Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Today, I voted in the affirmative on An Act Modernizing Firearm Laws, a violence prevention bill that would update our gun safety laws.
Here in Massachusetts, we have one of the strongest gun safety laws in the country and one of the lowest rates of death by gun violence. However, new technology and recent Supreme Court decisions have impacted our gun laws while violence persists.
The bill was introduced this past summer and has been revised to reflect the feedback and address the concerns voiced by members of the public, including some of our neighbors in Needham, Dover, and Medfield.
As an omnibus bill, An Act Modernizing Firearm Laws addresses gun safety in multiple areas:
- Ghost Guns: New technology allows firearm parts and devices to be printed and obtained illegally, and law enforcement reports not having the necessary tools to effectively combat the trafficking of these so-called “ghost guns”. This bill will address the increase of ghost guns used in crime by establishing serial requirements and penalties for those who build and use untraceable and unregistered weapons.
- Prohibited Areas: The Bruen case made clear that the government has always had a proper interest in restricting the presence of firearms in what it called “sensitive spaces” – the Supreme Court specifically listed schools, polling places, and government buildings and left open the question of what additional spaces constituted “sensitive spaces.” This bill adds private residences to the list of “sensitive spaces,” requiring an individual to get permission from a homeowner before carrying a firearm into a private home. Businesses may continue to prohibit the carrying of firearms onto property.
- Extreme Risk Protective Order (ERPO): The current “red flag” law allows family members and law enforcement to petition a court for an extreme risk protective order if they may pose a risk to self or others. The bill allows licensed healthcare professionals, school administrators, and employers to petition for an ERPO while protecting due process in the event of false allegations.
- Training: The current courses for a license to carry vary greatly by the trainer or the program with no requirement that an applicant handle or fire a handgun before purchase. This bill will require State Police to promulgate a uniform training curriculum and standardized test for all new applicants for a license to carry or long gun permit. The curriculum will include live firearm training, civilian use of force and de-escalation, injury prevention and harm reduction, active shooter and emergency response training.
- Licensing: Feedback from gun owners described our state’s current firearm licensing laws as a “hodgepodge” of statutes. This bill consolidates and reorganizes current firearm licensings sections into a single unified process with consistent standards and procedures, including licenses to carry, long gun permits, and licenses to sell. In recognition of youth groups like Boys Scouts or sport teams, it leaves untouched the ability of all ages to use semi-automatic and other firearms under the direct supervision of a properly licensed adult for hunting, instruction, recreation and participation in shooting sports.
- Violence Prevention Commission: Establishes a special commission to examine the existing government funding structure for violence prevention services. This commission will explore funding sources, initiatives and programs, specific services funded, and communities served.
- Punishments for Reckless Firearm Discharge: There is no existing law that criminalizes the shooting at a private residence or business. This bill will criminalize the discharging of a firearm within 500 feet of a home or building or the striking of a dwelling or building in use, which has long been a loophole for criminals to avoid appropriate punishment for indiscriminately firing guns at stores and homes.
- And many more provisions that will strengthen our gun laws.
The Massachusetts House of Representatives is strongly committed to gun control and the safety of our Commonwealth. Massachusetts has always and will continue to lead the nation in our efforts for gun control. I will be sharing more details in the following days on my social media on what this bill entails. As a next step in this process, the State Senate states it will also propose legislative language concerning gun laws
Yours in service,
Denise C. Garlick