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Anti-Gun Groups Petition Legislature To Ban Handguns

By Steven M. Heller

A coalition of citizens' groups led by Middlesex County Sheriff John Buckley yesterday filed an initiative petition with Massachusetts Secretary of State Paul Guzzi that would ban handguns in Massachusetts.

Buckley said yesterday the measure "would not be a cure-all" for crime, but said it would "measurably reduce deaths" from the "deadly handgun."

If Guzzi certifies 55,644 of the over 98,000 signatures on the petition, the petition will go before the state Legislature to be ratified into law.

Should the legislature fail to pass the measure by May 5, 1976, the coalition must gather 9274 more signatures to put the issue on the November, 1976, state ballot.

Buckley said, "It's going to be difficult to get the legislature to pass the measure." He added he is "confident it will pass next November" in the proposed state-wide referendum.

"These signatures indicate that people do want to improve the quality of life around them and that they want to save human lives," Buckley said.

State Sen. Jack H. Backman of Brookline said yesterday, "The legislature has not been responsive to banning handguns in the past. I don't have high hopes for its passage this time."

A bill to ban all handguns in Massachusetts was defeated 196-24 in the House and 30-5 in the Senate earlier this year.

Groups leading the petition drive include People vs. Handguns, The Crime and Justice Foundation, The League of Women Voters, Citizens for Participation in Political Action, and the Massachusetts Federation of Women's Clubs.

The law would prohibit private ownership of firearms with a barrel of less than 16 inches.

The police, the military, and historical societies and museums would be exempt from the ban.

If passed, the law would create a 180-day period during which people owning handguns would turn them in to the Department of Public Safety for compensation.

The law "would cost from $20 million up" in state payment for the estimated 300,000 to 600,000 handguns in Massachusetts, Buckley added

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