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CNN Today

Massachusetts Begins Enforcement of Handgun Safety Rules

Aired April 3, 2000 - 2:33 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: The Maryland legislature could take up a bill today requiring built-in gun locks on all new handguns by 2003, a measure strongly endorsed by Maryland's governor. The proposed new law is inspired by grim statistics from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommends removing guns from homes where there are children.

The group says that in 1997, 85 percent of homicides and 65 percent of suicides among 15- to 19-year-olds were committed with firearms. That same year, more than 32,000 deaths were attributed to guns, with more than 4,000 of those victims 20 years of age or younger.

Massachusetts now leads the nation is doing something about handgun violence. The state today began enforcing new rules that impose safety features on all handguns sold in the state.

Joining us from Boston to explain more about this precedent- setting development, Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly.

Mr. Attorney General, welcome. Tell us about the rules.

THOMAS REILLY, MASSACHUSETTS ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, it's great to be here. We're the first state in the nation to implement some very common-sense safety measures for the sale of handguns in Massachusetts, very simple things: tamper-resistant serial numbers; prohibiting junk handguns, those defective handguns that are so prone to accidents; handguns with trigger locks, something as basic as this being required, or other child-proofing devices; and also handguns requiring a load indicator or magazine safety disconnect.

And let me explain that to you. You can pick up, you can go into about any store and buy a camera, just a very inexpensive camera, and it will tell you how many shots you have left. We want those same requirements on a gun, obviously, so that that gun will indicate. And the industry is capable of doing this. That gun will indicate if there are any shots in there.

This is designed to prevent accidents -- there's so much gun violence, handgun violence -- to prevent accidents, save lives, and prevent injuries.

WATERS: Common-sense regulations you say, Mr. Attorney General, but it took since 1997, when they were first proposed, all this time to institute. What took so long?

REILLY: You know, Lou, I don't fully understood the position of the gun industry on this. This isn't about the right to carry arms. Certainly people can have their arms and their weapons and handguns. It's just to make sure that they're safe.

I understand why they have resisted and refused to comply with these regulations. They're simple to do.

If you can do it with an inexpensive camera, you can do it with a firearm.

The only conclusion I have is that they put profit over safety, and that's just not acceptable in Massachusetts. It's my hope that that will not be acceptable throughout this country.

I'm hoping that gun owners will take a close look at this and realize, wait a minute, this makes sense, it's about safety: protecting them and their own families.

WATERS: But as I understand it, the gun industry did put up a fight about all this until...

REILLY: They put up a fight, Lou...

WATERS: ... until just recently.

REILLY: ... but we beat it. We beat them in court. On March the 20th, we beat them in court.

So what it shows is that you can stand up to the gun lobby. You can beat them in court. You can bring some put common sense to gun regulation throughout this country. In Massachusetts right now, this applies to every gun manufacturer or dealer. They can't sell these guns that are inherently unsafe.

So many accidents, so many people, senseless violence and senseless death and accidents. They can be prevented.

The gun industry has got to wake up. They can do this. Smith & Wesson has already indicated that they can comply with these regulations. They're not overbearing. It's just about safety, and it's about time they woke up and implemented these regulations: not just -- Massachusetts, they have no choice. They lost. We beat them.

WATERS: You're the first. Do you think this is a snowball that's starting to roll, other states are going to follow suit?

REILLY: Well, I would think that when people look at this, they'll realize it's about safety. It's not about the right to bear arms. It has nothing to do with any of the red herrings that they throw up. It's about safety. And everybody, including gun owners, ought to be concerned about the safety of the guns that they're -- that they're buying.

And what's wrong with having a trigger lock that's going to protect children from accidental discharge, from being killed and hurt? I don't think there's anything wrong with that, and I think people with common sense will realize. What's wrong with having a load indicator or magazine safety disconnect to make sure there's no accidental discharge? There's nothing -- absolutely nothing wrong with that.

WATERS: All right...

REILLY: I hope this is the first step, and I hope that we have these laws throughout the country.

WATERS: Thanks for stopping by, Massachusetts Attorney General...

REILLY: Nice to be here.

WATERS: ... Thomas Reilly. Have a good day.

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