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Massachusetts lawmakers pass bill tightening state gun laws

By Elizabeth Barber

BOSTON (Reuters) - Massachusetts lawmakers on Friday tightened the state's already strict gun laws by passing a measure that gives police chiefs authority to turn down a resident's requests to buy a rifle or shotgun if they believe the person may be a danger.

House lawmakers overrode objections from gun-rights advocates in the state Senate who had opposed the measure, worrying that police chiefs could abuse the authority to deny firearms to law-abiding citizens.

"We seek not to be the safest state in the nation but strive to make our communities the safest in the world," said House Speaker Robert DeLeo, a Democrat.

The bill now goes to Governor Deval Patrick, a fellow Democrat, who supports tightening the state's gun laws.

The measure broadens the authority of police, who were already allowed to deny sales of handguns to people who failed background checks. The new measure gives a police chief 90 days to petition a court to deny a firearms identification card to someone the chief believes to be unfit.

"This is an egregious violation of your Second Amendment rights," gun-rights lobbying group the National Rifle Association said in a statement released shortly before the bill's passage during a legislative session that went past midnight.

The group said it objected mainly to the firearms ID card provision, saying the bill "does contain some favorable provisions to gun owners."

The measure would allow people with restrictions on their gun licenses to seek judicial review and also declassifies self-defense spray as ammunition.

(Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Trott)

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