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Stop Handgun Violence with John Rosenthal

Welcome to our 50th episode! In this show, we talk to people making a positive impact in Massachusetts and beyond. Today’s guest is John Rosenthal, a gun safety advocate known for his powerful billboard near Fenway Park, which displayed a running tally of children killed by gun violence. As the co-founder of Stop Handgun Violence, John has played a significant role in raising awareness about the devastating effects of gun violence on children, families, and society.

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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
How about gun safety as a form of national defense? In 1981, a mentally disturbed man John Hinckley walked into a pawn shop, bought a gun and shot and almost killed President Reagan. That tragedy led to a national campaign for background checks before people could buy guns. Congress recently voted against the proposal to have a seven day waiting period to buy a gun to folks. I don’t want to sound like a Quaker okay.

Jimmy Tingle 0:28
But like it’s a week, a long time to wait to see if Hinckley is qualified to own a gun.

Jimmy Tingle 0:37

Jimmy Tingle 0:39
I pay my taxes I’m in an argument I want a gun. I want it now.

Jimmy Tingle 0:47
Well, we’re sorry, sir. But you’re gonna have to wait at least a week for the gun a week. The guy will be gone in a week.

Jimmy Tingle 0:56
That’s the point.

Jimmy Tingle 0:58
I mean, a seven day waiting period to buy a gun and Congress’s against it, folks, it takes eight days to get a false.

Jimmy Tingle 1:07
And that campaign is still going on today.

Jimmy Tingle 1:15
Hello, everybody, welcome back to our 50th. That’s right, our 50th show, folks. I’m so psyched to be here. Today, we got 50 shows under our belt, we really hope you’ve been appreciating them and listening to them and watching them and maybe sharing them, your friends and relatives and colleagues and people that you think would enjoy them. One of the great things about this show is that we get to talk to people who are doing positive things in the state of Massachusetts, around the country and sometimes around the world. And today we have a real hero joining us today. I mean, this man, I can’t say enough about his efforts on behalf of gun safety not only in Massachusetts, but around the country. Many of you who live in Massachusetts might remember that big giant billboard that was on the Mass Pike as right on the other side of Kenmore Square right across from Fenway Park, as you would come in to Boston or come out of Boston, you would see this billboard. And it was the most remarkable Public Service Announcement I’ve ever seen. It was about 100 yards long. And it was an ongoing tally of how many kids in this country had been shot and killed by gun violence. And it was just a stark daily reminder of the epidemic of gun violence in the country. And this gentleman, John Rosenthal is the founder of that it was his brainstorm, to put it up there. He owns the property. He put that up there. And I can’t think of another public act that had more to do with raising the consciousness in the state of Massachusetts anyway, about gun violence in this country in the effect on children, obviously, on families, obviously, on society. So please welcome to the show, the co founder of stop Handgun Violence, the one and only Mr. John Rosenthal. Hello, John. Welcome back to the show.

John Rosenthal 3:03
Hi, Jimmy. Thanks for having me back.

Jimmy Tingle 3:06
Well, it’s our pleasure. And again, our honor, John, I don’t know how you keep going. When did you co founder stop and Handgun Violence? 1994 that is 81 million dead Americans to go from preventable, Dunbar 1994. Okay. And since then, you’re saying we’ve lost a million to gun violence over a million basically 40 to 45,000 people a year, including over 3000 kids every single year. Right. Thanks for having me back to me. I started stopped and gun violence in 1994. That is roughly over 1 million dead Americans ago from preventable gun violence in the United States.

Jimmy Tingle 3:51
And you’re just a private citizen. What was your motivation? To start this,

John Rosenthal 3:56
I bought this billboard next to Fenway Park and realize that roughly 250,000 people drove by this building every day on the Mass Pike. And I was a gun owner. I still am a gun owner. And when I realized that in 1994 106 Americans died every single day, including 15 kids under 19. I figured most people didn’t know that. So I decided to build a 250 foot billboard and put 15 Beautiful color photographs of kids killed by guns. And with the headline

John Rosenthal 4:34
the cost of handguns keeps going up 15 Kids killed every day.

Jimmy Tingle 4:41
And what was the reaction to it from the public in general,

John Rosenthal 4:45
the reaction was quite amazing. You know, it ended up in the front section of the New York Times. It got a lot of national attention, and it began a dialogue As around how is it possible that we could be losing 15 kids every single day to gun violence and and a lot of people who are elected officials would see this billboard Bill Clinton told me he would change his entourage route. When it came to Boston, depending on who was with, he was with in the cars. And in order to see this billboard, so we use that billboard as a springboard to propose legislation that could have an impact on reducing injuries and deaths from gun violence without banning most gun.

