Many say new Massachusetts gun bill right on target


ADAMS -- The new Massachusetts gun safety legislation signed into law by Gov. Deval Patrick on Wednesday is getting plenty of positive reaction from gun control advocates -- and gun rights advocates as well.

"This gun law is actually a step in the right direction," said Tom Decker, co-owner of Pete's Gun Shop in Adams. "There were a lot of compromises from both sides, and as a result, this law is far better than what some of the other states have done."

The bill includes provisions to allow police chiefs the ability to use discretionary data to deny a "firearms identification card," but they must get a judge to concur with his position.

Police chiefs currently have the right to deny "licenses to carry" to individuals they feel are unsuitable to carry handguns. The new law retains that authority, but would require police chiefs to give written reasons for any applications they choose to deny. Their decisions would have to be based on public safety and could be appealed in court.

The law also increases jail time for people convicted of using a firearm during the commission of some crimes and creates a Web-based portal within the state Executive Office of Public Safety to allow for real-time background checks in private gun sales. It also calls for the creation of a firearms trafficking unit within the state police.

Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn said the new provision to allow denial of a firearm identification card with concurrence of a district judge is not likely to place much of an additional logistical burden to the department.

"Realistically we don't see this as much of a change," Wynn said. "We don't issue that many FID cards, and not many are denied. It doesn't seem like it will have a big impact."

He also noted that being able to do background checks through a single Web portal "will be helpful for us and for (gun) dealers."

Another part of the law mandates Massachusetts join the National Instant Background Check System, which requires the state to transmit information about substance abuse or mental health commitments to a federal database that police can use to review firearms applications.

Decker said he was concerned with some of the earlier measures included in the bill because they might have been too "restrictive" on freedoms of law-abiding gun owners. But during the process and due to a number of compromises from both sides, those measures did not make it to the final version.

"I'm proud of our legislators for working together with gun owners to provide a workable law -- and the cool thing is they didn't rush into it," Decker said. "They took the time to do it right."

State Rep. Gailanne Cariddi is also pleased with the outcome. She hosted two public hearings, visited with members of local sports clubs and appeared on a call-in radio show to hear concerns of her constituents.

"I talked to a full range of gun owners and non-gun owners, and there were many onerous measures proposed," she said. "Those aspects were not in the final bill. This is truly a bill that will help several aspects of our population without limiting Second Amendment rights."

The new law also increases the penalty for carrying a firearm on school grounds; increases the punishment for being armed with a firearm while carjacking; creates penalties for transporting firearms into the state for criminal activity or unlawful distribution; establishes penalties for gun dealers who fail to report a lost or stolen weapon and mandates that an individual whose license to carry firearms has been revoked, suspended or denied must surrender all guns in their possession.

Patrick signed the bill at a ceremony at the Statehouse in Boston.

"Our communities and our families are safer when irresponsible gun sales and use are reduced," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

To reach Scott Stafford:,
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