The Associated Press

Mass. Senate To Debate Sweeping Gun Bill

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Senate released its own version of a sweeping overhaul of the state’s gun laws on Monday, including many elements of a bill approved by the House last week.

Like the House bill, the Senate proposal would create a web-based portal within the state Executive Office of Public Safety to allow for real-time background checks in private gun sales and would stiffen penalties for some gun-based crimes. It would also create a firearms trafficking unit within the State Police.

The House and Senate bills would both strengthen local police chiefs’ discretion over issuing firearms identification cards needed for the purchase of rifles or shotguns, much like the discretion they currently have over issuing licenses to carry concealed weapons.

The bills would require police chiefs to give written reasons for any applications they choose to deny, however. Their decisions would have to be based on public safety and could be appealed in court.

Jim Wallace, head of the Massachusetts Gun Owners Action League, said the group supports the requirement that police chiefs must issue written reasons when they deny an application, but he said gun owners oppose expanding the authority of chiefs over firearms identification cards.

“We are pleased with many measures in the Senate version,” Wallace said. “However, discretionary licensing for FID cards is not something we can live with or support.”

Both bills would also require schools to have access to two-way communication devices with police and fire departments and mandate that Massachusetts joins the National Instant Background Check System. That includes transmitting information about substance abuse or mental health commitments to a federal database for use by police in reviewing firearms applications.

The House bill passed last week on a 112-38 vote. The Senate bill is scheduled for debate Thursday.

Supporters hope to win final passage of a single compromise version of the bills in both branches and get the legislation to Gov. Deval Patrick before the formal legislative session ends July 31.

Work on the legislation began last year after the 2012 mass school shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

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