Saturday July 6, 2013

On Monday, the Public Safety Committee of the state Legislature will host the latest in a series of public hearings across the state, this one at Assumption College in Worcester, on proposals for tougher gun laws. Hearings are useful as long as they are not used as an excuse for paralysis, and the Legislature must pass, and Governor Deval Patrick must sign into law, a comprehensive package of reforms by the anniversary this December of the Newtown, Connecticut gun massacre.

The governor filed his gun violence control bill last January at the start of the current legislative session and just a month after 20 schoolchildren and six adults were gunned down in Newtown. Among other provisions, the governor’s bill would address the gun show loophole by requiring that prospective purchasers undergo background checks and limit access to high-powered types of ammunition. The governor would also require Massachusetts courts to send all relevant mental health records to the state’s criminal justice information system so the federal government can include this information in a national gun license registry.

Other proposals under discussion include requiring gun dealers to collect identifying information from anyone who buys bullet-proof vests, and the creation of a Gun Offender Registry Board. None of these proposals violate the Second Amendment, which begins with a reference to a "well-regulated" militia, and none should concern lawful gun owners.

With the minority of Washington lawmakers who march to the orders of the National Rifle Association and a small fringe of gun fanatics blocking gun reform, the states must step up. Massachusetts can be proud of its tough guns laws but it can and must do better this year.