For the past 15 years, Massachusetts has been among a handful of states with some of the most strict – if not the strictest – gun control legislation in the country. This fact was highlighted recently in the high-profile case of former NFL player Aaron Hernandez when he was cited with five gun-related offenses and one count of murder for killing an associate.
Hernandez, 23, once a tight end for the New England Patriots, was arrested in June at his North Attleborough, Mass. home for the shooting death of Odin Lloyd, a 27-year-old semi-pro football player. His arrest comes at a time when gun control advocates and their opponents continue their debate on whether Massachusetts’ tough gun-control laws are effective in reducing crimes committed by firearms.
Challenges to firearm offenses
Some Massachusetts residents who have no criminal background have found themselves cited with a firearm offense just by being associated someone who had a gun illegally obtained according to state law.
For instance, when police stop a vehicle and find an illegal firearm during a search of the vehicle, each passenger can be charged with unlawful possession of a firearm, whether or not the passenger knew that the weapon was in the vehicle. This charge has faced legal challenges throughout the state. A conviction of an unlawful possession of a firearm carries a penalty that ranges from 2.5 years to 18 months in prison in Massachusetts.
Gun-related crime statistics
In Massachusetts, a murder charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Prevention Violence Policy Center, the chances of a murder happening in Massachusetts is very low. CDC statistics released in April 2013, show a gun fatality rate of 3.4 per 100,000 of the population from 2007 to 2010, the second-lowest rate in the country for that period of time.Gun control proponents stated that the low rate was due to the state’s tough laws. Critics, however, cited figures showing gun-related murders on the rise with 122 in 2011, compared to 65 in 1998, when the state passed its comprehensive gun-control legislation. According to CDC statistics, gun-related murders increased only 3 percent nationwide from 1999 to 2010.
Massachusetts’ firearm robberies rate in 2011 was 27.84 per 100,000 of the population. The penalty for an armed robbery charge in Massachusetts ranges from five years to up to life in prison. In addition, a defendant with a past criminal record receives a minimum 15 year prison sentence for armed robbery.
When it comes to firearm assaults in Massachusetts, statistically speaking, there’s a higher probability that more of these assaults will happen than gun-related murders. According to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports for 2011, the firearm assault rate for Massachusetts was 33.19 per 100,000 of the population.
Private gun owners who inadvertently find themselves cited for a firearm offense have hired attorneys specializing in firearms law. Attorneys such as Jack Diamond are highly knowledgeable about the state’s multifaceted gun laws and have challenged police violations of defendants’ Fourth Amendment rights.
Gun owners and others who have unintentionally become tangled up in the state’s complex gun laws can seek legal recourse by consulting with a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney who is knowledgeable in firearms law.
Researcher Nickey Williams contributes this article as a warning to those who are unaware of strict gun laws. Trial lawyer, Jack Diamond is fully aware of the criminal laws and statues that plague the inhabitants of Massachusetts, therefore representing persons charged with firearm offenses is one of his main concentrations.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/iluvcocacola/6835564034/
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