Friday January 4, 2013

BOSTON (AP) -- Massachusetts lawmakers are weighing tougher gun control measures, from requiring gun owners to buy liability insurance to setting tighter standards for firearms licenses.

Although the push for new gun legislation comes in the wake of the school shootings in Newtown, Conn., those pushing for tighter rules say they’re motivated more by the gun deaths that occur in Massachusetts on a routine basis.

State Rep. David Linsky, a Natick Democrat, said he plans to file by mid-January what he called a comprehensive bill to end gun violence. On Thursday, Linsky met with more than 100 lawmakers and legislative staffers of both parties to discuss possible measures.

"One thing was common throughout the room and that was an absolute commitment to end gun violence in Massachusetts," Linsky told reporters after the meeting.

Linsky said Massachusetts has no effective screening process to keep firearms out of the hands of those with serious mental illnesses. One possible option is to require individuals seeking a gun license -- already needed to purchase a firearm -- to sign a waiver giving access to their mental health history.

Linsky, a former prosecutor, said lawmakers are looking at other measures such as toughening rules for storage of firearms and possibly requiring gun owners to purchase liability insurance in the event that their firearms are used to harm another individual.


Advertisement

"You need liability insurance to drive a car in Massachusetts in case you get into an accident," Linsky said. "Well maybe you need liability insurance if that gun gets used and causes damage to somebody."

Gun rights advocates say lawmakers are focusing too much attention on law-abiding gun owners and not enough on criminals.

Jim Wallace, executive director of the Gun Owners Action League, said the state’s guns laws are too convoluted and confusing. He said they need to be completely overhauled.

"Massachusetts gun laws have been an abject failure," he said.

Wallace said lawmakers have ignored his group’s recommendations including the creation of what he called a "prohibited persons list" which he said would make it easier for police to quickly determine if a person can legally carry a firearm.

He said the list would include violent felons, illegal aliens and others.

Gov. Deval Patrick pushed lawmakers to take action in the days after the Newtown shootings.