, Stop Handgun Violence, which was founded in 1994 and was a key player in the very strong gun law that Massachusetts enacted in 1998.

              The Massachusetts gun law gets the stated rated in the top five of all states when it comes to the degree to which gun owners face comprehensive regulations covering their guns. You cannot own or buy a gun in Massachusetts, even a private sale, unless you have been given a state-issued gun license. You also must lock up or lock away all your guns and if you don’t, even if nobody gets hurt, you could be facing a felony charge. Finally, any new gun cannot be sold in the states unless it has first been certified as meeting various child-safety designs.

              In 1996, two years before the gun law was passed, there were 34 homicides in Massachusetts and 8,496 aggravated assaults. Now, I don’t know how many of these violent crimes reported to the FBI involved the use of guns. But we have to assume that the 1998 law was in response to this criminality, particularly the homicides which are almost always committed with guns.

              In 2002, four years after the law took effect, there were 57 homicides and 9,899 aggravated assaults. The gun ls is still on the books and in 2019, the state recorded 102 homicides and 11,785 aggravated assaults. In 2000, the state had a population of 6,349,097. The estimated population today iss 6.892 million.

              Over the last twenty years, the state’s population has increased by slightly less than 9%.  During the same time-frame with this tough, gun law still being enforced, the murder number has almost doubled, and the aggravated assaults have only increased by about 20 percent.

              This is how gun laws prevent crime? 

              But a review of this data should not be taken as my attempt to dismiss the work of the Olivers who have decided to promote gun laws as one way to remember their beloved son. My problem with this approach is that I don’t think that promoting more gun laws by looking at whether gun assaults go up or down is necessarily the best and most powerful way to frame the gun violence debate.

              I think guns need to strictly be regulated because the most popular guns these days – assault rifles, semi-automatic pistols – are designed only to do one thing. And that one thing is to end human life. Period. As Grandpa would say, “Gevalt.”

              And by the way, I’m not interested in all the nonsense about how guns are the best way to defend yourself and you have a God-given ‘right’ to self-defense. Do me a favor. Take your God-given ‘right’ and stick it you know where. Or as I said yesterday, if you want your ability to walk around with a Glock in your pocket to be approved by God, move to Iran.

              What’s important about gun laws is they remind us that guns aren’t toys. Some of us need to be reminded of this again and again.