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State committee’s report calls for stricter gun laws

The state’s Com­mittee to Reduce Firearm Vio­lence, chaired by crim­i­nol­o­gist Jack McDe­vitt, asso­ciate dean of research for the Col­lege of Social Sci­ences & Human­i­ties, on Monday after­noon released a report out­lining strate­gies to bol­ster Mass­a­chu­setts’ already strong gun laws.

In the wake of deadly school shoot­ings in New­town, Conn., Mass­a­chu­setts House Speaker Robert DeLeo, SSH’72, last year charged the advi­sory com­mittee with reviewing newly filed gun safety leg­is­la­tion and deter­mining how to fur­ther reduce gun vio­lence in the com­mon­wealth. The committee’s final report, which included 44 rec­om­men­da­tions, was released during a press con­fer­ence at North­eastern University’s Snell Library attended by all but one of the eight com­mittee members.

The rec­om­men­da­tions include cre­ating stan­dards as deter­mined by the Mass­a­chu­setts Chiefs of Police Asso­ci­a­tion that would pre­vent “unsuit­able per­sons” from acquiring firearms, improving firearm safety and training courses in part by making the firing of weapons a require­ment, and investing in com­mu­nity orga­ni­za­tions to help reduce urban violence.

The com­mittee also rec­om­mended elim­i­nating Class B gun licenses, one of two gun licenses avail­able in Mass­a­chu­setts. Class B licenses allow people to carry an uncon­cealed though non-​​large capacity firearm. In its report, the com­mittee said Mass­a­chu­setts gun owners do not usu­ally carry their weapons out in the open and there­fore few Class B licenses are actu­ally issued.

“Our goal as we started this process was to find some ways to make the system safer in Mass­a­chu­setts,” McDe­vitt explained in his opening remarks. “We believe that leg­is­la­tion filed to deal with these recommendations will take us a long way to saving lives.”

The com­mittee mem­bers included a range of pro­fes­sions, including edu­ca­tors, public safety per­sonnel, and mental health experts. They expressed varying opin­ions on gun con­trol, but McDe­vitt stressed the com­mittee unan­i­mously agreed on every single rec­om­men­da­tion. Its rec­om­men­da­tions are expected to inform gun safety leg­is­la­tion law­makers will take up later this year.

“I want to thank the speaker for bringing all these people together,” McDe­vitt said. “The back­grounds, atti­tudes, and expe­ri­ences of this group made our report so much richer and deeper. One of the things we as a com­mittee found was we can have a thoughtful and respectful dis­cus­sion around these issues.”

In addi­tion to reviewing gun safety leg­is­la­tion, McDe­vitt said it was impor­tant the com­mittee met with groups involved in the gun safety debate. Over a nine-​​month period, the com­mittee heard tes­ti­mony from 10 sep­a­rate groups including police chiefs, gun owners, school super­in­ten­dents, gun-​​control advo­cates, and mental health professionals.

Also present at the press event was Jim Wal­lace, exec­u­tive director of the Gun Owners Action League, the offi­cial firearms asso­ci­a­tion in Mass­a­chu­setts. Wal­lace said he was dis­ap­pointed with many of the rec­om­men­da­tions and wished his orga­ni­za­tion had been included more in the committee’s process.

“In gen­eral I don’t think our mem­bers are going to be happy with this,” Wal­lace told mem­bers of the media.

– By Joe O’Connell

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