10/02 Massachusetts Morality: Part I

Massachusetts Morality — Part I
Larry Pratt

It is, without a doubt, one of the most idiotic laws I’ve ever heard of — and I’ve heard of a lot of idiotic laws. The state, not surprisingly, is Massachusetts. The law, the brainchild of Democratic Rep. Christopher Hodgkins, says that state-licensed gun clubs “shall not permit shooting at targets that depict human figures, human effigies, human silhouettes or any human images thereof, except by public safety personnel performing in line with their official duties.” Violation of this law could result in revocation of a club’s license and a fine of no less than $1,000 and no more than $10,000.

In defense of this absurd law, Massachusetts Acting Governor Jane Swift has said its purpose is “to stop target practice that arguably increases the practicer’s capacity to shoot human beings.” She has also said: “A target depicting a human is not a symbol. Rather, it is an object that permits a person to become more proficient at using deadly force on a human being.”

Echoing this assertion, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit declared: “A person who has practiced shooting at a human-shaped target will likely be more proficient at shooting humans than a person who has had to practice at a circular target.”

OK. So, what, exactly, is wrong with this law? Well, virtually everything. Here are some of the arguments against it as presented in briefs to, respectively, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court. Parties to these briefs include: Gun Owners’ Action League, Inc.; Outdoor Message Cooperative, Inc.; Massachusetts Sportsmen Junior Conservation Camp, Inc. And here’s what they have to say:

    * “Shooting at a picture of a human image, whether the picture depicts Osama bin Laden or a caricature of a criminal, does not constitute advocacy of a violation of a law, is not directed to inciting imminent lawless action, and is not likely to incite such action. Indeed, such defacement is often an expression of patriotism.” For example, at the time of our War For Independence, many colonists shot at pictures of King George III. They also hung, hacked up and burned effigies of the King’s evil ministers.

    * “To suggest that shooting at a picture of Osama bin Laden at a licensed range out of a sense of patriotism would encourage unlawful homicides defames law-abiding gun owners.”

    * “If censoring targets was really significant in reducing homicides, the legislature would have enacted a state-wide prohibition applicable at all shooting ranges, licensed and unlicensed.”

    * The Act has an “inherent pacifist message: citizens should not think or even fantasize about shooting a human, whether Hitler, bin Laden, or an attacking criminal, but the police should have such thoughts and should hone their skills in shooting dangerous suspects…. The premise of this pacifist dogma [is] that it is wrong ever to use deadly force against another, even in lawful defense of innocent life against a deadly aggressor.”

At the beginning of this column I said it was not surprising that Massachusetts has passed this lunatic law against shooting at human image targets. I said this because Massachusetts is arguably the most rabid, anti-gun, anti-Second Amendment, anti-self-defense state in our country. And the consequences have been deadly.

When Michael McDermott walked into the offices of a Worcester, Massachusetts, Internet consulting firm, and murdered seven people, he had an accomplice — the Massachusetts Legislature. Tragically, one of the victims was a legal gun owner, Sandy Javelle, who was licensed to carry in next door New Hampshire. But, Massachusetts law prevented him from carrying his firearm in the state and on the job. Thus, McDermott was able, with impunity, to carry out his slaughter of innocents, unopposed.

There’s no doubt about it: Living in Massachusetts can be hazardous to your health — if you’re a law-abiding citizen. If you’re a criminal, no sweat. Because you can be sure that almost any private person you attack will not be armed.

In my next and final column on this ridiculous Massachusetts law, I’ll report on interviews with two people who support it: The man who sponsored it, Rep. Christopher Hodgkins, and attorney Gloria Allred.