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Massachusetts has some of the nation's toughest gun laws but can do more to reduce violence and keep firearms away from people with criminal backgrounds or mental illness, according to a task force established after the massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
The panel created by House Speaker Robert DeLeo said in a report released Monday that Massachusetts should require background checks for most private firearms sales, increase penalties for failing to report lost or stolen guns, and tighten regulations on rifle ownership.
Other recommendations include a more consistent and uniform approach to firearms licensing and training requirements, tax credits for the purchase of gun safes, and two-way communication from schools to municipal police for use in emergencies.
The state also was urged to join a federal program by transmitting information about people who might be unsuitable to own a gun because of substance abuse or mental illness.
"Overall Massachusetts continues to be a leader nationally in efforts to reduce gun violence. The Committee believes that even more can be done," the task force said in the conclusion of its report, from which DeLeo hopes to craft legislation in the coming months.
Massachusetts law currently allows both a Class A and a Class B license. The Class B license allows an individual to carry a non-large-capacity firearm, and that firearm may not be concealed. The Class A License allows the licensee to carry a concealed firearm for protection.
The report said that since Massachusetts is not a state where gun owners routinely carry their firearms in the open, the state should eliminate the Class B license.
The panel also recommended closing what it sees as a loophole in state law that allows people who may have been arrested repeatedly without being convicted to obtain a firearms identification card to purchase a rifle or shotgun even though they can be denied a handgun license.
In its report, the panel also suggests:
- Massachusetts law be changed to prevent a convicted felon from receiving a firearms identification card, and any federally prohibited person be denied the ability to acquire any firearm.
- All owners in Massachusetts be required to verify and sign an affidavit that they still own all the guns legally registered to them each time they renew their license. Penalties for failing to report a lost or stolen gun would be increased to help reduce illegal gun trafficking.
- Uniform training standards for private gun owners and tax credits for the purchase of safes designed to keep guns out of the hands of children.
The report noted that Massachusetts was one of the safest states in the nation for gun deaths - it had the second-lowest rate, behind Hawaii - from 2001-2010.
In a statement, the Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts complained that it was ignored by the panel in formulating the recommendations.
The state should stop treating law-abiding gun owners like criminals and instead treat "criminals like criminals," the organization said.
- Here's the task force's report (via Scribd):