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Local NRA group calls for state to review ‘gun-free zones’

The local affiliate of the National Rifle Association is calling for a statewide review of properties and facilities where people are barred from carrying weapons for the purposes of self defense, arguing that existing laws may not fully protect the public.

Following the shooting in Chattanooga, Tenn., that killed four Marines — one of whom had ties to Massachusetts — and a sailor, the Gun Owners’ Action League is pushing for a study of potential “soft targets” and “gunfree zones” that could be vulnerable to attack.

“If you look around the country . . . it’s pretty evident that murderers and potential terrorists are attacking soft targets,” said Jim Wallace, executive director of the Gun Owners’ Action League. “Are there laws or policies in place that we need to address to make sure we don’t have soft targets? Those are the things we think the commission should look at.”

State Representative John Velis, a Westfield Democrat, has introduced “An Act Relative to ‘Gun Free’ Zones,” which would set up a special commission on the issue. Its findings could lay the groundwork for future legislation related to the state’s gun laws and policies.


“If you look at what’s going on in the news, we have terror organizations encouraging supporters — lone-wolf attackers — to go after government employees; and we know they are capable of pulling something off,” Velis said. “The bill is about creating a commission to identify those targets.”

Velis said it is premature to cite specific threat zones at this point.

“The bill is modest in that it’s about creating a commission to look at these so-called ‘gun free zones,’ ” he said. “Let’s determine where the threats exist, and respond with legislation.”

If passed, the commission would include one person from the Gun Owners’ Action League; the colonel of the State Police, a law enforcement firearms instructor, a private security expert, and a counterterrorism expert.


“Citizens of all walks of life, whether in uniform or not, should have the right to defend themselves and others in any place they have the right to be,” Wallace said in a statement. “It is our hope that this legislation be passed immediately so work can begin to make the Commonwealth a safer place.”

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.