Massachusetts already has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation. But in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School and Colorado movie theater mass shootings, there is pressure to make these laws even tougher.
State lawmakers in the Bay State are preparing to file this month a comprehensive bill to re-work existing gun laws, reports the AP. Some features expected to be part of the new bill include:
- Keeping guns out of the hands out the mentally ill. As you may know, the individuals responsible for the recent high-profile mass shootings have suffered from some mental illness or incapacity. However, there is no effective screening process in place to keep firearms out of the hands of those with serious mental illness. It’s believed that lawmakers will try to require that individuals seeking a gun license sign a waiver allowing authorities to access their mental health records.
- Requiring gun owners to purchase liability insurance. Gun owners may need to purchase insurance to cover things like accidental shootings as well as criminal acts committed with the firearm.
- Updating the list of firearms and ammunition that may be sold. Right now there is a ban on purchasing assault weapons in Massachusetts. However, the list of prohibited guns and ammunition is likely to expand with this new bill.
Not unexpectedly, gun rights advocates are not happy about the proposed bill. Their claim is that the government is focusing too much attention on law-abiding gun owners and not enough attention on criminals and those who acquire guns through illicit channels. Gun advocates suggest that instead of burdening all gun owners with these proposed restrictions, the government simply develop a ‘‘prohibited persons list’’ that would make it easier for police to determine if a person can legally carry a firearm. This list would include people like felons, illegal aliens, and others.
Current Massachusetts Gun Laws
As the debate rages on about the future of Massachusetts gun laws, now is a good time to review current Massachusetts gun laws.
Types of Firearms Licenses. All residents need to apply for a gun license to own a firearm. Local police departments issue these permits and there are different permits needed for different types of weapons:
- Class A This license allows someone to purchase and carry both large and non-large capacity ammunition, handguns, rifles, and shotguns. This license also allows someone to carry concealed weapons.
- Class B: This license permits someone to purchase and carry non-large capacity handguns, as well as all rifles and shotguns.
- Firearms Identification Card: (FID) This license allows someone to purchase and carry non-large capacity rifles, shotguns, and ammunition only. Restricted FIDs are also available for mace and pepper spray.
Application Process and Fees: To obtain a Class A or Class B license, the applicant must be at least 21 years of age. To obtain a FID, the applicant must be at least 18. The fees are $100 for each of these licenses.
Background Check.Applicants must undergo a background check that will look into things like criminal history, residency status, and whether a person has a history of using controlled substances.
Educational Requirements:To apply for a license, the applicant must satisfy either of two educational courses:
- Firearms Safety Course: This is a one-day class on firearms safety.
- Hunter Education Course: This longer 15-hour training and education is taught by the state Division of Fisheries & Wildlife. There is a greater focus on hunting and the environment in this course, as well as firearm safety.
- Class A: An individual can transport a handgun personally if the handgun is under his direct control. If this is not the case, the handgun must be unloaded and in a locked case.
- Class B: The handgun must be unloaded and in a locked case.
- Large capacity rifles and shotguns: These must be unloaded and in a locked case.
- Non-Large capacity rifles and shotguns: These must be unloaded, but do not have to be in a locked case.
Storage of Firearms. Firearms must be stored in a locked container or be equipped with some other safety device.