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Gun Safety with John Rosenthal

“When you hunt deer, you’re limited to five rounds. When you hunt duck, you’re limited to three rounds… When you want to hunt humans, Congress has no limit.” – John Rosenthal

This week I sat down with my friend John Rosenthal, co- founder of Stop Handgun Violence (SHV). John is an amazing businessman, community activist and philanthropist who talks passionately about the epidemic of gun violence in America that has only gotten worse since the pandemic. 

John explains how Massachusetts became the state with the lowest rate of gun violence in the country and how other states could follow suit. He also reveals the grip big money and the NRA have on largely republican members of congress, preventing gun safety legislation from passing. 

John and SHV were responsible for the giant Gun Safety Billboard on the Mass Pike digitally depicting the number of children killed by guns on a daily basis.

John believes deeply that there is hope to create a safer society and that an engaged public can turn despair and anguish into democratic action and help turn the tide of gun violence in America.

Topics discussed in this episode include:

  • How John and SHV were responsible for the giant Gun Safety Billboard on the Mass Pike digitally depicting the number of children killed by guns on a daily basis. (02:05)
  • How Massachusetts became the state with the lowest rate of gun violence in the country and how other states could follow suit (03:23)
  • The disparities in views on hunting licenses for sport, versus gun control in America (09:09)
  • The grip big money and the NRA have on largely republican members of congress, preventing gun safety legislation from passing. (11:33)
  • What we can do, as citizens to help guide our democracy in the right direction (14:47)

Connect with John Rosenthal and Stop Handgun Violence

For more information on all things Jimmy Tingle

Transcript – Please note, this Transcript is AI Generated. It has not had the discerning ears of a real human to edit it, as such, there are bound to be a few errors

Jimmy Tingle 0:00
Hey everybody, this is Jimmy, thank you so much for joining us today. Today’s episode has been brought to you by our sponsor humor for humanity, a social enterprise that I found that a few years ago that raises spirits, funds and awareness for nonprofits, charities, and social causes. Our mission is your mission humor for humanity. You can find out more information at Jimmy Thank you so much. And enjoy today’s show.

Hello, everybody, this is Jimmy, welcome back to another episode of our show. I am so excited today to have my guest John Rosenthal, because not only is he a highly successful business person and developer and just all around great guy. He is the most philanthropic person that I know. And he is the most committed activist I have ever met. And I’ve met a lot of committed activist. He was the founder of stop him gun violence that has saved 1000s and 1000s of lives in not only in Massachusetts, but around the country. He’s also the founder of friends of Boston’s homeless, which is front and center right now as our city in our country tries to deal with the homeless issue. He’s also the founder of the police assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative, which started in Gloucester and they have since partnered with 700 police departments around the country, and they put 1000s and 1000s of people help them get into recovery. He’s just a wonderful man, a great philanthropist, committed activist, and a great American, I must say, not to mention a wonderful human being. So John, thank you so much for joining us today.

John Rosenthal 1:42
Oh, my pleasure, Jimmy.

Jimmy Tingle 1:43
I want to talk specifically today about guns. We’re losing 3000 people a month in this country to gun violence. John, where are we right now? Where are we with coming out of this? What can we do and how can you and I help? Well,

John Rosenthal 2:00
so the way Michael Kennedy and I started stalking and gun violence in 1995. We built the biggest billboard in America on the Massachusetts Turnpike, we put 15 Beautiful color photographs of kids under 19 killed by guns and the slogan was the cost of handguns keeps going up 15 Kids killed every day. I bought that parking garage next to Fenway Park facing the Mass Pike, and thought, you know, with 250,000 people driving by it every day, what message could we put up that might have an impact on, you know, bad public policy and turning it into good public policy. And when I learned about 15 kids dying every day among the 106 Americans that died every single day in 1995, I figured most people don’t know that there’s an epidemic of gun violence. And with that billboard, as a front page, we got a lot of attention ended up in the front section of New York Times and and national media. We ended up filing legislation requiring you know, reasonable restrictions on on inherently dangerous firearms. And since 1995, we have enacted the most effective gun laws in the nation, the first in the nation consumer protection standards for firearms. What people don’t realize is toy guns and teddy bears and every other consumer product is regulated by the National Consumer Product Safety Commission, except for the real gun that like you said result in 100 deaths that day. 150 injuries a day, a mass shooting of four or more people every day of the year. And this year alone, over 40,000 Americans died from firearms. So we’ve become the first state in the nation to put consumer protection standards on guns since 1994. We have reduced the rate of gun deaths in urban Massachusetts by 40%. We are an urban state with the lowest gun death rate in the nation. And all we do is require accountability and responsibility on gun owners like me and I skeet shoot I ever shot gun. Gun owners have to get trained and lock their guns unless they’re in their direct control. gun dealers have to operate out of bonafide stores separate from hard drugs and backpacks. gun manufacturers have to put safety features in their guns. And we ban military style assault weapons and cheap Saturday night specials with no safety features. And guess what? We have proven the NRA is the worst nightmare. Gun Laws save lives

Jimmy Tingle 4:45
without banning most guns. My question is, why could Massachusetts do this politically? And why can’t other states do it? Is the political will not there in other states?

