Gun owners and gun rights activists are taking aim at a proposed gun control bill spurred by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and which is now making its way through the State House.
More than 100 activists rallied outside the State House on Wednesday holding "Don't tread on me" flags and chanting "kill the bill." The rally against the reduction of gun violence bill was organized by the Gun Owners' Action League.
"We are working very hard behind the scenes to try to come up with an actual crime bill instead of a bill that goes after us," said Jim Wallace, executive director of GOAL. "There is no Massachusetts gun control success story. It's an absolute myth. So we need to make sure that our message is loud and clear — our rights are not up for grabs."
The bill, proposed in May by House Speaker Robert DeLeo, would require private gun sales to take place at a licensed dealer, allow the state to comply with federal background database for gun purchases and give police chiefs more discretion when licensing people for a rifle or shotgun. The latter aspect of the bill is one of the more contentious points of it.
"To pass more laws for the sake of patting ourselves on the back to make us feel like we're doing something good for the public is not what we need to do," said state Rep. Matthew Beaton of Shrewsbury.
DeLeo and proponents of the bill said lawmakers took time crafting it to get it right and believe it's a comprehensive piece of legislation.
During a recent Public Safety Committee meeting, the bill just barely advanced with members voting 7 to 6 to report it favorably. It was moved on to the House Ways and Means Committee last week.
Wallace said the bill doesn't go after criminals and that his group would be open to amending the bill, but that as it is now, the bill should not be enacted.
When asked about recent school shootings and that the bill was an outcome following the push for reform after the Newtown shooting, Wallace said the focus should be on mental health rather than gun control.
"I've been telling people in the [State House] they probably need to keep looking at a mental health bill separate from firearms," he said.
After the 30-minute rally, Wallace reminded those heading into the State House to talk to legislators that they would be going through a metal detector and leave their guns elsewhere.
Material from the State House News Service was used in this report.