THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Mass. officials assess Supreme Court gun ruling

By Glen Johnson
AP Political Writer / June 28, 2010

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BOSTON—Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said a Supreme Court gun control ruling on Monday "does not upset the balance" of the state's firearms laws.

She said an initial reading of the 214-page ruling suggested Massachusetts law would not be affected because it controls guns, but does not ban them -- which the court rejected not only Monday but in another recent ruling.

"Massachusetts laws, as recently confirmed by the commonwealth's Supreme Judicial Court, allow for registered gun ownership and permit the use of a gun for self-defense in the home," said Coakley, a Democrat.

"Current Massachusetts laws work to strike an important balance to protect the public, especially our children, from the risks of unauthorized gun use while also recognizing an authorized gun owner's right to use a legal firearm for self-defense," she added, saying, "We believe (Monday's) Supreme Court decision does not upset that balance."

In Massachusetts, local police chiefs must review gun applications. Applicants also must meet federal guidelines.

Coakley's statement was silent on a gun bill being pushed by her fellow Democrat, Gov. Deval Patrick. He is pushing to make it illegal to buy more than one gun per month. But a Patrick spokesman said the legislation was unaffected.

"The provision in the governor's bill relative to a one-gun-a-month limit is not analogous since it does not ban the ownership of firearms, but just regulates the amount," said spokesman Kyle Sullivan. "We are confident that this provision would withstand judicial review even under this new ruling. (Justice Samuel) Alito himself states that the ruling does not eliminate states' `ability to devise solutions to social problems that suit local needs and values.'"

The governor has argued that there is a flood of illegal firearms on Massachusetts streets attributable to bulk purchases that are later redistributed illegally. Slowing the rate of sales should undercut the practice, he says.

Jim Wallace, executive director of the Gun Owners' Action League, said the state has been progressively restricting gun ownership since 1998, so the ruling should force a rethinking of gun laws.

Rather than forcing citizens to prove they are worthy of owning guns, "the onus now will be placed on the government to prove that many of these restrictions are necessary," Wallace said.

The court ruled the Constitution restrains government's ability to significantly limit "the right to keep and bear arms." It did so in response to a challenge of a gun ban in Chicago. It recently did the same regarding a similar gun ban in Washington, D.C.

In their narrow, 5-4 vote, the justices did signal some limitations could survive legal challenges.

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