Massachusetts Moves to Regulate Handgun Safety

Article excerpt

They're hidden away in many people's homes. They're products that can kill or maim. And hundreds of unsuspecting children, just horsing around, have fallen prey.

To handguns.

Massachusetts has developed and issued strict guidelines to treat handgu ns as consumer products that must be regulated under the state's consumer protection laws. Bypassing the Legislature in an attempt to devise a powerful tool for combating handgun sales, State Attorney General Scott Harshbarger has proposed rules that would require the guns to be equipped with childproofing devices and be tested to make sure they don't fire accidentally. "We ask of every consumer product that it be reliable and safe. All we're saying is the same standards and warnings ought to apply," Harshbarger said. The regulations take effect next year. Offenders face a fine of up to $5,000 for each violation, said the attorney general's spokesman, Ed Cafasso. Massachusetts is the first state in the nation to regulate handguns under a state consumer protection law, a move that is being watched closely. Gun manufacturers and owners have expressed concern that safety devices may make it more difficult for citizens or police to use the guns to defend themselves. Former White House press secretary James Brady, shot during the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan, applauded the proposal Tuesday at a public hearing on the regulations. "Guns, designed to kill, eliminate the lives of 38,000 people every year, and no regulation requires the gun manufacturer to make safer guns," said Brady, who arrived in a wheelchair. "I can tell you without hesitation it is no fun being a victim. Anything you can do to prevent gun violence . . . from happening to others, especially children, is greatly appreciated," he said. Firearms are the fourth-leading cause of accidental death in children ages 5 to 14, according to the Harvard Injury Control Center. Richard Feldman, executive director of the American Shooting Sports Council - which includes gun manufacturers, distributors and retailers - said gun safety training is the most effective way to prevent gun accidents. …

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