Even Massachusetts, with some of the strongest gun laws in the country, has come under increasing pressure from the gun lobby in recent years. The most prominent example is what happened to Governor Patrick’s call for the Legislature to limit gun purchases to one a month, to halt “straw” purchases by people who want to illegally resell weapons on the street. In 2010, after a spate of youth killings on the streets of Boston, the Rev. Ray Hammond spoke out in support of the legislation, asking, “What will it take? Do we have to have more of our 14-year-olds shot?”
But the proposal never went anywhere. Jim Wallace of the Northborough-based Gun Owners Action League called the proposal “the Lawful Citizens Imprisonment Act,” because it would punish people who bought more than one firearm per month. In fact, the proposal is a common-sense way to separate those with interests in hunting, self-defense, or collecting from those stockpiling arms for any reason — including to amass the kind of arsenals that helped enable the attacks in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo., this year. It may be true that some hunters or collectors could be inconvenienced if they wanted to buy multiple guns, but they could learn to spread out their purchases.
Patrick hopes that the Newtown tragedy will prompt the Legislature to pass his one-gun-a-month measure now. In addition to limiting purchases, the bill would finally enroll the state in a national mental health registry for federal firearms background checks. Both measures would help protect schoolchildren and other potential victims from Newtown-style attacks.