Linsky taking new slant on gun control

Calls for liability insurance, storage at gun clubs, mental health disclosures

A KEY HOUSE LAWMAKER said he plans to file legislation shortly that would require Massachusetts gun owners to obtain liability insurance and store any large capacity rifles at licensed gun clubs instead of at their homes.

Rep. David Linsky, who called a meeting on gun control last week at the State House that attracted nearly half the members of the Legislature, said his bill would also require gun license applicants to allow access to their mental health records so local police chiefs  can determine their fitness to carry a weapon.

The bill, according to Linsky, would also give more discretion to police chiefs to reject license applicants and raise the existing 6.25 percent sales tax on firearms and ammunition, with the additional revenue going into a trust fund to pay for mental health and victim services. The Natick Democrat declined to say how big of an increase in the sales tax he will seek.

Existing Massachusetts gun laws are already regarded as some of the toughest in the nation, but Linsky, echoing concerns raised by House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray, said the state’s laws need to be improved.

“There are lots of loopholes that need to be filled,” Linsky said.

Jim Wallace, executive director of the Gun Owners Action League, described some of the concepts in Linsky’s bill as “kind of interesting,” but questioned the premise underlying the debate. He said there were 1.5 million licensed gun owners in Massachusetts in 1998, the last time lawmakers passed weapons legislation. Now, he says, there are fewer than 300,000 licensed gun owners. But Wallace says gun violence has increased, not abated.

“So what’s the end game? Are you trying to reduce crime or just trying to get rid of gun ownership?” he asked. “They have to start focusing on the bad guys,” he said, urging lawmakers to develop a list of people who should not be allowed to obtain gun permits or buy weapons.

Momentum  to revamp the state’s gun laws has been building since the Newtown, Connecticut, shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 20 children and a number of teachers dead. Both DeLeo and Murray raised gun control in their initial speeches last week to the current Legislature, and Linsky said he is already working with Jack McDevitt, an associate dean at Northeastern University, who is the speaker’s designated point person on the issue.

Some of the provisions in Linsky’s bill, including the liability insurance requirement and a higher sales tax, would make owning a gun more expensive. Others could make it more difficult to obtain a license. The mental health provision is patterned after laws in Hawaii that require gun license applicants to disclose any mental health issues and sign a release allowing officials access to their medical records.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Wallace said Linsky’s gun storage provision would probably be the first of its kind in the nation. It would require the owners of large capacity firearms,  those capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition (or five rounds for shotguns), to store the weapons at a licensed gun club instead of at home.

More than 270,000 Massachusetts residents currently hold so-called Class A licenses to carry large capacity firearms. Nearly 5,000 Boston residents have Class A licenses, or 1.8 percent of the total.