QUESTIONS FOR 8TH ESSEX CANDIDATES: No. 5 — Addressing gun violence

The Marblehead News posed a series of common questions to the six Democratic candidates for state representative from the 8th Essex District. There is no declared Republican candidate, meaning the winner of the primary Tuesday, Sept. 6 is likely to head to Beacon Hill to serve Marblehead, Swampscott and a portion of Lynn. Over the next two weeks, the Marblehead News will post the candidates’ responses to our questions, side by side, alternating the order as we go.

Previous questions:

Q1. Tell us about yourself.

Q2. What life event most profoundly affected your political views, and how did it shape them?

Q3. What are your three top priorities for the 8th Essex District?

Q4. During the Marblehead League of Women Voters’ 8th Essex District forum, candidates agreed nearly on all the issues. How would you distinguish yourself from the others? 

Today’s question:

2022 has been a horrific year for gun violence. While Massachusetts has the strongest gun-control legislation in the country, what, if any, actions can be taken to further address gun violence in Massachusetts?

Terri Tauro

Terri Tauro

Massachusetts has the lowest rate of death by gun violence in the country, and we must keep it that way. This is attributed to our strict gun control laws and our commitment to mental health treatment.

We can always do better, like the ban on bump stocks and other items that are meant to intensify the speed in which bullets can be fired.

Responsible gun owners have a constitutional right, but it is not the responsible gun owners that are the problem. The new Supreme Court
ruling is making it harder for states to keep up strict gun control laws.

We must find ways to be in line with the federal decision and maintain our low gun violence rates. It is a slippery slope, but we must
codify our laws.

Doug Thompson

Doug Thompson

It’s shocking to think that, in 2022, there have been more than 300 mass shootings in the United States. This December marks a decade since 20 children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. Since that terrible day, too many more lives have been lost, communities have been forever changed, and hearts have been broken, as a result of gun violence. 

Recently, Congress passed a bipartisan bill, which calls for stricter background checks and rules for gun purchases, closes the boyfriend loophole, and allocates millions of dollars towards safety measures. 

While I agree with this, I think there is much more we can do in Massachusetts to strengthen gun laws in our Commonwealth and across the nation. With the recent SCOTUS ruling in New York Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, it is crucial we continue to pass gun laws that protect all residents.

On July 21, 2022, the Massachusetts House of Representatives voted on a bill to improve gun safety laws. I support this legislation, and if elected will: 

  • Promote suicide prevention programs.
  • Work with our educators to prevent gun violence in schools.
  • Strengthen our Child Access Prevention Program. 
  • Hold gun manufacturers accountable.  
  • Block access to online and out of state gun purchases.
  • Implement stricter background checks and mental health reporting. 
  • Crackdown on “ghost guns.”

As state representative, I will think of the pain these tragedies have caused and enact actionable solutions. Now is the time, enough is enough.

Diann Slavit-Baylis

Diann Slavit-Baylis

I’ve worked for many years as an advocate against gun violence. I lost someone close to me to gun violence, and realized then that this isn’t somebody else’s problem; it’s a problem that is affecting all of us.

So I got involved, testified before the legislature in support of the Red Flag Law, and I’m proud to say that we got that law passed.

So that’s another distinction, I’m the only candidate in this race with a record of advocating successfully for stronger gun laws in our state.

To raise awareness about gun violence and to honor the children and educators that were lost at Sandy Hook, my husband and I joined with other advocates to complete a three-day, 210-mile bike ride to Newtown, Connecticut (on a tandem!).

The Massachusetts House will be taking up major gun legislation early next year, and we need experienced advocates, including those whose lives have been impacted by gun violence, to advance that legislation.

We must maintain and reinforce Massachusetts’ discretionary system for firearms licensing, administered locally by chiefs of police, based on a standard of suitability after a thorough review of individual applicants.

We need a statewide public awareness campaign regarding our Red Flag Law and how to utilize it.  

We need to ban ghost guns, and we should pass legislation making clear that victims of gun violence can pursue liability claims against firearms manufacturers and retailers for irresponsible marketing of firearms (based on a law already adopted in New York).

Jenny Armini

Jenny Armini

The Supreme Court’s recent gun control decision may make national efforts at reducing gun violence harder, but there are still steps we can take to better secure Massachusetts.

For example, we can ban bulk purchasing, and we can shorten the duration of licenses from six years to three. Judiciary Co-Chair Mike Day proposed this, along with prohibitions on carrying for those under harassment prevention orders.

We can also stop exporting assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, which are made in Massachusetts by Smith & Wesson. An exemption for firearms manufactured for the military, law enforcement, and foreign governments could be part of the legislation.

The Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting in 2012 had a big impact on my then-9-year-old son. He refused to go into theaters for years. He’s still not entirely comfortable. But his discomfort is nothing compared to the loss and anguish of those 12 families.

The AR-15 used in the Aurora, Colorado shooting was made in Massachusetts.

Polly Titcomb

Polly Titcomb

There are many steps that Massachusetts can take to address gun violence in the Commonwealth. Many of these steps are related to gun control. 

For example, I support increased research and data collection around guns that have been used in crimes to better understand how the guns were obtained and where they were obtained from.

I also support reexamining the way we permit concealed carry in Massachusetts, which is automatically included with gun permits. 

With that being said, we cannot overlook the importance of violence prevention. I think that most of the efforts taken to address gun violence should be through addressing the underlying social and economic structures that lead to trauma and increased incarceration and recidivism rates in our communities, especially among juveniles.

There must be greater community investment, starting with investment in schools and community centers to provide after school programs, therapeutic services, and social-emotional curriculum.

Tristan Smith

Tristan Smith

Massachusetts gun laws ought to be a model for the rest of the nation. Unfortunately, the recent Supreme Court decision in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen poked some holes in our current firearm registration scheme.

It is vital that we do not fall asleep at the wheel and that we shore up all the regulations that our laws have so that we are maintaining the level of protection that we had previously.

The issues of shootings are also inextricably linked to mental health. Mental health is an issue I am particularly passionate about, especially as an educator coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic and wanting to help my students and athletes deal with the unprecedented pressures their generation are facing.

During my time researching this issue, I discovered that the situation in the Commonwealth regarding mental health is dire. For example, according to the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association, between 650 and 750 patients were waiting in emergency departments daily in June because of the lack of psychiatric beds available.

I am glad that the Legislature recently passed a comprehensive bill addressing mental health, and I am ready to lead on this issue to continue the progress to addressing our mental health issue in the Commonwealth and all that it entails.

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