By Gintautas Dumcius
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE -- The House on Wednesday passed a bill aimed at preventing gun violence that now goes to the Senate with just 22 days remaining on the formal legislating calendar.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo said the bill, which was revised after he first introduced it in May, picked up support from anti-gun violence activists and gun rights proponents. It passed on a 112-38 vote.
"When other states are either addressing or had addressed legislation in a rapid fashion and produced legislation which was found to be unconstitutional, or they couldn't even get it passed, we in Massachusetts took our time and in doing so produced a very good piece of legislation and a piece of legislation that ultimately led to us support from two groups of people who for years have been on opposite sides of the aisle when it came to gun violence," DeLeo said after the vote, which occurred around 8 p.m.
DeLeo said there is "impetus by all three people" - himself, Gov. Deval Patrick, and Senate President Therese Murray - to get a gun bill passed into law by the end of July.
DeLeo, a Winthrop Democrat, filed the original bill in May after a task force offered recommendations in the wake of the 2012 shooting inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Rep. George Peterson, a Grafton Republican and a longtime advocate for gun rights who helped negotiate many of the changes made to the bill, was the lone Republican to vote in favor of the legislation (H 4278), while the executive director of the Gun Owners Action League, Jim Wallace, said in a statement that the bill was "apples to oranges" compared to what was first proposed in late May.
A spokesman for House Minority Leader Brad Jones said the Republican leader's opposition to the bill had less to do with its substance than with the lack of time Democrats afford members of the House to review the legislation before they were asked to cast a vote. The bill emerged from the House Ways and Means Committee at 10 a.m. on Wednesday morning.
GOAL had opposed many aspects of the original bill, but on Wednesday said they were "neutral" on the final version.
Peterson said the original bill was "flawed," but after a number of changes, including provisions that will help track illegal guns, he could, and did, support the final version.
Under the bill, a police chief can deny a firearm identification card (FID) "if there is credible information that the applicant poses a safety risk," according to DeLeo's office.
The bill allows licensed gun dealers to access criminal offender record information (CORI) and obtain a CORI check when hiring employees.
The bill also sets up a criminal firearms and trafficking unit within the State Police, a measure pushed for by GOAL.
"The goal of this legislation is not to have the toughest gun laws in the nation," Rep. David Linsky (D-Natick) said. "The goal of this legislation is to have the most effective gun laws in the nation."
The bill directs the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services to set up an online portal for private sales, increases fines for failure to report a lost or stolen firearm, and sets up penalties for gun dealers who also fail to report such an occurrence.
School districts would be required to have a school resource officer for security purposes and schools would be required to develop plans to address students' mental health needs.
Separately, the bill allows minors to hunt under the supervision of an individual with a FID card or a license to carry (LTC).
Democrats who voted against the bill included Reps. Denise Andrews of Orange, James Arciero of Westford, Thomas Calter of Kingston, Stephen DiNatale of Fitchburg, Diana DiZoglio of Methuen, Michael Finn of West Springfield, Anne Gobi of Spencer, James Miceli of Wilmington, Dennis Rosa of Leominster, John Velis of Westfield and Jonathan Zlotnik of Gardner.