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Recommendations released to strengthen gun laws in Massachusetts

In response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Dec. 14, 2012, the Committee to Reduce Firearm Violence, commissioned by State Rep. Robert DeLeo and led by Northeastern professor Jack McDevitt, released a report Monday, urging state legislators to tighten Massachusetts gun laws.

The report consists of 44 recommended regulations, including federal background checks, mandatory firearm training and improved firearm storage.

“The report is an important step in helping us find ways to make Massachusetts a safer place for our children and families. I look forward to reviewing their recommendations as we craft gun violence legislation along with the Committee on Public Safety,” DeLeo said in a statement released Monday.

The Gun Owner’s Action League of Massachusetts, an association that defends the right to keep and bear arms in the state, was disappointed with the report.

“They basically ignored the fact that homicides in Massachusetts have nearly doubled since the 1998 laws have been passed,” said GOAL Communications Manager Mike Sweeney. “Clearly criminals have not been paying attention [to the laws]. It’s just punishment to law abiding citizens.”

John Rosenthal, founder of Stop Handgun Violence, said the recommendations in this report do not demonize law-abiding citizens. Instead, they save lives by keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.

“All we do in Massachusetts through our laws is require accountability and responsibility on the part of gun owners,” he said. “If you’re a law abiding gun owner in this state, or you want to be, there is no heavy lifting to get a license for a long gun, and if you have a need or a desire for a handgun, there’s no heavy lifting for that either.”

Rosenthal said Massachusetts has the most comprehensive gun laws in the country. The state requires safety measures and manufacturing standards that are often exempt across the nation.

“If enacted, [these recommendations] would further save lives in Massachusetts from preventable gun deaths and continue to make Massachusetts a model for the nation with comprehensive gun laws and the lowest firearm brutality rate, proving that firearms really do work,” he said. “It’s a very thoughtful report. It’s practical and balanced, and if the legislature enacts the 44 recommendations, real lives will be saved.”

Several residents said they support the committee recommendations to make Massachusetts safer, but stricter gun laws may not be the best way to guarantee safety.

Vivian Wong, 23, of Allston, said gun training should be a requirement for all gun owners, prior to owning a firearm.

“Even if you know how to use [a gun], it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll use it properly,” she said. “Training should be necessary before you even purchase the gun. You feel powerful, but that power can go anywhere. So it’s important that you know how to use it and that it’s safe for you to own it. Training is definitely part of that.”

Evan Robinson, 25, of the North End, said automatic weapons and handguns should not be available to citizens.

“With all the things that we hear in the news, we’re almost desensitized to all the gun violence now,” he said. “The automatic weapons are ridiculous. There’s no reason for anybody to have them [and] handguns too. I understand, for hunting … I hunt, but you’re not going to shoot a deer with an AK-47. There’s no point.”

Raymond Little, 58, of Dorchester, said the police should focus on finding people who are not fit to own guns, rather than making gun laws stricter for citizens looking for defense weapons.

“They should have more people out there to get [people who abuse guns] off the streets,” he said. “The police shouldn’t just be giving themselves a pat on the back because they got one person off the street. When they get just one criminal, they act like it’s a big deal, but there are hundreds of them still out there. They have to be more strict with that.”

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