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Md. Gov. canidate: state, not local police, should issue gun licenses

By Steve Leblanc
Associated Press Writer

BOSTON- Kerry Healey said if she's elected governor she would move to strip local police chiefs of the right to issue gun licenses and instead transfer the authority to a statewide panel -- a proposal rejected by Democratic opponent Deval Patrick

Anyone who wants a license to carry or own a gun now has to approach their local police chief. Healey said that puts too much power in the hands of local officials at the expense of individuals seeking legal access to guns.

"My proposal would be to elevate that decision to a state body so that citizens of the commonwealth across the state could have the same standards applied to their applications to carry or possess a gun," Healey said.

Healey made the statement as the state's top gun rights advocacy group, the Gun Owners Action League, endorsed Healey in the governor's race, giving her a 95 percent rating. Patrick got no rating from the group because he did not return a questionnaire.

Gun rights groups have complained in the past that allowing individual police chiefs to approve gun licenses is unfair.

Healey said there needs to be a single statewide standard.

"At this moment right now your ability to get a gun permit completely is controlled by your local police chief," she said. "I think we need a standardized set of concerns and regulations that would either disqualify you or qualify you for gun ownership and that would be much better done at a state level not on a local level."

Asked whether individuals with police records should be allowed to carry a gun, Healey said that that kind of issue "should be teased out and settled at a state level."

In a letter to the gun owner's league, Healey said she comes "from a hunting and fishing family and as Gov. I will remain committed to maintaining that tradition and protecting the interests of sportsmen."

Patrick running mate Tim Murray took Healey to task for refusing to release the answers to her questionaire.

"This is an issue of life and death for the men and women who protect out streets each and every day," Murray said. "We saw last night in Manchester (N.H.) a police officer shot. We need to know whether she supports police chiefs having the right to license people in their communities."

Patrick campaign spokeswoman Libby DeVecchi said Patrick "strongly supports maintaining the authority of police chiefs to use their discretion to deny a handgun license to an applicant whom they consider a danger to the community."

She said Patrick also believes that law-abiding individuals who pass a background check and are a danger to neither themselves nor the community should be able to own firearms. He also supports the existing assault weapons ban and the latest ballistics technology, she said.

Healey made the comments in response to reporters' questions at a press conference she called to cast her Democratic opponent Deval Patrick as out of step on the issue of illegal immigration.

Standing on a blustery wharf in Charlestown, Healey said Massachusetts has always welcomed immigrants, but should draw the line at those who try to enter the country by breaking the law. She said the state should reject Patrick's proposal to allow illegal immigrants to have driver's licenses, which she said would open the door to fraud and terrorism.

"This is another bad idea that's supported by Deval Patrick and his running mate Tim Murray," Healey said standing beside a giant, mock drivers license for a "Joe Illegal" from "Anytown, MA."

"Massachusetts will become a haven for illegal immigrants and our taxpayers will have to absorb the cost," she said.

A spokeswoman for Patrick said Healey's own record on illegal immigration is spotty and blamed the administration for ignoring the problem of hiring practices in Massachusetts.

"The Romney Healey administration has given contracts to companies that hire undocumented workers. Kerry Healey is trying to talk tough on an issue, but it's the usual empty rhetoric," said DeVecchi.

Healey said Tuesday that if she's elected governor she would require all companies doing business with the state to provide proof that their workers are in the country legally.

Under questioning from reporters, Healey revised her own proposal on driver's licenses. Healey had said immigrants in the country legally should be able to get licenses, but she has also said voters should be required to produce driver's licenses before casting ballots.

On Tuesday Healey said she envisioned a new kind of driver's licenses which would indicate whether the holder is a citizen and able to vote, or is a legal immigrant.

The drivers' license issue may ultimately be a moot point for the next governor.

The federal Real ID Act of 2005, which grew out of a recommendation by the Sept. 11 commission, requires states by 2008 to verify documents such as birth certificates, Social Security cards and passports when people apply for driver's licenses.


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