Cape Lawmakers Receptive to Gun Violence Report Recommendations

By Lauren Dezenski
BU News Service

A Cape Cod task force published modest recommendations on gun control Monday, many of which focus on tweaking  existing regulations rather than laying down strict laws against gun use.

“The things that it does not do is probably the best news for me,” said Rep. Randy Hunt, R-Sandwich, a former police officer and gun owner who was pleased the report did not mention restrictions on the number of guns a qualified person can buy at one time.

The Committee to Reduce Firearm Violence released its report a full year after it was appointed by House Speaker Robert DeLeo. The panel issued 44 recommendations aimed at reducing and preventing gun accidents, homicides, suicides and assaults in the Commonwealth.

Panel Chairman Jack McDevitt, Director of Northeastern University’s Institute on Race and Justice and Center for Criminal Justice Policy Research, said the task force’s aim was to find simple steps to improve safety in the Commonwealth.

“One of the things we did was we said ‘Are there ways to make it better? What can we tweak, make little changes to make the situation better?’” McDevitt said at an afternoon news conference.

Rep. Brian Mannal, D-Barnstable, a member of the Joint Committee on Public Safety, said many of the task force recommendations made sense, including the suggestion to eliminate Class B licenses that allows someone to carry an unconcealed weapon.

“In this day and age, I think you’d be shocked to see someone walking around with an unconcealed weapon,” Mannal said in an interview. “The intention for the initial provision was meant for hunters coming back from hunting, but that’s not necessarily the case now. I think that getting rid of this class will improve public safety and put people at ease.”

Mannal said he also supported the recommendations to require firearm safety and training for licensed gun owners, including firing a weapon at a licensed range.

“That makes sense,” Mannal said. “You shouldn’t get a permit without having fired a live gun.”

Mannal, a gun owner himself, said he is looking forward to his committee ironing out details with restricting licenses to those with mental health issues.

Hunt said he was pleased that the committee did not recommend restrictions such as stricter limits on magazine capacity, and limiting purchases to one gun per month.

Gov. Deval Patrick introduced one-gun-a-month legislation in 2010, but the measure did not pass.

Among other issues addressed by the task force were the discrepancies between municipal, state and federal laws.

Currently, local law enforcement officials decide whether or not to issue a gun license to an individual, which gives the holder the lawful ability to carry a concealed weapon. The committee recommended creating a statewide set of guidelines so an individual’s eligibility to own a gun would not differ between municipalities, as it does now.

The committee also recommended that Massachusetts align with the National Instant Background Check System, a national database with mental health and substance abuse records that would disqualify a person on the list from owning a gun.

The report also called for schools to develop more comprehensive safety plans in the event of school shootings as well as expanding mental health services in schools.

Mannal said it would likely take his committee until the end of February to go through the recommendations. He expects it will be months until a bill reaches the House floor.

“This is not the final word,” Mannal said. “There are probably 15 different laws that need to be changed. It’s a complex issue and will require further work by the Legislature.”