Machine gun ownership in the Bay State is booming, while a bill to tighten ownership and outlaw full-auto free-for-alls like the one that killed an 8-year-old boy two years ago is jammed on Beacon Hill.

Gov. Deval Patrick’s bill, “An Act to Reduce Firearm Violence,” is a controversial overhaul of the state’s gun laws that would limit firearm purchases to one per month and ban anyone who is not a cop or the licensed owner from holding a machine gun.

The Bay State may have more than 4,400 privately owned machine guns, owned by 2,579 licensed collectors – with 753 new licenses added to the rolls since 2007, according to federal and state records.

Patrick’s bill was sent to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, which opted not to act on the bill Friday, delaying any action until June. Even then its fate is in doubt.

“I think the bill goes too far,” said Judiciary Committee Vice-Chairman State Sen. Steven Baddour (D-Methuen). “We all want to reduce or eliminate gun violence. It doesn’t do that. It focuses on law-abiding citizens. What we need to be doing is focusing on those who carry guns illegally, then increase the penalties on the punishment side so when people commit a crime with a firearm, they know the penalties will be severe.”

Since 8-year-old Christopher Bizilj lost control of the Uzi in his hands and died in October 2008 at a machine gun show, at least one Bay State machine gun shoot was canceled. Gun club officials contacted by the Herald were not aware of any held since.

Last month prosecutors settled their case against the club that sponsored the machine gun show where the boy was slain. The Westfield Sportsman’s Club owners pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter charges and guilty to furnishing a machine gun to a minor. They were ordered to pay $10,000 to two charities. There are criminal charges pending against three others in the child’s death.

It is illegal for anyone under 18 to use a machine gun, but Patrick’s proposal would kill full-auto free-for-alls by allowing only law enforcement and licensed owners to fire them. And Patrick wants to toughen licensing standards.

“In Massachusetts, it should not be easy for people to get a machine gun license,” said Public Safety Secretary Mary Elizabeth Heffernan. “We’re working to tighten that process up . . . We’re requiring a little more detail about why you have a collector’s license, making it stricter for those who want to own machine guns.”

Source: O’Ryan Johnson, Richard Weir and Katy Jordan for Boston Herald.

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