BOSTON — Governor Deval Patrick today announced that he will file gun safety legislation to enhance background checks, close licensing loopholes, reduce access to high-powered rounds of ammunition and prevent illegal firearm possession.
Patrick will also include a $5 million increase in his fiscal 2014 budget for Department of Mental Health programs that promote public safety and mental health treatment.
Patrick said his proposal coincides with legislative efforts across the country to strengthen gun laws following the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
The legislation would:
- Enhance background checks by bringing Massachusetts into compliance with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. State courts would be required to transmit relevant mental health records to the Massachusetts criminal justice information system so that the federal government could include this information in a national registry all states use before issuing gun licenses.
- Close an existing loophole in order to require gun purchasers to undergo background checks at gun shows.
- Reduce access to high-powered rounds of ammunition.
- Limit the number of weapon sales by licensed dealers to not more than one per licensed individual a month. The legislation also requires private gun sales to occur at the business of a licensed dealer so that the sale can be tracked electronically and prohibits furnishing a machine gun to any person under the age of 21.
- Amend the existing law addressing weapons on school grounds by creating tiered punishments for possessing different weapons on school property and giving police the authority to arrest without a warrant in order to quickly diffuse a dangerous situation on school property.
- Create four new crimes: assault and battery by means of a firearm, assault by means of a firearm, being a felon in possession of a firearm and commission of a violent misdemeanor while in possession of a weapon. The bill would also increase the minimum penalties for third and fourth offenses of illegal possession and carrying of firearms, shotguns, rifles, and machine guns and increases the maximum punishment for a second offense.
The increased mental health funding would include $2 million for mobile teams to respond to individuals in a mental health crisis and to provide specialized mental health services from trained responders. It also includes $1 million for mental health training in the schools,$900,000 for crisis response training and $500,000 for a psychiatric program for children.
Patrick will also seek an additional $100,000 for to the Center for Early Detection and Response to Risk program and provide $500,000 for a public education campaign to increase awareness of mental health services.