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.
“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.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.