John Rosenthal 5:00
But what we did differently was business people within ordinate influence access and resources, including gun owners got involved. And we changed the conversation from the historically polarized debate of unlimited access to guns or, or banning all guns to our kids, criminals and the dangerously mentally ill accessing firearms without detection. What can we do to restrict that access without banning guns? We changed the conversation. And we made it way less threatening, you know, because as soon as most gun owners historically hear background checks, you know, the NRA is saying that’s the slippery slope to banning all guns. You know, look, you need a background check to be a school bus driver, you should have a background check, to buy military style weapons, and easily concealed handgun. We changed the conversation, we changed the laws. And we proved that gun laws save lives without banning guns. So it’s replicable. In fact, the Boston Globe after the horrific mass shooting at Parkland, Florida, I worked on a four page editorial with them. And the cover of the front page of The Boston Globe and followed by four pages of dramatic results of what we’ve done in Massachusetts, it was called seven steps of what Massachusetts did to become the leader in the nation for reducing gun deaths. But that cover was a huge 27,000 number. And that is the number of lives that would be saved from gun violence each year, if every state simply had the same low gun death rate as urban Massachusetts. That’s the opportunity.

Jimmy Tingle 6:53
It’s pretty incredible, John, and not all of the gun deaths, homicides, the majority actually have suicides. Do you address that with this, this initiative as well?

John Rosenthal 7:06
Oh, absolutely. And we’ve seen a dramatic decrease in the number of suicides as well, two thirds of all gun deaths that happened today, and each year are suicides. And they are largely teenagers that should not have access to firearms, but many people leave loaded and unlocked guns in their dresser drawers or bedside tables. And we also give families the ability with what’s called the erpo law extreme risk protection order so that if somebody you know, a loved one is going through some kind of mental health crisis, and you know, they have a firearm, you can petition the court to have that gun temporarily removed. We have seen that work, as well as that prevent a lot of domestic injuries and deaths as a result of a gun on the home. I mean, frankly, the NRA loves to tell you that, you know, they want to cut the funding for police, they want to tell you that the police can’t defend you, you need a gun to defend yourself. But the fact is a gun in the home is far more likely to be used against you or a loved one than against an intruder. I mean, if you really want to keep people out of your home, get a dog with a big bark.

Jimmy Tingle 8:23
John, can you get me a dog? That’s all I’m asking. I want a nice German Shepherd.

John Rosenthal 8:30
I had a great German Shepherd mix. Now I have a great Portuguese water dog. I think dogs are the best species on the planet. If we were as good as they are. And as loyal friends as they are, we’d have a lot fewer problems.

Jimmy Tingle 8:43
John, when you take on these initiatives, tell us about what what the blowback is when you take these initiatives, as you’ve been doing since 1995. Well, it’s

John Rosenthal 8:53
kind of crazy. I mean, I’m a gun owner and a business person who started an organization called stop and gun violence. I mean, what’s the corollary more, and gun violence? Like I use support more Handgun Violence. The sad thing is Jimmy, this is the incredible, twisted American gun pulse is to provide unrestricted access to all guns without background checks or detection by law in order to increase gun violence, increase fear and lead to more gun sales. There’s no other way to look at it. I mean, if Harvard Business School were going to do a case study on how do you increase gun violence, you would basically do what American gun policy is, which is you don’t need a background check to buy guns. You can buy military style assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines, designed to kill as many Any people as possible in as short a time as possible, and to outgun police. Remember, police are given 13 to 17 rounds and their service weapons. And Congress gives 30 to 40, to 100, brown magazines to anyone without an ID or background check, including foreign terrorist groups that come to the US to buy military style weapons, because it’s a lot easier to buy them cash and carry at 5000 gun shows, and 32 states that don’t require background checks than it is to buy them in the Middle East to kill us soldiers. So, you know, think about this, and I have hunted, I have a shotgun. When you hunt, you are required to get a hunting license in every state in this country. And the NRA has no problem with hunting licenses per annum. And when you hunt deer, you’re limited to five rounds. When you hunt duck, you’re limited to three rounds to protect the duck and deer population. When you want to hunt humans, Congress has no limit. That is why we have a mass shooting and four more people every day. And we lose 3000 every month and we lose 40,000 every year. And if you go back to 1975, that is more Americans killed by guns in this country than all US servicemen and women killed in all foreign wars. combined.

