Massachusetts Lawmakers Hold Final Public Hearing Before Crafting Gun Law

A Massachusetts legislative committee held a hearing at the statehouse Friday on gun bills. It’s the last public meeting on the issue before lawmakers draft a final bill.

The auditorium was packed with hundreds of people. Some wore National Rifle Association caps, while others carried signs that read “Stop Gun Violence.”

Gov. Deval Patrick testified in favor of his bill to require Massachusetts courts give mental health records to the FBI, allowing other states access to the records before issuing gun licenses.

“This information will only be used for the purposes of firearm licensing and make sure that Massachusetts is aware of a resident’s full history when it’s time to license them for a firearm,” Patrick said.

Some mental health advocates worry that submitting records could invade patients’ privacy rights or discourage them from seeking mental health treatment.

About 60 gun bills are pending before the legislature.  The proposals include stricter sentences for gun crimes, establishing a registry of all gun offenders in Massachusetts and requiring gun owners to buy liability insurance.

Lawmakers hope to hammer out a comprehensive bill this fall.

Nicole Hockley was among those testifying. Her six-year-old son Dylan was killed in the massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school.

“He was autistic and he was a beautiful little boy who just loved the simple things in life,” Hockley said. “He loved the moon, he loved the color purple, and he loved garlic bread.  That was happiness for him.  And he died in the arms of his special education teacher and she died trying to protect him.”

Hockley said what happened in Newtown could happen in Massachusetts. She asked the legislature to pass tighter gun controls.

Also testifying was Jim Wallace, the executive director of the Gun Owners’ Action League. He urged the panel not to penalize responsible gun owners.

“You know, one of the things I hear all the time is that we have to prevent access of guns from unlawful people,” Wallace said. “We really need to deal with unlawful people being on the streets themselves, because they’re going to find access to something that will cause harm.”