Friday, December 3, 2004

BOSTON (AP) — With a quick electronic scan of a fingerprint, gun-shop owners in Massachusetts will be able to learn immediately if a customer is eligible to buy a weapon.

The Massachusetts Instant Record Check System, developed over the past six years with nearly $7 million in information technology grant money, will be in place in all police departments and gun shops across the state by next summer. It currently is operating in three shops and about 140 police departments.

The system, which officials say is the first of its kind in the nation, allows police and gun-shop owners to have instant access to updated arrest-warrant and restraining-order information. That data was not readily accessible under the old paperwork-intensive system.

“It represents a real quantum leap in public safety information technology applications,” Massachusetts Public Safety Secretary Ed Flynn said.

Gun owners have long complained that the process of getting a license is cumbersome and time-consuming, often taking weeks or months.

Previously, police departments had to take a fingerprint manually and paste a photograph onto a license that was much larger than a driver’s license.

Under the new system, local police still will be the licensing authority, but fingerprints and photographs will be taken electronically and stored in the statewide system. The license will be produced by the state’s Criminal History Systems Board and fit into a wallet, much like a driver’s license.

The system also works to alert police stations of people with restraining orders against them or outstanding warrants, which would disqualify them from buying a gun, officials said. It would be used for all new licenses and renewals.

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