Jimmy Tingle 11:32
That’s unbelievable, John. And I think what you’re shedding light on is the economic incentive for these policies to remain in place. Because most people, if they get into a debate about this, they’ll say it’s the Second Amendment. It’s my right. It’s in the Constitution. But what you’re saying is there’s a financial incentive for the NRA. Would you say that they’re acting as the political front for the gun industry? Do they as an organization benefit economically, from the sale of guns? Or how does that work? What’s that relationship like?

John Rosenthal 12:08
It’s far more insidious than just economic, although it is in part. It’s cultural. Fear is a great motivator, and fear self. And so fear of Democrats taking your guns away or fear of law enforcement breaking into your house and taking your guns is a great motivator to sell guns. And, you know, the gun industry is uniquely unregulated. And the reason that the gun industry can get away with murder, the way they do is Congress gave him a similar immunity from lawsuits. So you can’t sue the gun industry, even if they market guns directly to criminals like Osama bin Laden bought 12 firearms made by barrel to 50 caliber sniper rifle that is made in Tennessee marketed as being able to take down an aircraft with one shot and they tell you where to put it. The weapon used at Fort Hood, military base is a 22 caliber handgun made by a company called Hertzel. Market, it is capable of penetrating 48 layers of soft body armor. They are basically marketing a gun to kill police and military officials. And they can’t be sued because Congress gave immunity. And I will tell you, you know this gun violence by design after every mass shooting, I get on MSNBC or you name it, and I’m debating some gun industry guy or the NRA guy. And they say, oh, it’s not the guns. It’s, you know, it’s mentally ill people. But guess what can be you and I know that every country as people suffering with mental illness, this is the only country in the world that happens to allow them to be armed with military style assault weapons without detection. What’s going on here? Or John?

Jimmy Tingle 14:02
Roughly how much money does does the pro gun industry contribute to members of Congress to put them in a position where they can justify passing laws that are clearly not in the American public’s interest?

John Rosenthal 14:17
It gets into the 10s of millions a year. I mean, the NRA proudly says that they contributed roughly $30 million to help elect Donald Trump and the majority, I would say virtually all that money came from the gun industry. It didn’t come from membership. In fact, you know, a membership to the NRA costs 35 bucks and it cost him 100 bucks to get that member. So all the money for the NRA comes from the industry. And the NRA does all the bidding for the industry.

Jimmy Tingle 14:47
What can we do as citizens because we’re coming up to the midterms. We’re going to have an election obviously in 2024. The purchasing of weapons has gone up during the pandemic it seems to go up every year. went up when Obama got elected, then it went up when Trump got elected. Now it’s up again, what can we do as citizens?

John Rosenthal 15:07
Oh, first of all, we have to get involved in our democracy that we’re dramatically losing. And the threat to democracy today is as great as any time in our lives. And, you know, the mother of all issues is really campaign finance reform. And that’s not going to change. I mean, the Supreme Court has ruled that corporations are people and corporations can control politics and elections. There’s more of us than our then we’ve got to get involved. The Republican Party, you know, is owned by the NRA and the gun lobby. And the Democrats have been intimidated into submission, thinking that if they take this issue on they’re going to lose. And you know, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and unfortunately, special interest groups are way better at you know, squeaking than the majority of us. We have got to get involved in our politics and our democracy. So, you know, the seven steps that we simply did were very practical steps. You know, gun owners should go through safety training and have a background check before they purchase a gun. Gun dealers should operate out of a bonafide store separate from their car, trunk or backpack. I mean, in 32 states, anybody can sell an unlimited number of guns privately without a background check. Only federally licensed gun dealers have to do background checks on gun shows, and you know, at gun stores, but federally licensed gun dealers outside of Massachusetts can also operate out of backpacks and car trunks. That’s insane. So in Massachusetts, we use zoning and we use, you know, licensing so that we have renewable licensing, like automobiles, we have safety features, like automobiles, we require gun dealers to operate out of gun shops like car dealerships, you know, basically we treat guns like automobiles in this state. And we have proven it can dramatically reduce injuries and deaths without any inconvenience to law abiding gun owners. But we also look at at assault weapons, and we have banned assault weapons, not just the named assault weapons, but the function of those assault weapons that are overwhelmingly used in the mass shootings and overwhelmingly used to outgun police. And that combination, along with consumer protection standards are inherently dangerous guns have made Massachusetts the model for the nation. And if replicated, literally 27,000 lives could be saved in this country, if every other state had the same reasonable gun laws. And we do not ban most guns, we simply require accountability and responsibility on the part of gun owners, dealers, manufacturers and law enforcement.

Jimmy Tingle 17:56
Right, John, when it comes to political action, that people getting involved, what do you think the approach should be for the average person?

