Massachusetts governor offers new gun laws after Newtown

BOSTON Wed Jan 16, 2013 4:27pm EST

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick addresses the first session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina September 4, 2012. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick addresses the first session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina September 4, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Eric Thayer

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BOSTON (Reuters) - Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick introduced a new series of gun laws on Wednesday that would tighten rules on sales of weapons and ammunition, in the wake of last month's deadly school shooting in neighboring Connecticut.

Patrick made the announcement a day after New York state adopted one of the toughest gun-control laws in the United States and shortly before President Barack Obama proposed a new national assault-weapons ban and strengthened background checks on prospective gun buyers.

"In the wake of too many tragedies, I have filed legislation to tackle the problem of gun violence and illegal firearm possession," Patrick, a Democrat, said in a statement.

He also proposed an increase in funding to the state's mental health programs aimed at reducing violence, in the wake of last month's mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 28 people dead including 20 first graders.

The proposed Massachusetts legislation would require gun buyers to undergo background checks even when they made purchases at gun shows, limit buyers to purchasing one gun per month and reduce access to high-powered ammunition.

It would also require state courts to share relevant mental health records with state and criminal databases used to conduct background checks on potential gun buyers.

Patrick did not propose changing Massachusetts' assault-weapons ban, in place since 1998, which prohibits clips that carry more than 10 rounds of ammunition. New York strengthened its ban on assault weapons and cut clip size to seven rounds.

STATES LIMITED

The Newtown killings prompted some Americans, including officials in California, Maryland and Delaware, to call for tighter restrictions on weapons, a move that the National Rifle Association and its supporters have strongly opposed.

But some state officials - including Governor Dannel Malloy of Connecticut - said they are limited in their ability to tackle the problem of gun violence on their own.

"States can't go it alone. We need leadership at the federal level," Malloy said in his official Twitter feed.

Even in Massachusetts, where Democrats control the state house, the push could face an uphill political battle.

Governors may have an easier time requiring their states to keep better mental health records than closing the gun-show loophole, said David King, a senior lecturer in public policy at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

"That is probably something that the federal government has to weigh in on," he said. Obama on Wednesday said he would call on Congress to close the gun-show loopholes. The loophole exempts buyers of weapons at guns shows from anyone other than a licensed dealer to avoid a background check.

Before the December attack only California, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Maryland, plus the District of Columbia, had some form of ban on assault weapons.

Patrick said his budget proposal will include $5 million in new funding for state mental health programs aimed at training school staff on how to recognize symptoms of mental illness in students and to better train police officers to handle people with mental illness in crisis situations.

Gun advocates said they would rather see Patrick focus on mental health than further restricting gun ownership.

"How do you justify any more restrictions on lawfully licensed gun owners than we already face?" said James Wallace, executive director of the Massachusetts Gun Owners' Action League. Wallace noted that the rate of gun injuries reported in the state since 1998 has risen despite the laws.

(Editing by Paul Thomasch, Grant McCool, David Gregorio and Greg McCune)

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Comments (2)
citizen033 wrote:
The measures look like they’re all show to me. Apart from increasing funding to mental health issues aimed a addressing violence, how do they even begin to address Newtown?

“require gun buyers to undergo background checks even when they made purchases at gun shows”

Ok, won’t stop those who steal guns or kill their mom to get them.

“limit buyers to purchasing one gun per month”

Ok, so one gun. Um, how many do I need to commit a crime?

“reduce access to high-powered ammunition”

What is high-powered? If he means .223, wow, that’s deceptive terminology. (.223 isn’t even allowed for deer hunting in some states because it’s considered under-powered.)

Jan 16, 2013 11:29pm EST  --  Report as abuse
bondcliff wrote:
The governors proposal requires the sale within one year of enactment any gun capable of or having the ability to hold more than seven bullets. This would include all semi automatic pistols with magazines, as they all can have extended magazines inserted that can carry more than seven bullets. This will include any revolver type pistol that holds more than seven bullets. Many revolvers carry from 8 to 10 bullets and are mostly used for target and sports shooting competitions. This confiscation also includes any rifle except single bullet, bolt action. It also would cover semi automatic shotguns,as the shot plug can be removed.
Section 25 of the Governor’s bill requires that all guns must be either sold to someone allowed to own them, (police) or destroyed. This is a confiscation of guns from lawful citizens and nothing less. If a lawful citizen, whether he or she be a hunter, target shooter, collector or someone who carries for self protection, does not dispose of their guns within one year, they will automatically be considered felons and subject to arrest.

Jan 17, 2013 2:56pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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