The statistics in the opening post sounded persuasive until I looked at the context from which they were drawn and what the WRISS data seem to show. Page 15 of http://www.mass.gov/Eeohhs2/docs/dph/in ... _94_07.pdf
"(d)uring the late 1980’s and early 1990’s violence, especially firearm-related violence in the U.S. and in Massachusetts began increasing at alarming rates. The use of “crack” cocaine and the struggle for control of distribution markets was considered to be one of the major triggers for this increase.(footnote omitted) Historically, Massachusetts has had lower homicide rates than the nation including those resulting from firearms. Even at the height of the epidemic, Massachusetts compared favorably to the U.S. as a whole (Figure 2). The age-adjusted firearm-related homicide rate in Massachusetts in 1991 was 2.2 per 100,000 compared to the U.S. age adjusted homicide rate of 6.6 per 100,000.(footnote omitted) Nonetheless, the homicide rate in Massachusetts in 1991 was 26.5% higher than it had been five years prior in 1986 (4.3 and 3.4 per 100,000 respectively), and the firearm homicide rate was 57.1% higher (2.2 and 1.7 per 100,000 respectively).(footnote omitted)...In response to the escalating violence, cities and towns across the state began setting up coalitions and task forces and implementing specific interventions in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Sentencing laws were re-written with stricter mandatory sentences for certain crimes, and “community policing” began to take hold as a useful tool in the law enforcement community. In 1998, the Office of the Attorney General provided new regulations related to the sale, storage, and safety of handguns (940 CMR 16.00). Local efforts, such as midnight basketball and other athletics programs, after school programs at Boys and Girls Clubs and YMCAs, gang mediation, street worker outreach, neighborhood walks and vigils, gun buyback programs, and many other programs were implemented."
The data in Figure 2 on this page appear to undermine GOAL's argument. They show that GOAL chose 1994-1997 as a frame of reference without (a) acknowledging that 1994 was a peak (or near-peak) of state and national firearm-related homicide rates, or (b) taking into account the many initiatives undertaken during that time to reduce gun violence. The most recent data presented (2005) show a firearm-related homicide rate for MA identical to the rate from 1981 (1.7 per 100,000), which is well under half the national rate of 4.2 per 100,000. The fact that it's slightly higher than it was in 1997 - i.e., when large numbers of gang members had been incarcerated under the new stricter mandatory sentences - to me doesn't say much of anything about the 1998 regs.
There are many aspects of MA government I'm not crazy about, and I was ready to be persuaded when I saw all of the numbers in the opening post. From looking at the numbers myself, I don't see how they support the argument GOAL has tried to advance. I'm not saying the numbers prove the 1998 regs were good, but they make it seem like GOAL is claiming support that isn't really there.