Jimmy Tingle 5:41
And do you think that had an influence on the elected officials in Massachusetts?

John Rosenthal 5:45
Oh, it absolutely did. And even more importantly, it had an impact on on reducing gun violence since 1994, when we put up the billboard and change the conversation, you know, as gun owners and business people who are basically who have influence access and resources, saying to the world, we can reduce injuries and deaths from firearms, without banning all guns. And that was, you know, a real contrast from the historically polarized debate of unlimited access to guns, or banning all guns. And since 1994, here in urban Massachusetts, based on four gun bills, three of which were signed by Republican governors here in the Commonwealth, we have reduced the rate of gun deaths by 40%. And as an urban state, we have the very single, lowest gun death rate in the nation. And if every state simply had the same low gun death rate as Massachusetts as we’ve done without banning our gun, over half of all the 45,000 annual gun deaths a year would be prevented.

Jimmy Tingle 7:06
Well, what was the secret to it, John, that what made it work in Massachusetts that has not worked around the rest of the country in many other states,

John Rosenthal 7:16
all we did, is we took a lesson from how inherently dangerous products like automobiles are regulated. And in Massachusetts, we simply regulate, easily concealed handgun and military style weapons. So we require accountability and responsibility on the part of gun owners to get license and unlock their guns. If they’re not snowing in their control. gun dealers have to operate out of bonafides doors separate from their car trunks and backpack. gun manufacturers have to put safety features on their guns just like they do on automobiles. And law enforcement, you know, has to regulate and enforce our gun laws like they do with automobiles. And that is is sort of like, as simple as it gets. And, like with, you know, you can’t own a military style tank. You can’t own a military style assault weapon designed to outgun cops like a tank would, and designed to carry more rounds than law enforcement and designed to kill as many people as possible without having to reload. That is what we do here in Massachusetts. And that is what is needed across this country. And frankly, there’s only about 10 to 15 Republicans in Congress holding up what the will of the people in America one, which is they do not want their children killed in schools. They do not want to feel unsafe in public. They also do not want to ban all guns. But we at least have to have a background check for all gun buyers, and we have to ban military style weapons. And we have to have licensing like we have from automobiles, renewable licensing. So you know, law enforcement knows the people in their community. They can license those people if they know that they have a history of being responsible, and they can prevent a license for those in their community who they know have had a history of violence.

Jimmy Tingle 9:36
Well, John, how were you able to get three Republican governors to buy into that type of a formula? And why are we so unable to get that type of buy in from other Republican governors around the country?

John Rosenthal 9:49
Well, the biggest reason I would say is because this effort here in Massachusetts was led by gun owners like me as well as business people. With influence access and resources who don’t typically get involved in a wedge issue, because they’re too concerned about their businesses, we changed the conversation as well, from the polar extremes, to how are kids and criminals and dangerously mentally ill accessing deadly firearms without detection. And when you put it into sort of that context, you know, it was much easier to support. And again, always saying our goal is not to ban all guns, but it’s to make it harder for people that we already deemed prohibited from accessing guns. I mean, how do you know if somebody has a history of violence? Or is a prohibited buyer if you don’t have a background? And why on earth would you give anybody who can read access to military style weapons and easily concealed handgun without a background check without a license? When we give 13 to 17 rounds, to our police officers, you know, in their service weapons to keep us safe, but Congress is giving 35 to 100 round magazine, to anyone who can breathe without a background check. In this country and I have hunted, you need a hunting license everywhere. And when you hunt deer, you’re limited, you have to get the license number one, and you’re limited to five rounds, for shooting deer and three rounds for shooting ducks in order to protect the deer and duck population. When you want to hunt humans, no license required no limit on the number of rounds. And when you want to outgun police officers buy high capacity ammunition magazine and a high you know, high powered ar 15 The common denominator in daily mass shooting without detection. I mean, our federal gun policy, unlike in Massachusetts, we changed the conversation, we came up with very effective ways to reduce preventable injuries and deaths from firearms. And you know, we had an honest conversation. And these three Republican governors saw the writing on the wall that they wanted their kids to be safe in their communities. But nationally, you know, you’ve got a gun lobby, who has who has convinced Congress threatened, intimidated Congress to give immunity to the gun industry. So they can’t be sued, and have no background check requirements and no limit on the number of rounds and no limit on the pot firepower. I mean, we have gun violence by design.

