BOSTON - Gun owners called on legislators Wednesday to simplify the state's strict but "convoluted" gun control laws, saying they had failed to stem violence in Massachusetts.
The Gun Owners Action League, which claims more than 15,000 members in the state, staged a Second Amendment rally on the Boston Common as gun control advocates pushed for even tougher laws in Massachusetts in the wake of the deadly shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
Also Wednesday, U.S. Reps. Stephen Lynch and Edward Markey - who are competing for the Democratic nomination to run in a special election for the U.S. Senate - issued a joint statement backing President Barack Obama's call for tougher federal gun laws.
Massachusetts already bans assault weapons, restricts high-capacity magazines and requires police chiefs to conduct background checks on residents seeking to purchase firearms.
But gun owners, citing Massachusetts Department of Public Health statistics, said deaths and injuries from gun violence have continued to climb since 1998 despite the stringent rules.
"Unfortunately, we have 15 years of evidence in Massachusetts that gun controls are simply an abject failure," said James Wallace, executive director of the Gun Owners Action League. "It's a social experiment that didn't work."
The figures cited in the group's report showed that gun-related homicides in the state had nearly doubled and gun-related hospital emergency room visits had tripled in the past 15 years, though both categories had seen a decline since 2007.
Gun control supporters credit the state's tough laws for keeping Massachusetts below much of the nation in gun violence and say the fact that deaths and injuries have continued to climb only bears out the need for strengthening the laws.
"I think the concern the gun owners have that someone is going to take their guns away is misplaced," Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick told reporters Wednesday. "I think it is possible to strike a balance between protecting the safety of children in classrooms and the public safety at large, and respecting people's Second Amendment rights."