Gun enthusiasts overwhelmed their opposition yesterday at a State House public hearing on a proposed ban on private possession of handguns. They claimed that a program of state purchase of privately owned handguns would cost the state $90 million and they also attempted to link such a program with a Marxist overthrow of the state and the issues of prison reform, gay liberation, drug use, and "limousine liberals."
Some 700 people packed the Gardner Auditorium galleries for each of two three-hour sessions, in which discussion focused on two bills limiting the possession of handguns to the police.
The first session featured gun control advocates such as Boston Police Commissioner Robert J. diGrazia, Middlesex County Sheriff John J. Buckley, Boston City Councilman Lawrence diCara '71, representatives from private organizations, and several clergymen.
The bills' proponents stressed that 25,000 people died in this country annually in shooting homicides, suicides, and accidents.
In addition, Sheriff Buckley said that three out of every four victims of handgun homicides are friends, relatives, and acquaintances. "The handgun is available in an emotional moment and it is used," Buckley said.
J. H. Daingerfield Perry of the Massachusetts Council on Crime and Correction criticized law-makers for giving in to "political pressures exerted by special interest groups who are organized and react with much clamor and in large numbers."
Ellsworth Enos. representing the Massachusetts Council of Sportsmen's Clubs, said the philosophy of the gun control advocates "has its links to a theorist of some 60 years ago--Karl Marx."
Enos said the proponents of such legislation are the kinds of people who favor prison reform, gay liberation, and drug use, topics consistently addressed by other speakers opposing the legislation.
Former State Rep. Albert Elwell of Newbury called the program "insidious," to the cheers of the gallery.
Stephen Thornton, president of the Massachusetts Council of Sportsmen, said handgun ownership is part of "the American independent spirit."
Many afternoon speakers, including former Rep. George L. Sacco, said the key to crime control is tougher penalty on offenders rather than on control of weapons belonging to law-abiding citizens.
The Public Safety Committee will hold additional hearings on the legislation next week in Springfield. The bills are not expected to survive the committee.
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