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Local News

December 19, 2012

Newtown tragedy sparks gun debate

The deadly shootings of 20 young children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., has ignited the debate over gun control at both the national and state level.

On the national level, the debate is centered on a proposed reinstatement of the federal assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004.

At the state level, Gov. Deval Patrick is calling for new legislation to make it tougher to obtain weapons. Massachusetts has had an assault weapons ban since 1998, a ban that was reinforced in 2004 when the federal ban expired. Now Patrick is proposing a limit of one handgun purchase a month, a system to allow mental health records to appear when background checks are conducted during a gun purchase, and the closing of loopholes on background checks at gun shows.

“I hope the gun lobby will come and join in this discussion,” Patrick told reporters on Monday, “because I think everybody believes, a lot of us do, that there must be some kind of balance that can be struck between the interests of sportsmen and hunters and the need to keep automatic weapons off the streets.”

The shootings in Newtown may be the tipping point for tighter gun control at the federal level.

“I think something is going to be done,” said Congressman John Tierney of Salem.

That’s in contrast to the legislative inaction that followed recent mass shootings at a mall in Oregon, in a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, and in a Colorado movie theater, along with the 2011 shooting in Arizona that severely injured former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Tierney said he was in meetings yesterday morning with fellow Democrats on the topic of gun control.

“Even the gun enthusiasts in our (Democratic) caucus say something needs to be done,” he said.

“There has to be some common sense to this,” said Tierney, who favors “reasonable” gun control measures while protecting the rights of hunters, sport shooters and those who want to protect themselves. The “slippery slope” notion that any form of gun control will mean an erosion of the second amendment is “passe,” he said.

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