The Northern Essex Community College in Lawrence, Mass., was stop number nine of the Gun Law Listening Tour, on May 30, 2023. The tour has been going on since January, 2023, with stops all around Massachusetts, in all the areas of the Commonwealth. The theme for this stop was “Training & Shooting”. The panelists were Jon Green, Director of Education of Gun Owners Action League, and author and small business owner, Greg Gibson, who lost a son in 1992 at the hands of a “disturbed fellow student” in Great Barrington, Mass.
This was probably the most “enjoyable” of all of the stops. It’s hard to say any of them were enjoyable, but this one had more back and forth discourse between the two panelists. There was even some back and forth between the host, Representative Micheal Day, and one of the citizens. I will admit upfront that I am a good friend of Jon Green’s. I’ve taken courses with him as the instructor and where both of us were participants. And I’ve broken bread with Jon and his family on several occasions.
Right from the introductions, Green was laying it down. He is very well versed in all of the goings on in the firearm community and gun laws in Massachusetts. When he started, he said it was too bad that Day wasn’t able to get one of the people who has the ability to approve firearm safety courses for the Commonwealth present. On the other hand, Gibson said “Jon’s got all the paper. I’ve just got my story.” Gibson went on to share with everyone that in 1992, his son was killed by a deranged student while at college in Great Barrington, Mass. He did say that he was in the Navy and has taken some tactical training courses. He also said that there’s a “therapeutic value” for survivors in shooting to “mastering the instrument of your suffering.” Continuing, he said “Jon’s got the facts, Jon’s got the figures, Jon’s got the knowledge… he knows so much more than I do. There’s just one thing that I know forever, far better than any of them.”
One of the themes of what Gibson spoke about was that there’s no live fire requirement to get the Massachusetts License To Carry. Since 2014, Gibson has been volunteering for Everytown For Gun Safety, working with survivors and works to promote “gun sense legislation.” The Bloomberg funded groups, Everytown and Moms Demand Action, have been pushing for five hours of live fire, mandatory storage requirements (which Mass. has), so-called “assault weapon” bans (which Mass. also already has), and magazine capacity restrictions (again, which Mass. already has).
Gibson talked about a senator from Minnesota going duck hunting in Massachusetts with a Boston sports figure. The sports figure ran out of shotgun shells and the senator went to purchase ammunition but couldn’t because the laws in Massachusetts wouldn’t let him. When the senator went home, he pushed to make the Commonwealth line up with federal law at the time, which allowed people to buy ammunition out of state, as long as they were able to comply with their home state’s requirements for purchasing.
Later, Green brought up how gun stores were closed in 2020 due to Covid lockdowns. He asked Gibson if he had problems getting 9mm ammo that summer and Gibson said he had to go to New Hampshire to find ammo, as there was none to be found in Massachusetts. Then, graciously, Green fired back at Gibson, “So you went out of state to buy ammunition, but people can’t come to Massachusetts to buy ammunition.” Gibson’s reply was “I think that’s great.” After a bit of back and forth about ammunition, Representative Day quickly brought the discussion back to training. I felt he was trying to save Gibson’s hypocrisy.
While Green was talking about how GOAL believes in the civil right to own a firearm and not require or mandate training, he stated that the “gun laws are ambiguous at best, with lots of gray at best.” Gibson brought up that a brand new gun owner who doesn’t know how to shoot it is dangerous to everyone. Green asked, “Where would they fire that gun?” Gibson replied, “Who knows? At a mall?” Green retorted, “That’s not making any sense, sir. That’s a criminal act.” Of course, Gibson has no information or statistics that new gun owners go to a shopping mall to go shooting for the first time. Green went to list several of the training courses offered by GOAL and other places, lawful use of force, how to avoid conflict, use of force, pepper spray, because “shooting is not hard, but it’s not innate. That’s why we offer so many curriculum.”
During more back and forth between Green and Gibson, Green brought up the live fire mandate for low income communities. Gibson brought up that the 200 rod and gun clubs in Massachusetts should offer up their “charity, American responsibility,” and the ranges and their members should buy ammunition for the people who cannot afford to do live fire. Again, Representative Day was quick to save Gibson from going down another rabbit hole he couldn’t handle.
Opening the discussion up to the audience, there was a member who had been to a number of these stops. He brought up that Day’s statistics on the gun deaths in Massachusetts aren’t as low as Day touts they are during his introductions. He pointed out that there’s a difference in homicides and suicides, but Day isn’t making a distinction between them and should be more transparent about it.
Another person in the audience, who is a certified instructor, pointed out that someone who obtains a Firearms Identification Card or License to Carry has to do several background checks to get the license and that these people aren’t the people committing crimes.
A new attendee, also an instructor, who talked about how he’s willing to help people at the range who are struggling with some aspects of shooting. He’s taken the time to stop his own training session to give someone else some “pro tips” and pointers, so the new shooter can be “more safe, more confident” in their skills. Another point he focused on is that instructors often take more classes than the state requires to continue their own education.
One of the Moms Demand Action members stated she’s pushing for mandatory live fire because she wants to know if someone is carrying a gun that they can hit their target. She asked how is she to know that instructors aren’t just signing certificates so people can get a License to Carry. Green replied that rubber stamping certificates is punishable by jail time.
Kerrie Ann Auclair, of The DC Project, spoke against mandatory live fire because government mandates are a slippery slope. She pointed out that education is the key to safety. She talked about some of the women she’s trained waiting one year to get the Licenses to Carry.
I got up to speak as someone who offers courses in people’s homes because they may be “closet gun owners,” who don’t want to take a course and let their neighbors know that they have a license. I also talked about how I’ve met gun owners around the country who are willing to share their stories and experiences with guns, and that they will often go far beyond in being helpful, than someone would do who isn’t a gun owner, like picking up the tab for a meal or offering to let you stay in their home while you’re in the area.
It’s unfortunate that the anti-freedom, anti-liberty crowd has to be told over and over again that gun ownership is a civil right, not a privilege like driving a car. It is good that the only people on the anti-gun side are wearing red shirts. But, it’s better that it isn’t just instructors showing up for our side. Yes, some of them are instructors, but there are plenty who are just casual gun owners speaking out too.
There were only two more of the Gun Law Listening Tour stops left. One was in Springfield, one of the most dangerous cities in New England. The last was in way western Massachusetts, and the topic is hunting and shooting. I will say, going out to the western part of the Commonwealth and talking about hunting feels a bit condescending. The final stop had a last minute time change, and it was over before many thought it was going to start. Shortly, I’ll have my thoughts on the Springfield stop pulled together. So, standby for more from the Bay State.