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Mass. Gov. Proposes New Laws on Gun Ownership


The Governor of Massachusetts has filed new legislation that would introduce stricter regulations on gun ownership. The bill includes strict background checks and closing licensing loopholes. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports…

Governor Patrick announced the legislation just over a month after the shooting deaths of children and educators in the massacre in Newtown, Conn, and only one day after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the SAFE Act, putting tighter restrictions on gun ownership in the Empire State.

The Governor also announced today that in his FY 2014 budget proposal to be unveiled next week, he is seeking a $5 million increase in funding for the Department of Mental Health.

In a statement the governor said he filed the legislation “in the wake too many tragedies.”

The legislation filed by the governor would enhance a number of existing regulations, including enhancing background checks on gun purchases by brining Massachusetts into compliance with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, requiring mental health records be forwarded to the federal government before a gun license can be issued.

The bill would also limit sales of firearms to one per gun-owner per month, reduce access to high-powered ammunition, create four new gun crimes, and close a so-called “loophole” to require background checks at gun shows.

Jim Wallace, Executive Director of the Gun Owner’s Action League, said that many of the Governor’s proposals are simply unneeded, due to the strict gun laws already put in place in Massachusetts since 1998, which Wallace says over the past decade-and-a-half have greatly reduced the number of law-abiding gun owners in the state.

Wallace also said that he thinks the government’s placing further restrictions on licensed gun-owners is an insult, due to the amount of regulations gun owners comply with.

But John Rosenthal of Stop Handgun Violence, said that he believes the one-gun-a-month provision is not meant to prevent a law-abiding gun owner from purchasing a firearm, but rather to stop a gun dealer who is not playing by the rules.

But Rosenthal also said that because Massachusetts already has such strict regulations on guns, other states and the federal government should take the examples set by the Commonwealth.

Today President Obama released his own outlines for a national gun control plan, which in addition to requiring background checks for all gun sales would reinstate the assault weapons ban, restore limits to ammunition magazines, and end a freeze on gun violence research. The plan would also ensure young people can obtain needed mental health treatment, and other measures.

Jim Wallace says that whether it’s the proposals submitted by the president or Gov. Patrick, the real issue is school safety, not the guns.

But in John Rosenthal’s vision, Americans would need to communicate to a Congress he says is bought by the gun lobby.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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