Our Opinion: Gutting the gun bill


A fine gun violence reform bill passed by the House was gutted Thursday by the state Senate, testimony to the influence of gun pressure groups in a state whose lawmakers should be impervious to that pressure. The House must insist on keeping its bill intact in the conference committee.

The provision dropped by the Senate by a 28-10 vote would have given police chiefs discretion to deny permits for shotguns and rifles for those they deem unsuitable. State Senator James E. Timilty, co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, said he was worried the provision may be in violation of the Second Amendment and could bring about a lawsuit. However, the police chiefs already have this discretion on handguns, and there has been no successful challenge on grounds of the Second Amendment, which begins with the words "A well regulated ..." The provision simply extends this discretion to other weapons, a wise idea given the dangers they pose, and extends it to a community’s most well-qualified law enforcement officer.

The demise of the provision is more likely the result of a cave-in by Mr. Timilty and other senators to pressure from the National Rifle Association, whose top state lobbyist, John M. Hohenwarter, was seen on Beacon Hill Thursday chatting up senators, according to The Boston Globe, and the Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts. The NRA and GOAL, however, don’t have many cards to play against Massachusetts Democrats so they should have less influence than lawmakers are giving them credit for having.

The bill’s new measures addressing mental health issues related to guns and increased penalties for some firearms crimes are admirable. The bill will be considerably better with the restoration of the deleted provision, and that is how it should go to the desk of Governor Patrick.


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