John Rosenthal 18:04
I think the first thing any of your listeners or anyone should do is go to stop handgun, we can give you a whole myriad of things to do and what our goal now because we’ve proven that gun laws work, we’ve become a state with the lowest gun death rate. And the lowest cost of gun violence is now we’re trying to replicate that in other states. So if you want to support stop paying gun violence and help save democracy nationwide, we can do that on this issue because it is such a cultural wedge issue. And if we can change laws in other states, we can also save lives there. give people hope. A lot of people thought after Sandy Hook, you know, 20 babies, first graders on six teachers massacred with a ar 15 assault rifle that, you know, in that case was made in Maine, but parkland, Las Vegas, Columbine, Aurora movie theater, those are all made in Massachusetts military style weapons that are banned here but allowed to be sold elsewhere, which is insane public policy. So another thing that you can do is contact your State Rep your senator and the governor and encourage them to support the act to stop mass shootings here in Massachusetts, because there’s a horrific double standard where we ban these these military style weapons from being owned and sold in Massachusetts, but they’re made here by Smith and Wesson, and Savage Arms and 32 other gun manufacturers here in Massachusetts that can’t sell their guns here but they’re causing mayhem around the country. So we’re trying to get that law passed. But after Sandy Hook, Elizabeth Warren called me and said we are going to take up a gun legislation. And we are going to pass a background check bill and a ban on assault weapons. And by the time that bill got to the Senate floor, they had stripped out the assault weapon ban. And it was simply a background check. Not for all gun sales, but just internet sales. And the parents of those babies that were killed at Sandy Hook. Those parents who I know who literally because their kids had been shot, their first graders had been shot six and seven year old shot with three to 11 rounds from an AR 15, these kids had to be identified by their clothing. That is what those military style weapons do. And the US Congress couldn’t even get 60 votes to require background checks on the internet gun sale, because Congress is owned by the gun industry or intimidated into submission, such that we can’t even get the most basic life saving legislation like a background check that would help prevent the massacre of children. And as a result of Congress not acting, you know, think about this visually. Over the last 30 years, roughly 3000 Kids are killed by guns every year, you could fill Fenway Park up three times over with the number of kids killed by guns in the last 30 years, half would be white half would be non white. And they’re all preventable gun death. And Congress doesn’t care because they don’t hear from enough of us. And they choose blood money campaign contributions from the uniquely unregulated gun industry over human life. Well, John,

Jimmy Tingle 21:44
you’ve re inspired me to get more involved on this issue. We’ve been involved for a long time personally going back to the gun buyback program in the 90s, with citizens, the safety, and I know that our listeners and our viewers today are going to be re inspired as well, because what you’re talking about is really life and death. And we’re talking about our own citizens. And if any other country did this to us, we’d be at war. And we have to take that same mentality into the halls of Congress and the United States Senate. And we have to hold people accountable for making it easier for those who would do us harm to do us harm. It’s as simple as that there can be no more complacency. So stopping gun violence is going to be the humor for humanity, beneficiary of today’s show. And you’re going to find that in the chat, as a link to where you can make a donation to stop paying gun violence. Trauma for humanity is behind you. 110%. John, thank you for everything that you do. You’re a true American hero, you’re a true human rights hero. And I just can’t thank you enough for your friendship. And for you. Just being here today and talking so passionately about an issue. It’s literally going to save lives. What else are we here for on this earth? If we’re not going to help people? We’re not going to just try to prevent more death, more destruction, more misery, more turmoil. I think you hit the nail right on the head today. Thank you so much for joining us, John. Anything else you’d like to say? Thanks for having me, Jimmy.

John Rosenthal 23:16
And thanks for giving me a voice. The there’s no downside and trying to to reduce and prevent gun violence. You know, I don’t even know how to process the fact that there are literally 1000s of people alive today, as a result of the work we have done. And I would have done it for one life, nevermind 1000s. And, you know, the more you give, the more you get. And the more you have, the more you have to give or you get crazy, like most people we know. And it’s about the bottom line. Jimmy is you know, if you’re lucky enough to live to be 90 years old, that 780,000 hours, that is all you get in what you do with those hours and moments and who you connect with is all you ever have, and what could feel better than helping save lives and improve the lives of people far less fortunate that we thank you so much, brother. We’ll be in touch soon.

Jimmy Tingle 24:13
We’ll have you back. And until then, we’re going to be working hard right with you. And I know my listeners will do as well. We’re going to make contributions. We’re going to get involved. And we’re going to do whatever we can to make this in the words of Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican President, a more perfect union. Thank you so much. Take care, they will be well. Thank you for joining us today. This has been a humor for humanity production. I am the founder of humor for humanity, a social enterprise that raises spirits, funds and awareness for nonprofits, charities, and social causes. You can find out how we can help you or your organization, raise spirits, funds and awareness for you and yours. Our mission In your mission humor for humanity Jimmy Thank you

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