Jimmy Tingle 12:45
So John, if you were the leader of the national gun safety movement, what would you suggest that we do to take action,

John Rosenthal 12:55
simply replicate what we’ve proven to be effective here in Massachusetts by regulating inherently dangerous firearms like we regulate inherently dangerous cars. Me, we have the lowest gun death rate in the nation. Yet 70% of all, gun crime that will happen today and everyday in Massachusetts happens with guns purchased out of state, state, without background checks, like Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Jimmy Tingle 13:21
No background checks in New Hampshire.

John Rosenthal 13:23
If you buy guns from private individuals in 32 states, there is no background check. So if you have some kind of prohibition or a felony conviction, simply drive from Massachusetts to Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont 32 states do not require background checks from private gun dealers. And the only reason you would go to a federally licensed gun dealer who has to run a background check is because you can pass one, like criminals, you know, even al Qaeda and Hezbollah have come to the United States and gone to these 32 states and gone to the 5000 gun shows that happen every year and buy guns without a background check and shipped them back to their country.

Jimmy Tingle 14:12
The background checks effective

John Rosenthal 14:14
Well, I mean, they’re they’re effective in the states that have them. But it’s not every state has them. 32 states don’t have them. And you know, the system is is designed to fail if there’s this bifurcated system, if you’re a law abiding citizen, and you can pass a background check, you go to a federally licensed gun dealer. If you’re, you know, a criminal or prohibited for some reason or domestic, you know, you’ve been convicted of a domestic domestic violence or you’re an international terrorist. Simply go to one one of the 32 states where a background check isn’t required and buy from a private gun dealer who can operate out of backpacks or trunks, you know, the kitchen tables The other thing about the federal background check system is to become a federally licensed dealer, you pay 250 bucks and and you file some paperwork. Now you can have an unlimited number of guns sent to your home, and you can sell them legally out of your home out of your car trunk out of your backpack. Backpack, if you do a background check. In Massachusetts, we require gun dealers to operate out of real stores just like other retailers. And, you know, I mean, we just put reasonable restrictions on a very dangerous, you know, inherently dangerous product that’s easily concealed, and high powered. And we’ve proven that gun laws save lives without banning on guns, every single state in America that has strong gun laws, like background checks, a ban on military style weapons and Red Flag Law, so that, you know, family member could have a gun temporarily removed if if their loved ones in crisis, and they know they have a firearm, every single state with reasonable gun laws has lower gun death rates than every single state was last done.

Jimmy Tingle 16:05
Well, let me ask you, do you think we need federal legislation that covers all 50? States with one set of rules, basically a basic some set of rules? And do you think that would be effective in the turn in terms of national safety? And how do we get to that place, we get the election 2024 coming up, this is going to be a hot issue? Personally, I can’t see how the American public wants more guns and in the in the population? How do you think we achieved something like that? Well,

John Rosenthal 16:40
first of all, I think that if we simply replicated the Massachusetts gun laws, that would be a amazing place to start that would prevent the majority of gun deaths in America without any inconvenience whatsoever to law abiding gun owners. I mean, it’s proven, it’s not the gun violence prevention isn’t theoretical, it’s proven.

Jimmy Tingle 17:04
Right. But but in order to do that, do you need like a Joe Biden administration to say, we’re gonna, we’re we’re gonna, we’re putting forth legislation, we’re gonna replicate the Massachusetts model nationally, and who do you whose minds do you have to change in the Senate in the Congress? Is that where the is that where the real fights are in those congressional and senate districts?

John Rosenthal 17:27
Yeah, I mean, I think the Senate is largely ready to pass something like that. reasonable gun laws nationally. I mean, it’s like automobiles, you know, those are national laws. And you need national gun law. Every other country has them. And by the way, you know, like in Australia and New Zealand, when they had a mass shooting with an AR 15 and military style weapons, they banned the guns and bought them back. You know, every country has dangerously mentally ill people and felon. They don’t have gun but because they don’t arm everybody who can breathe, you know, with military style weapons and easily concealed handguns. I mean, we have gun violence by design, by the uniquely unregulated gun industry. I mean, I’m in the real estate because I can get sued if I don’t shovel a walk. Smith and Wesson, whose ar 15, was used at Parkland, at the Aurora, Colorado movie theater, at the mass shooting in Las Vegas. I mean, Jimmy, you know, if 441 people were shot at a country music festival, if da killed in minutes, and Congress didn’t notice, how many more is it going to take? And I would say that although we live in the safest state in the nation, we cannot sit on our laurels. It’s not only and always going to happen to other people’s good, and other people’s loved one. And when you can simply drive over the border to Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, or we’re connected to Florida, you know, Mississippi, Alabama, where all these guns are coming from? It’s just a matter of time, it’s less likely to happen here. It’s going to happen here. And if it wasn’t 441 killed the music festival. What is it going to be 1000 at Fenway Park, it’s going to happen because we don’t care enough about our children and our loved one. We don’t make this issue a priority in the gun lobby our single issue voters. So yes, you need a Joe Biden. Yes, you need a democratically controlled Senate. And you need to remove no more than like five to 1015 Maximum spineless Republic. him from the US Senate and, and House of Reps. And we will join the civilized world by by making it harder not easier. For psychopath and, and criminal and dangerously mentally ill from accessing guns undetected. And these are guns designed for war designed to outgun cops designed to kill as many people as possible. That is what we allow in this country because we don’t care enough about getting involved in our politics.

