High court hears challenge to Mass. weapons storage law

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BOSTON -- Gun control proponents argued before the state’s highest court Thursday that a Massachusetts law requiring gun owners to lock weapons in their homes saves lives while gun advocates pointed to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling holding that people have a constitutional right to keep weapons for self-defense.

The case involves a Billerica man whose mentally disabled son allegedly shot at a neighbor with a BB gun. The 18-year-old showed police where his father kept other unlocked guns.

Under the Massachusetts safe gun-storage law, the youth’s father, Richard Runyan, was charged with improperly storing a 12-gauge shotgun, a semiautomatic hunting rifle and ammunition.

But a Lowell District Court judge dismissed the charges, citing a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a handgun ban in Washington, D.C.

In District of Columbia vs. Heller, the Supreme Court found that the Second Amendment gives people the right to keep and bear arms for self-defense in their homes. The court also tossed out a D.C. requirement that firearms be equipped with trigger locks or kept disassembled.

Middlesex County prosecutors argued Thursday that the Massachusetts law requiring guns to be secured in a locked container or equipped with safety devices when not under an owner’s control is less restrictive than the D.C. law.

"The purpose of the (Massachusetts) statute is to keep the firearms out of the hands of unauthorized users," said Assistant District Attorney Loretta Lillios. She cited the case of Liquarry Jefferson, an 8-year-old Boston boy who was accidentally killed by his 7-year-old cousin in 2007.

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