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Gun plan triggers reaction

Item Photo By PAULA MULLER

Saugus Police Chief Domenic DiMella with papers that must be filled out for a gun permit.

By GAYLA CAWLEY 

Reaction was mixed locally to President Barack Obama speech Tuesday unveiling his plan to reduce gun violence in the country.

Former Lynn Mayor J. Warren Cassidy, who was also the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, dismissed Obama’s plan as a political move. However, Saugus Police Chief Domenic DiMella said he agrees that expanding background checks, which Obama is seeking, will help keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people.

In his nation-wide address, Obama called for expanding background checks on those people looking to purchase a firearm. Under current law, only federally licensed gun dealers must conduct background checks on buyers. The president said that at gun shows, websites and flea markets, sellers often decline to register as licensed dealers.

“The problem is some gun sellers have been operating under a different set of rules,” Obama said. “A violent felon can purchase the exact same weapon (as at gun stores) over the Internet with no background check, no questions asked. A recent study found that about one in 30 people looking to buy guns on one website had criminal records.”

The president’s other plans include hiring 200 more Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents and investigators to conduct background checks. He plans to do more to help those suffering from mental illness to get the help that they need and ensure that federal mental health records are submitted to the background check process.

Obama also plans to boost gun safety technology, as he said many gun injuries and deaths are the result of legal guns that were stolen, misused or discharged accidentally.

Cassidy said he doesn’t see Obama’s proposed regulations as gun safety measures.

“He’s talking about closing loopholes on how guns can be transferred or sold and keeping them out of the hands of criminals,” Cassidy said.

Cassidy retired from the NRA in 1991. In addition to his title as executive vice-president of the organization at the time of his retirement, he was also the CEO.

Cassidy said no matter what the rules are, criminals will find a way to steal guns.

“I don’t think it will cut down on any crimes,” Cassidy said of the proposed regulations. “It’s more of a political move than anything, frankly.”

Cassidy said he hasn’t seen anything that would deter any serious criminal who might buy a firearm on the black market or break into a store and steal a gun.

Cassidy said what those new regulations would do is make it harder for a father to hand down a gun to his son, or for a neighbor to sell a firearm to another neighbor.

When listening to the radio Tuesday morning, Cassidy said he heard that where there is stricter gun laws, there is less crime. He said it’s actually the “exact opposite,” as the areas that have the strictest gun control laws also have the most murder. He said the areas with more lenient gun laws have fewer gun crimes, which is “what’s frustrating on my part.”

Saugus Police Chief Domenic DiMella said he does agree with limiting access to guns.

“I do believe that criminals always seem to find ways to get guns,” DiMella said. “I believe that it won’t solve the problem but I do agree with background checks.”

DiMella said background checks make sure that guns are given to responsible citizens. He said he’s also in favor of putting money into mental health services, as “a lot of things that have happened are from people with some mental health issues.”

DiMella said he has seen an increase requests for gun permits in the last year or so, which he believes could be a response to “matters that are happening in the world and around the country that people see and are nervous with.”

“They’re looking for some form of protection,” DiMella said.

Peabody Police Detective Michael Crane said gun licensing has increased considerably throughout the past year in his department, but wouldn’t comment specifically on Obama’s speech as he hadn’t reviewed all of the data presented.

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