Jimmy Tingle 20:37
Okay, I’m I care enough, and my listeners care enough. And I know you care enough, John, what should the call to action be moving forward?

John Rosenthal 20:46
I mean, here in Massachusetts, we need to contribute and support Democrats in the swing state. And there’s, you know, sadly, only really five of them, you know, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, I mean, yeah. And we need to support young Gen Z candidate, these Gen Z, I’ve never known a single day in their lives, where they couldn’t be shot in school, where they, where they couldn’t be, you know, worried about climate where their freedoms are being taken away. Where, you know, the the Republican Party’s whole platform is voter suppression. Because they know there’s more of us than there are of them. So we need to get more involved in politics. And we have to vote out the spineless Republicans who were indebted for you know, get their blood money campaign contributions from, you know, the unregulated gun industry. And, look, I think we can turn this around. But every year that we don’t 45,000 More Americans die from gun violence. Every hour. Every you know, every 30 minutes a kid is killed in America, I’m sorry, is shot in America, every three hours a kid is killed in America. You know, this is, you know, unfortunately, you know, it’s preventable, but it’s, it’s going to take a concerted effort and people are gonna have to become single issue voters on gun, just like the far right is.

Jimmy Tingle 22:31
Thank you, John. We have our marching orders, elect Democrats in the swing states, elect them into Congress elect them into the Senate. That’s that’s the that’s where the change is going to happen.

John Rosenthal 22:43
Frankly, kids aren’t safe in school, just like we’re not safe in public places, because a handful of Republicans are holding back the will of millions of Americans who want to regulate guns like we have proven to regulate and save lives here in the Commonwealth.

Jimmy Tingle 23:02
Got it, John, thank you so much. I know you’ve done a lot of work with the folks down in Parkland. David Hogue. I know you and he are very tight, the leaders of March for our lives. I know you were very involved with them. And that must be an inspiring experience to work with all these young people who are taking this action who are victims of this tragedy and said, you know, we got to do something.

John Rosenthal 23:26
And they have, yeah, you know, and they came out, you know, after parkland. And I talked to David every day, we and I love being able to sort of have this multi generational work together. But also, he’s come to realize that gun violence prevention isn’t theoretical, and Massachusetts is the model and he’s pushing that model all the time. You know, I would say that people said Gen Z wouldn’t come out. They weren’t even old enough to vote after parkland, they registered about 75,000 people that helped flip the house. They said they wouldn’t come out in 2020, they came out and won the White House only by 42,000 votes, even though Biden gets 7.1 million more than Trump. And guess what they said they weren’t going to come out and 22 and they came out and record numbers and help stop the red wave bloodbath that everyone was predicting in the midterms. They are 20% of the electorate now they’re going to be 40% and 2028. They are the future. We just have to keep them alive long enough. And God forbid we don’t. Because our democracy will be lost. The future is being lost every day as a result of gun violence, and we got to do better.

Jimmy Tingle 24:50
John Rosenthal, thank you so much for joining us today. You’re a true American hero. We want to build a safer, more equitable and In saner society and it starts with us taking action, you know, people

John Rosenthal 25:03
if they want to help it contact us to stop and gun We work very closely with March for our lives, we should be supporting these young folks have we really let down? And I would also suggests, you know, hauling, you know, here in Massachusetts where you are more likely to live here, you are more likely to not be shot here. You know, let more hilly Governor hilly No, let speaker Mariano know what the Senate President know that you appreciate their leadership because they have shown courage unlike members of Congress.

Jimmy Tingle 25:44
We will do John, we got our marching orders. Thank you so much, sir. Thank you for having great to see you again. Job this do Jimmy 50 episodes under our belt and we’re marching forward ladies and gentlemen. Progress. peace, prosperity.

John Rosenthal 25:59
Keep smiling buddy.

Jimmy Tingle 26:01
I will. Thank you, John. Great job. Thank you.

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