Massachusetts can be justly proud of its strong gun laws, but that attitude shouldn’t lead to self-congratulation or, worse, complacency. As many states consider tighter gun-control regulations after the Newtown, Conn., massacre last month, Massachusetts has work to do, too. Lawmakers should start by fixing two glaring weaknesses in the Commonwealth’s gun policies: Massachusetts withholds too much information from the public about gun ownership in the state, and lags behind other states in cooperating with the national registry designed to prevent gun sales to dangerous individuals.
Improving the state’s cooperation with the registry, an FBI database used to conduct background checks on potential gun buyers, is the most obvious weakness lawmakers must fix. Unlike most other states, Massachusetts does not regularly forward mental-health records to the registry. After the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, which might have been prevented if Virginia had sent the mental-health records of shooter Seung-Hui Cho to the database, many states stepped up efforts to share such files. Governor Patrick has proposed forwarding the records of those confined in a state facility for mental issues. That’s a step in the right direction. Still, his plan leaves a large loophole by not covering records for mentally ill patients under private treatment, or who have not yet been confined.