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Gov. Deval Patrick is filing gun control legislation he says will close loopholes in Massachusetts' existing laws while strengthening mental health services.
Some of the measures in the bill Patrick unveiled on Wednesday have been filed by the governor in the past, including restricting gun owners to purchasing one firearm a month.
The bill would also tighten access to high-powered rounds of ammunition, create four new types of firearms-related crimes and mandate buyers to undergo background checks before purchasing weapons at gun shows.
It would also require Massachusetts courts to send all relevant mental health records to the state's criminal justice information system so the federal government could include this information in a national gun license registry.
Patrick said that would bring Massachusetts into compliance with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
His bill also includes $5 million for Department of Mental Health programs, including training teachers to recognize symptoms of mental illness in students.
Patrick said the mental health issue is critical to a comprehensive effort to reduce gun violence.
"Mental illness is a disease that can be treated, and our communities are safer when the appropriate services and supports are available for people in need," he said in statement. "I am encouraged by the palpable consensus in our Legislature that the time for action is now."
The push for tighter gun laws has intensified in the wake of the school shootings in Newtown, Conn., with top leaders in the Massachusetts Legislature also promising action on gun safety measures.
Among the ideas being weighed by lawmakers are proposals requiring gun owners to buy liability insurance and setting tighter standards for firearms licenses.
Gun rights advocates have faulted Patrick, saying some of his proposals would punish law-abiding gun owners. They argue there should be no limit on the number of guns that licensed owners can purchase.
Instead of writing ever-tougher licensing requirements, activists say, state and law enforcement officials should focus on keeping guns out of the hands of hard-core criminals and the mentally ill.
Patrick's bill would also:
- Require private gun sales to occur at the business of a licensed dealer so that the sale can be tracked electronically;
- Prevent the furnishing of a machine gun to any person under the age of 21;
- Establish tiered punishments for possessing different weapons on school property and give police the authority to arrest without a warrant in order to quickly diffuse a dangerous situation on school property;
- Create the crime of assault and battery by means of a firearm, assault by means of a firearm, being a felon in possession of a firearm and commission of a violent misdemeanor while in possession of a weapon;
- Increase the authorized minimum penalties for third and fourth offenses of illegal possession and carrying of firearms, shotguns, rifles and machine guns, and increases the maximum punishment for a second offense.
Included in Patrick's proposed $5 million for additional mental health services is $2 million for mobile crisis teams that travel to locations with individuals in crisis and provide specialized mental health service to prevent potential harm or violence by connecting those individuals with treatment.
Patrick's proposal also includes $900,000 for crisis intervention training for law enforcement and other first responders and $500,000 for the state's Child Psychiatric Access Program to help with the early diagnosis and treatment of mental illness.
This program aired on January 16, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.
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