Gun Owners Action League slams work of state gun task force

hunting rifle
Massachuestts’ largest gun owners group has its own ideas about how to reduce gun violence. Credit: Getty Images

The state’s largest gun owners group released a critique Tuesday of a task force’s recommendations to reduce gun violence, concluding that experts appointed by Speaker Robert DeLeo, who concluded the state’s gun laws are among the strongest in the nation, failed to recognize the inability of those laws to stem the rising tide of gun violence even during a decline in the number of licensed gun owners.

“The report delivered last week fails to recognize the failure of Massachusetts gun laws to reduce crime or respect the rights of lawful citizens,” Jim Wallace, executive director of the Gun Owners’ Action League, said in a statement.

“Since 1998, gun violence in the Commonwealth has increased over 200%. If you fail to recognize the symptoms of the failure of the Massachusetts gun law, you cannot properly recommend a legislative cure.”

The report describes the state’s gun laws as “convoluted and confusing” and says the task force relied upon “flawed testimony that attempts to paint the Commonwealth’s laws in a positive light.”

The report from GOAL said the organization supports some recommendations by the task force, including no further restrictions on magazine capacity, a streamlining of the license renewal process and the elimination of Class B licenses, which allow people to carry non-concealed non-high-capacity weapons but are seldom sought in Massachusetts.

GOAL, however, is opposed to the new “suitability” standard that the task force recommended that would allow the police chief to determine whether applicants for gun licenses and firearm identification cards are suitable to own a weapon. “It has always been GOAL’s contention that the ‘suitability’ clause is unconstitutional as it stands.

“There should never be an instance where citizens should have to prove their suitability or need to exercise a civil right. As such, the suitability clause should be stricken as a whole,” the report states.

GOAL said it is willing to work with the Legislature to more clearly define suitability to own a gun. The gun rights group said it supports the state’s efforts to reduce gun violence, but said that goal could be more effectively achieved through current legislation pending before the Joint Committee on Public Safety (H 3264) that also respects the rights of lawful gun owners.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo has not put a definitive timetable on legislation he hopes to propose that will incorporate some, if not all, of the recommendations put forward by the task force, but has said he hopes to do it soon enough to allow time to negotiate with the Senate and finalize a bill before the Legislature recess in July.

GOAL called the proposal to require all private gun sales to go through a licensed dealer a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist because in Massachusetts background checks are already required for all sales. The group also said it opposes preventing convicted felons from receiving an FID card, suggesting the proposal should be modified to allow nonviolent felons to receive a permit.

“It is also important to recognize there is no such thing as a ‘gun show loophole’ in the Commonwealth. Licensed retailers at gun shows in Massachusetts are required to follow the same procedures that take part in their places of business,” the GOAL report said. “For the majority of the gun shows in Massachusetts, both the Executive Office of Public Safety and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives have a public presence to assist retailers and customers.”

GOAL also took issue with a number of sections in the task force report it said were unclear and needed to be rewritten.

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