Do You Agree With Gov. Patrick's Proposals to Restrict Guns and Boost Mental Health Services?
The governor unveiled legislation Wednesday to strengthen gun laws in Massachusetts while increasing funding for mental health services. Sensible or reactionary?
Are new proposed laws regarding guns in Massachusetts and mental health services sensible and pragmatic steps, or reactionary measures that won't increase safety?
Gov. Deval Patrick introduced new legislation Wednesday along those lines in the wake of the school shootings in Newtown, Conn.
"I am encouraged by the palpable consensus in our Legislature that the time for action is now. All of us must pull in the same direction to bring about real change in this state and across the country," Patrick said in a press release.
The bill would, among other things:
- Close a loophole that now allows people to buy guns at gun shows without undergoing a background check
- Limits the number of weapon sales by licensed dealers to not more than one per licensed individual a month
Punishments for crimes involving guns would also sharpen, with tiered punishments for possessing different weapons on school property and giving police the authority to arrest without a warrant in order to quickly defuse a dangerous situation on school property.
Patrick's bill would enhance background checks by requiring courts to transmit all relevant mental health records to the state's criminal justice information system, which would result in this information being included in a national registry that all states access before issuing gun licenses.
The state Department of Mental Health would also get a 3.3 percent increase in the governor's fiscal 2014 budget proposal, with funding for team to travel to locations with individuals in crisis; training for middle and high school personnel in recognizing and addressing mental illness in students; and more funding for crisis intervention training for first responders, among other initiatives.
Gun ownership advocates are not happy; they have argued that stricter gun control laws have not reduced gun violence, but instead just places additional burdens on lawful gun owners. Jim Wallace, president of the Gun Owners Action League, the NRA affiliate in Massachusetts, told WBUR that current Massachusetts gun laws that passed in 1998 have been an "abject failure" and that they're "complicated and convoluted" for lawful gun owners to understand.
"What we know here in Massachusetts is that in 1998 when the gun control act was passed, we had 1.5 million licensed gun owners in this state," Wallace told WBUR. "We are now down to about 230,000 to 250,000. And the sad part is while our numbers have been reduced by 85 percent, gun crime has increased by 200 percent."
Wallace added that the laws and lawmakers are "focusing way too much on the good guys and not nearly enough on the bad guys."
What do you think of the governor's proposal? Are these pragmatic reforms, or will they be ineffective in reducing gun violence? Tell us what you think in the comments below.