BOSTON (AP) — Stemming gun violence and illegal gun trafficking has been a major topic of discussion in Massachusetts in recent months despite the state’s reputation for having some of the nation’s most stringent laws already in place.
Differences in approach to gun safety issues have emerged between the three Democrats and two Republicans seeking their party nominations in Tuesday’s primary elections.
Massachusetts, Berwick said, should be proud to have some of the nation’s toughest gun laws, but the root causes of violence lie in poverty, inequality and lack of opportunity.
“Gun violence is a serious public health issue,” said the pediatrician and former federal health care administrator. “Guns killed over 30,000 Americans in 2013, and firearm homicide is the second leading cause of death for people under 19 in America.”
The recent gun law passed by the Legislature was a step in the right direction, the Democrat said, but he would also push for a one-per-month limit on gun purchases and “smart
gun” technologies such as fingerprint locks. Berwick also promised to work with other regional governors to stem illegal gun trafficking.
The state treasurer has taken Democratic rival Martha Coakley to task in a TV ad and on the campaign trail for not supporting Gov. Deval Patrick’s proposal to limit individuals to no more than one gun purchase per month.
“That’s 12 guns a year,” said Grossman. That’s enough to protect yourself, hunt, and exercise your Second Amendment rights.”
The Legislature did not include the one-gun-per-month provision in a sweeping gun safety bill it passed over the summer. Grossman supported the bill, but he also said
Massachusetts should require firearms manufacturers to install “smart gun” technology to keep weapons from falling into the wrong hands.
Grossman would also seek creation of an interstate task force to address illegal gun trafficking.
The attorney general said she would push for a federal assault weapons ban, universal background checks and closing the gun show loopholes, calling such efforts “critical to stemming the tide of illegal guns currently coming into Massachusetts from states with looser gun laws.”
Coakley has been faulted by Democratic rival Steven Grossman for not supporting a proposal offered by Gov. Deval Patrick to limit individual gun purchases to one per month.
The one-gun-a-month limit isn’t necessary in Massachusetts and the state should instead focus on gun trafficking and keeping firearms away from mentally unstable people, Coakley responded.
She praised a recently passed gun safety bill, including a provision that gives police chiefs more discretion in the issuance of permits for rifles and shotguns.
The 2010 Republican nominee for governor said he supported the gun safety bill recently approved by the Democratic-controlled Legislature and signed by Gov. Deval Patrick.
Baker said the new law satisfied what he considered the three major issues surrounding gun safety: Participation by Massachusetts in a national mental health database; increased penalties for crimes committed with guns, and more focus on gun trafficking.
“And the fact that you have the gun safety people and the gun owners folks for the most part reasonably content with this legislation, I think is a good thing,” Baker said during a debate with GOP opponent Mark Fisher on WBUR-FM.
Baker has dismissed a proposal from Patrick and other Democrats to limit individual gun purchases to one per month, saying he agreed with critics who considered it more a gimmick than effective policy.
Fisher, a tea party-affiliated business owner, calls himself a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights and was the only major party candidate to oppose passage of the gun safety law that was recently approved by the Legislature.
“Massachusetts has some of the strictest gun laws in the country,” said Fisher. “I strongly oppose any new gun legislation.”
Fisher did find one thing he liked in the new law, a provision that ended a state mandate that people have a firearms identification card to purchase pepper spray. Fisher said his own 83-year-old mother had to get an FID card before she could legally carry pepper spray.