In a Rat's Nest

Ray Dussault's article, "Gun Records in a Rat's Nest," in the Justice & Technology section of the September 1998 issue, is one example of the many reasons I keep reading this publication. Surely all of us working in MIS in the public sector can identify with the reams of data in dusty boxes and file cabinets in thousands of file rooms that, if organized and computerized, would benefit the public immensely. The fact that Massachusetts now has gun sale records available at the click of a mouse button for law enforcement agencies is fantastic. Kathleen O'Toole, Massachusetts secretary of public safety and the driving force behind the project, has every right to be proud of this accomplishment, and I'm sure the 17,546 individuals who were identified as having gun licenses but shouldn't are wishing that those records would have stayed in the basement!

Frank L. Palmeri

Data Base Programmer/Analyst

NYS Dept. of Taxation & Finance

Albany, N.Y.


I read your recent article, "Gun Records in a Rat's Nest."

In it you say: "If a name pops up on McCarthy's computer screen as a current felon or someone with a restraining order against them, he will start the process of revoking their gun license. Usually, that means sending a registered letter ordering the individual to come to the station and turn in their guns. Surprisingly, most people respond, and the local departments will even hold the weapons to facilitate a sale to a legitimate gun dealer."

I'm surprised that you're surprised, since people who obey the law and lawfully obtain permits for firearms are (surprise!) law-abiding citizens. You have apparently fallen for the stereotype of firearm owners as drug-crazed killers who will shoot it out with police at the drop of a hat.

I hope you will do some research on the Second Amendment, lawful firearm ownership, and the statistics on use of firearms for self-protection vs. the commission of crimes. To start off, check out .

Your article states that 5,200 firearms license have been revoked. I believe that there are on the order of 2,000,000 gun owners in Massachusetts. Doing the math, 0.26 percent of gun owners had their licenses revoked. Is that worth $700,000? Perhaps, perhaps not.

My views are not those of my employer.

Lee Fyock

Senior Software Engineer

Natick, Mass.


"'... The next step is flipping the switch to make the system accessible from every police station and the laptop computers of officers in the field. That way, if an officer is conducting a traffic stop, they will know the gun-ownership history of the car's registered owner,' explained [Massachusetts Secretary of Public Safety Kathleen] O'Toole."

So you think if no gun registration shows on the officer's in-car computer, s/he can safely approach the stopped vehicle knowing there's no chance of a gun being carried? I certainly hope not.

Furthermore, if this new system makes pulling licenses so easy, why did Massachusetts just pass a law making firearm identification cards renewable and reducing the term of a license to carry [a gun] from five years to four? With this new technology, don't you think licenses should be good until a crime is committed?

Tom LaRoche

Software Engineer

Boylston, Mass.


OK, so now the gun license and gun ownership records of Massachusetts residents are more accessible to the state (commonwealth, over there) and "problems have been solved." In engineering and science, it is well-known that the solution to a problem reveals new ones and, regarding the Second Amendment, you have just created a new problem.

We in the gun-owners community are well-aware of

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