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Massachusetts Imposes Tough New Regulations on Handguns

By Pamela Ferdinand

Washington Post -- BOSTON

The Massachusetts attorney general announced Monday that his office will begin using its consumer protection authority to enforce the most comprehensive handgun safety regulations in the nation, putting unprecedented pressure on the gun industry to reform itself.

The regulations, which go into effect immediately, essentially govern firearms the same as any consumer product from hair dryers to toasters to automobiles. They ban the sale of so-called cheap handguns -- sometimes called “Saturday Night Specials” -- and require all handguns sold in Massachusetts to include built-in child-proofing mechanisms, tamper-resistant serial numbers and safety warnings similar to those found on cigarette packs.

The new rules prohibit the sale of handguns without state-approved trigger-locks and, for semi-automatic handguns, devices that indicate whether a gun is loaded. Suppliers are required to explain to customers how to safely handle and store handguns and use safety devices.

Starting Monday, state officials and investigators will begin inspecting about 700 federally licensed gun dealers in Massachusetts and will issue warnings against the sale of guns that do not comply with the tough new standards. Violators will be subject to a civil penalty of up to a $5,000 fine for each violation, loss of their license to sell firearms and possible additional charges.

“If they want to do business in Massachusetts, they have to play by our rules -- rules that emphasize safety,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly, flanked by several state representatives and gun control advocates at a news conference. “We’re imposing these regulations, and we’re going to enforce them right now. They are not going to have any time.”

With the gun industry specifically exempted by Congress from federal Consumer Product Safety Commission guidelines, gun control advocates said enforcement of the restrictions in Massachusetts under state law add a significant dimension to the ongoing gun control debate should other attorneys general follow suit, as expected.

Thirty cities and counties in 20 states have sued gun manufacturers and dealers. Monday night, Maryland legislators were expected to give final approval to a bill that would make it the state to require built-in locks on all new handguns.