Crime control, not gun control, is needed
If the intent of the Gun Control Act of 1998 was to discourage the sport of hunting and competitive target shooting and to disarm Massachusetts citizens, it must be considered a howling success. In 10 years since its passage, the number of licensed gun owners has decreased from 1,500,000 to 220,000, an 85 percent drop, according to figures provided by the by the House Post Audit and Oversight Committee. Well done!
If the intent was to reduce crime, then that law must be considered a miserable failure. Based on incidents per 100,000, gun-related homicides are up 68 percent, assault related gun injuries up 72 percent, assault related hospital discharges up 160 percent, gun assault Emergency Dept visits up 222 percent and gun assault outpatient observations up 538 percent. Keep in mind that these increases occurred when there were 1,280,000 fewer licensed gun owners in the state.
In addition to not curbing gun crime, the legal gun owners have had to bear the brunt of additional costs and inconvenience, not to mention the constant character assignation that licensed gun owners receive. There appears to be a misconception that has been instilled into the public that everyone who owns a gun is suspect and is one to be feared.
Credit Gov. Deval L. Patrick for trying to address the increase in gun violence; however, his recently proposed new legislation (H4102), described as "anti-gun" and not "anti-crime," only passes on more gun control laws that place more restrictions on the legal gun owner. I respectfully submit that someone should tell him that criminals pay no attention to gun laws and usually purchase their guns illegally.
Part of the governor's proposed legislation would ban the purchase of more than one gun a month. Should I decide to buy a deer rifle to hunt in New York one week and a couple of weeks later buy a shotgun to hunt pheasants, I could be classified as a criminal and could be held without bail. I could be sent to prison for two and a half years. Violent street gang bangers are treated better than me, even though I harmed no one.
Jim Wallace, Executive Director of GOAL refers to this bill as the "Lawful Citizen Imprisonment Act".
Last Monday evening the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen sponsored a presentation at Berkshire Community College by Wallace and GOAL describing an alternative new bill which they had filed in the Statehouse called the Civil Rights and Public Safety Act Bill (H2259). It was enthusiastically received by more than 100 citizens who attended, some of which did not even own a gun. I encourage all citizens, (gun owners and non-gun owners alike) to log onto MassGunLawReform.com and check out the proposed legislation. Check out the Governor's bill too and you can decide which one addresses the gun crime problem and which one punishes the legal gun owners.
If you prefer the GOAL legislation, I encourage you to let your legislators know. If they can't support H2259, ask them what they don't like about it. That is one sure way to tell if they have even read it.
Mark Jester, president of the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen, reports that the One Shot Turkey contest that was initiated this year was a success and probably will become an annual event. Criteria for scoring the birds was the weight, beard length and spur sizes. All proceeds from the event went to the Mass Junior Conservation Camp. This year's winners were: first place Mike Piggott of Pittsfield, second place Phil Hiser, Jr. of Lee and third place Dan Lawson of Williamstown.
In his monthly report to the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Western District Manager Andrew Madden reported that preliminary results show that there was a very successful first week of spring turkey hunting.
District checking stations registered 453 birds in the first week of the season, which compares with 386 birds which were checked in last year. Beckwith's Sports Shop in Great Barrington checked in the most that week with 141.
Next Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Berkshire Hatchery Foundation, Inc. is sponsoring an open house weekend at the Berkshire National Trout Hatchery at 140 Hatchery Road, New Marlborough. There will be hikes around a kettle (geological phenomena), talks about reptiles, fly casting and fly tying demonstrations, fishcraft for children, tours and more. Free admission.
Incidentally, this year's Atlantic Salmon fry stocking program ended on May 2 after a month of stocking over a million half-inch fry into the Connecticut River tributaries. Biologists claim that as many as 80 percent of fry die before making it to smolt stage (six or seven inches). The Berkshire National Trout Hatchery is helping out and recently released 2,300 salmon smolt into the Farmington River in Connecticut and another 2,200 into the Westfield River.
The following waters were scheduled to be stocked with trout last week: Alford Green River, Ashfield Ashfield Pond, Clesson Brook (Upper Branch), Buckland Clesson Brook, Deerfield River; Charlemont Deerfield River, Cold River; Chester Westfield River , Chesterfield Westfield River, Dalton Housatonic River, Egremont Green River, Florida Deerfield River, North Pond, Cold River; Goshen Upper Highland Lake, Great Barrington Green River, Hinsdale Housatonic River, Huntington Westfield River, Norwich Lake; Lee Goose Pond, Middlefield Westfield River, Monterey Lake Buel, North Adams Windsor Lake, Otis Otis Reservoir, Pittsfield Housatonic River (Southwest Branch), Onota Lake, Pontoosuc Lake, Savoy Cold River, Stockbridge Stockbridge Bowl, Tyringham Goose Pond and Windsor Windsor Pond.
To reach Gene Chague: Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com, (413)637-1818.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.