The number of licensed gun owners in Massachusetts has declined by more than a quarter in six years. The Boston Globe says police officers and gun owners blame restrictive laws, higher licensing fees, and cultural change. The drop is especially dramatic in the eastern part of the state and in urban areas. The number of licensed owners rose in about 40 mostly smaller communities in the central and western parts of the state. Overall, the number of people in Massachusetts with a license to carry a weapon has declined from about 330,000 to about 240,000 from 2001 to 2007.
While some law enforcement officials praise the decline, police, politicians and antigun advocates caution that there are still many illegal guns on the streets, contributing to a steady pace of violence. Many attribute the drop to a 1998 state law that dramatically changed the gun licensing landscape by increasing fees and making it more difficult for people with old legal problems to renew their license. Limited data show that the number of nonresident permits have increased by more than half in Maine and have more than doubled in New Hampshire in recent years. Pistol permits are down slightly in Rhode Island and are up slightly in Connecticut. Speaking of the Massachusetts decline, Andrew Arulanandan of the National Rifle Association, said, “When you add additional taxes on any universe of people, there are going to be people who are forced to give up whatever pursuit that is being taxed. The victims here are the people with limited means and not the criminals.