On Wednesday, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed into law a bill—H. 4376—meant to update the state’s gun laws. The new law will bring sweeping changes to how the gun crimes are penalized, how the state handles background checks, and the power of local police to deny “licenses to carry.” The law will also empower the state police to create a firearms tracking unit and increase security in schools.
“Our communities and our families are safer when irresponsible gun sales and use are reduced,” Patrick said in a press release. “This legislation moves us in that direction.”
The most controversial portion of the law gives police chiefs the right to petition the district court when denying firearms identification cards, which are needed to buy rifles and shotguns. Any application that is denied will have to be followed by a written statement, and can be appealed. Although gun control advocates have widely praised this provision, gun owners have also criticized it for what they see as its arbitrary nature. The NRA spoke out against the bill on Tuesday through its Institute for Legislative Action website.
“The National Rifle Association opposed the bill prior to its passage, telling lawmakers ‘it isn’t difficult to imagine’ways for government officials to abuse discretionary licensing powers granted under the legislation,” read the statement.
A large portion of the bill covered stricter penalties for violators of gun laws, especially carrying a weapon on school grounds. H. 4376 will also require officials to assign a school resource officer to each school district as well. The push for more secure schools began after the 2012 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut where a gunman shot 20 children and six adults in an elementary school.
“This legislation takes the necessary steps to ensure a safer Commonwealth,” said Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth). “Through this legislation we are supporting tighter regulations, enhanced penalties and increased protections for our schools, children and families in an overall effort to reduce the impact and prevalence of gun violence in our communities.”
Image courtesy Taylor Nealand/Office of Governor Deval Patrick