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The BBC's Paul Reynolds
"The movement towards greater gun control is gaining momentum at state level"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 4 April, 2000, 18:11 GMT 19:11 UK
US states impose tight gun controls
gun
The laws are stricter than those sought by federal government
Massachusetts and Maryland have become the first American states to impose strict controls on handguns.

The new regulations, which include a requirement for childproof locks, go well beyond measures sought by the US federal government.

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  • Massachusetts decided on Monday that handguns will now be subject to consumer product safety laws, like toy guns and teddy bears.

    The regulations, which survived court challenges, effectively ban cheap pistols known as "Saturday Night Specials".

    They require all handguns sold in the state to include child-proofing measures, tamper-proof serial numbers and safety warnings.

    Inspection

    Massachusetts Attorney-General Tom Reilly promised that within 15 days inspectors from his office would fan out to the state's 700 gun dealers to make sure they were complying with the new regulations.

    He promised that court proceedings against violators would begin in the next 60 days.

    locks
    Newly produced guns will include trigger locks
    Mr Reilly said he had been in contact with attorneys-general in 34 other states who have the same authority to decide to apply consumer protection laws to handguns.

    Among the states in talks with Massachusetts are California, Connecticut, Michigan and New York.

    Trigger locks

    Also on Monday, the Maryland House of Representatives approved a bill requiring external trigger locks on newly sold handguns.

    It also prohibits violent juvenile offenders from owning a handgun until the age of 30 and requires manufacturers to provide ballistic fingerprints of shell casings on new weapons.

    No other states have approved such measures, but Maryland governor Parris Glendening predicted that six to 12 states would move forward on similar legislation within 18 months.

    "Today we set a new agenda for gun safety, not only for Maryland but for the entire nation. We are raising the bar against gun violence," the governor said after the vote.

    'Tyranny'

    Gun bill opponents, including Republican House Delegate Anthony O'Donnell, complained that the measures threatened to infringe on gun owners while doing little to improve safety.

    "This bill, in my opinion, contains the worst kind of tyranny a government can foist on its citizens ... because it is false hope," Mr O'Donnell said just before the vote was taken.

    The Gun Owners' Action League also said the new enforcement in Massachusetts was unnecessary because strict federal and state regulations were already in place.

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    17 Mar 00 | Americas
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