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In wake of Newtown massacre, Mass. panel recommends that state gun laws be tightened

More than a year after the school shootings in Newtown, Conn., a panel of academic experts today released a long-awaited report recommending that Massachusetts tighten its gun laws, which are already considered among the toughest in the country.

The panel made 44 recommendations, including that Massachusetts join a national mental health database for screening potential gun owners, that it beef up firearms training requirements, and that it eliminate Class B gun licenses, which are seldom used.

It recommended that the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association help define a series of factors that could be used to prohibit “unsuitable persons” from acquiring firearms. The panel said the current process allows local law enforcement officials too much discretion to determine whether a person is suitable to be granted a license to carry.

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It also said Massachusetts should require anyone wanting to purchase a hunting rifle or a shotgun to pass those standards of suitability. That could allow local police chiefs to deny gun purchases to people who have been arrested, but not convicted, of a crime.

The report was compiled by a committee led by Jack McDevitt, a Northeastern University criminologist and was commissioned by House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo in the wake of the Newtown massacre. McDevitt will hold a press conference to discuss his recommendations today. His findings are expected to form the basis for gun-control legislation that will come before the House before July.

“Overall, Massachusetts continues to be a leader nationally in efforts to reduce gun violence. The committee believes that even more can be done,” the report said. “The committee recognizes that changes such as those proposed in this report may be challenging, but if adopted, provide a pathway to further reduce gun violence in the Commonwealth.”

The Gun Owner’s Action League of Massachusetts issued a statement, saying that it “was all but left out of the process of the creation of this report.”

“If the Commission refuses to hear from the very people that actually know the gun laws and provide the most comprehensive gun safety training in the Commonwealth – its not worth the paper its printed on,” the statement said.

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