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Patrick to renew push for tougher gun laws

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said today that he will renew his push for tougher gun laws in Massachusetts in the aftermath of the massacre at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school.

Patrick said he spoke today to House and Senate leaders about acting on legislation he has introduced, which would, among other changes, forbid buyers from purchasing more than one gun a month.

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The bill has languished in the Legislature for at least two years, but the governor said he wants lawmakers to take it up when they return to formal sessions on Beacon Hill next month.

“I expect and hope there will be more support in the coming session than we’ve had in the past, and it’s a shame that it takes a tragedy like Newtown for that to happen,” Patrick told reporters after his weekly meeting with Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Robert DeLeo.

Patrick said he also wants Congress to enact a federal assault weapons ban, similar to the one in Massachusetts.

“No matter what we do at the state level – and we should do all we can – we are still a nation, and not a confederacy of states, and we have free movement among the states,” Patrick said. “So this is a national issue and there is some need for a national response.”

Patrick administration officials say the Bushmaster .223-caliber rifle that the Connecticut shooter allegedly used cannot be legally purchased in Massachusetts because it is prohibited under the state’s assault weapons ban.

But Patrick says there are other state-level measures that need to be taken to ensure firearms do not fall into the wrong hands. The one-gun-a-month restriction is intended to stop “straw buyers” who purchase a large number of guns and then sell them illegally on the black market, Patrick administration officials say.

In addition to enacting that limit, the governor’s bill would enroll Massachusetts in a national mental health registry for firearm background checks, and impose registration requirements for firearm purchases at gun shows.

Patrick has introduced the bill since at least 2010, but it has never made it to his desk. The governor expressed hope that the Newtown massacre would spur a fresh look at the measure.

“I hope the gun lobby will join us in this discussion, because I think everybody believes – a lot of us do – that there must be some kind of balance that can be struck between the interests of sportsmen and hunters and the need to keep automatic weapons and large magazines, with all these rounds and the kind of ammunition that was used in Newtown, off the streets,” Patrick said.

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