BOSTON (AP) — The Massachusetts Senate has begun debating a sweeping overhaul of the state’s gun laws.

Like a similar bill approved by the House, the Senate proposal would create a web-based portal to allow for real-time background checks in private gun sales and would stiffen penalties for some gun-based crimes. It would also create a new firearms trafficking unit within the State Police. Debate began Thursday.

Both bills would strengthen local police chiefs’ discretion over issuing firearms identification cards needed to purchase rifles or shotguns, much like the discretion they currently have over issuing licenses to carry concealed weapons.

The bills would require police chiefs to give written reasons when denying applications. Those decisions must be based on public safety concerns and could be appealed in court.

It would also mandate the state join the National Instant Background Check System.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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