Lawmakers embrace task force report on gun violence

By Allison DeAngelis, Metron West Daily News, State House correspondent

Area legislators generally supported the 44 recommendations released Monday by a gun violence task force. But gun advocates, including a Northborough gun owners association, said the year-long review would do little to change the confusing language of Massachusetts gun laws.

“They ask a question on the application – “have you ever been treated for mental illness?”— and that’s about it. There’s no registry to determine if the info on the application is correct,” said state Rep. Jeffrey Roy, D-Franklin, who applied for a license to carry recently to see how the system worked.

The committee’s recommendations target inconsistencies between state and federal laws and gray areas in current law, including mandatory live-fire training, background checks for all gun purchases, and guidelines to stop the purchase of licensure of guns to unsuitable persons.

Natick Rep. David Linsky, who supported tougher gun laws after the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., praised the task force for recommending that the state comply with the National Instant Background Check system that prohibits the sale of guns to persons who are substance abusers or have a mental illness.

Currently, people who seek voluntary treatment or are involuntarily hospitalized for evaluation are not reported to the system.

“No gun legislation is easy to pass, but every single one of the recommendations in this report is a common sense approach, and it is hard to imagine that any rational person could oppose a recommendation this task force made,” he said.

The task force tapped the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association to create statewide gun license guidelines for police forces to halt “unsuitable persons” from obtaining a license to carry a firearm.

The task force found that the current approval process is a confusing mix of different processes and criteria that vary from municipality to municipality.

“There are 351 different communities in Massachusetts, and there’s a lot left in the hands of police chiefs who have very little guidance what to look for. We need standards to help police chiefs make that difficult decision,” said Roy.

But gun ownership advocates said there are too many laws already that have done little to stem violence.
Jim Wallace, executive director of Northborough’s Gun Owners Action League, said state gun laws are already confusing, and that the report does little to solve that.

Although the report and lawmakers noted that Massachusetts has some of the strictest gun policies in the nation, Wallace said that gun crime in the state has increased by 300 percent since new laws were enacted in 1998.

“It was very disturbing hearing them talk about how successful the gun laws have been,” he said.

The action league has tried twice to introduce legislation that would make gun laws more clear.