On Friday, in its last of five public hearings on proposed gun control bills, the Massachusetts Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security heard testimony from two parents who lost children in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in addition to Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Gov. Deval Patrick.
Unsurprisingly, these speakers urged lawmakers to support the 58 separate bills that would tighten the Bay State’s laws with respect to gun ownership. The bills up for consideration include: universal background checks, a one-gun per month purchase limitation, tougher penalties for gun-related crimes and an expanded ban on so-called “assault weapons” and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.
‘‘If there is more that we can do to keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them, convicted criminals or those whose mental illness endangers others or themselves, it’s just common sense to take those steps,’’ said Nicole Hockley, whose 6-year-old son, Dylan, was slain in the December tragedy.
‘‘These laws have no real impact on the vast majority of gun owners and purchasers who are responsible, law-abiding citizens,’’ added Hockley, who attended the hearing at the State House’s Gardner Auditorium in Boston along with Newtown parent, Mark Barden, whose 7-year-old son, Daniel, was also killed in the massacre.
Menino echoed those remarks, arguing that these laws will help to crack down on crime and gun-related violence which, in Boston, has been on the rise. Since January, Menino said, his city has witnessed 189 shootings, 25 of them fatal, which is an increase from last year, where over the same span of time there were 164 shootings, 21 of them fatal.
“This has nothing to do with gun control, and everything to do with crime control,” said Menino.
And, if to sound like a broken record, Patrick iterated the same argument.
‘‘This is not about taking away anybody’s rights. This is about affirming everybody’s right to live in safety without fear of violence,’’ said the governor.
But Jim Wallace, the president of The Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts, disagreed, telling the Associated Press the majority of the bills would only affect law-abiding gun owners and would do nothing to reduce crime.
‘‘The fact that the government is still looking at us as a potential cause of violence is without a doubt one of the biggest slaps in the face that we lawful gun owners could ever take,’’ said Wallace.
Wallace noted that Massachusetts already has some of the toughest gun laws in the country. Buying a handgun in the Bay State is a 33-step process, explained Wallace, including background checks, paperwork and approval by the local police chief.
Though, he did say that there is common ground on some of the proposals, e.g. a bill that would increase penalties for criminals caught possessing a firearm and another bill that would ensure the mental health records of those adjudicated “mentally defective” or a “danger to themselves or others” are submitted to the federal government’s background check database, NICS.
In the end, one should not be surprised if Massachusetts goes the route of Connecticut, New York, Maryland and Colorado, which have all passed stricter gun laws in the wake of Sandy Hook.