It is time for Massachusetts to pass a Shall Issue Law

Valley Patriot Editorial

July, 2008

America’s most important freedom has finally been affirmed. In a brilliant and scholarly decision prepared by Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by Justices Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito, the U. S. Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment guarantees “the individual right to possess and carry weapons.”

Scalia explored the issue from every perspective, from the Amendment’s historical context and the original intent of the founders, to word usage of the late eighteenth century. They all pointed to one conclusion: American citizens have the right to keep and bear arms. Case closed!

While no one disputes that this right does not extend to felons or the insane, the decision is unambiguous about its application to mentally fit, law-abiding, adult citizens.

Appropriately, it was the Washington, D. C. gun ban that was the basis for this decision – a law that denied, among others, vulnerable, poor, black women the right to protect themselves from drug pushers, thieves, and rapists. The right to bear arms cannot be denied because of race, gender, or income level. A gun is the great equalizer and the poor, weak and defenseless among us cannot be denied this critical human right.

In Massachusetts, police chiefs are given nearly absolute discretion over who should be issued gun permits. That discretion should now be limited to determination of age, citizenship, mental fitness, and the absence of a criminal record – all based on objective standards. Arbitrary judgments should no longer be allowed.

Based on this Supreme Court ruling, the Massachusetts Legislature should immediately pass a “Shall issue” firearms law that ensures firearms permits are issued unless an applicant fails one of these objective standards. While the burden of proof regarding age and citizenship should be on the applicant, the burden of proof for any other basis for disqualification should be on the state. Under the proposed law, if an applicant meets these standards, a permit to possess and carry must be issued.

Recognizing the right of Massachusetts’ citizens to keep and bear arms is long overdue. Failure to do so is now undeniably UNCONSTITUTIONAL.


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