BOSTON (CBS/AP) – Gov. Deval Patrick has signed a sweeping overhaul of Massachusetts’ gun law on Wednesday.
The bill stiffens penalties for some gun-based crimes, creates a Web-based portal within the state Executive Office of Public Safety to allow for real-time background checks in private gun sales, and calls for the creation of a firearms trafficking unit within the state police.
“Our communities and our families are safer when irresponsible gun sales and use are reduced,” Patrick said. “This legislation moves us in that direction.”
It also gives local police chiefs the right to go to court to try to deny firearms identification cards needed to buy rifles or shotguns to individuals they feel are unsuitable to have access to the weapons.
The bill retains police chiefs right to deny “licenses to carry” to individuals they feel are unsuitable to carry handguns but requires them to give written reasons for any applications they deny. Their decisions would have to be based on public safety and could be appealed in court.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said the legislation allows for a comprehensive approach to addressing gun violence.
“We have to work together to prevent gun violence in every city and town, and I am optimistic that Boston will be provided with additional tools that can be used to curb urban violence and bring peace to our neighborhoods,” Walsh said. “Every single victim matters, and this legislation sends that message to those touched by senseless violence.”
Patrick signed the bill at a State House ceremony.
Another part of the bill mandates Massachusetts join the National Instant Background Check System, which requires the state to send information about substance abuse or mental health commitments to a federal database that police can use when reviewing firearms applications.
WBZ NewRadio 1030’s Carl Stevens reports
Patrick has praised the bill, despite the fact that lawmakers failed to include his proposal that would have limited individuals to the purchase of no more than one gun per month.
The bill increases the penalty for carrying a firearm on school grounds, increases the punishment for being armed with a firearm while carjacking and creates penalties for transporting firearms into the state for criminal activity or unlawful distribution. It also establishes penalties for gun dealers who fail to report a lost or stolen weapon and requires an individual whose license to carry firearms has been revoked, suspended or denied to surrender all guns in their possession.
Work on the bill began last year after the 2012 mass school shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Massachusetts already has some of the strictest gun laws in the country.
Other portions of the legislation are designed to improve security for students and teachers.
The bill requires that schools have access to two-way communication devices with police and fire departments and mandates school districts provide two hours of suicide awareness and prevention training to school personnel every three years.
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