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Mass. Court Upholds State Gun-Lock Requirement

The highest court in Massachusetts on Wednesday upheld the constitutionality of a state law that requires gun owners to lock weapons in their homes, a case closely watched by both gun-control and gun-rights proponents.

Massachusetts prosecutors argued that the law saves lives because it requires guns to be kept in a locked container or equipped with a trigger lock when not under the owner's control. The Gun Owners' Action League and the Second Amendment Foundation Inc., however, pointed to a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said people have a constitutional right to keep weapons for self-defense.

The state Supreme Judicial Court, ruling in the case of a man charged with improperly storing a hunting rifle in his Billerica home, unanimously agreed that the Second Amendment does not overrule the state's right to require owners to store guns safely.

"We conclude that the legal obligation safely to secure firearms (in the Massachusetts law) is not unconstitutional ... and that the defendant may face prosecution on this count," Justice Ralph Gants wrote.

The case involved Richard Runyan, whose mentally disabled son allegedly shot at a neighbor with a BB gun. The 18-year-old showed police where his father kept other guns, and the father was charged with improperly storing a hunting rifle under his bed.

A Lowell District Court judge later dismissed the charges, citing the U.S. Supreme Court's 2008 ruling that threw out a District of Columbia requirement that firearms be equipped with trigger locks or kept disassembled. In that case, the Supreme Court found that the Second Amendment gives people the right to keep and bear arms for self-defense in their homes.

Massachusetts prosecutors argued that the state law requiring guns to be secured when not under an owner's control is less restrictive than the D.C. law. The Massachusetts court agreed, finding that the state law allows gun owners to keep their guns unlocked when they are at home and the guns are under their control, but must keep them locked when they are not home.

Gun proponents said the law makes it virtually impossible for homeowners to quickly access a gun for self-defense.

This program aired on March 10, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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