The Associated Press

Mass. House Approves Sweeping Gun Bill

BOSTON — Massachusetts House lawmakers approved a sweeping bill Wednesday designed to tighten the state’s gun laws.

The bill, which passed on a 112-38 vote, would strengthen local police chiefs’ discretion over issuing firearms identification cards needed for the purchase of rifles or shotguns, much like the discretion they currently have over issuing licenses to carry concealed weapons.

The bill would require police chiefs to give written reasons for denying gun licenses, however. Their decisions would have to be based on public safety and could be appealed in court.

The measure would also create a web-based portal within the state Executive Office of Public Safety to allow for real-time background checks in private gun sales and would stiffen penalties for some gun-based crimes. In addition, it would create a firearms trafficking unit within the State Police.

The bill now heads to the Massachusetts Senate. Supporters hope to win final passage in both branches and get the legislation to Gov. Deval Patrick before the formal legislative session ends July 31.

Jim Wallace, head of the Massachusetts Gun Owners Action League, said the group supports the changes in the bill related to gun owners, particularly the requirement that police chiefs state in writing their reasons for denying licenses.

“Now the burden is on the chief to prove us suitable rather than us proving ourselves suitable and that’s a big difference in court,” Wallace said.

John Rosenthal of the group Stop Handgun Violence said he was thrilled with the bill.

“This is a huge win,” Rosenthal said, pointing to the portion of the bill giving police chiefs more authority over issuing firearms identification cards needed for the purchase of rifles.

Rosenthal said he also supports the portion of the bill requiring Massachusetts to join the National Instant Background Check System and transmit information, including any substance abuse or mental health commitments, to a federal database for use by police in reviewing firearms applications.

Nothing in the bill would create a gun registry, but the bill would require gun owners, when they renew their licenses, to state that to the best of their knowledge they have not had any guns lost or stolen from their possession since their last license renewal.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo, D-Winthrop, called the bill “historic.”

The bill also seeks to improve safety at schools by requiring each district to develop plans to address the mental health needs of students and faculty and to have access to two-way communication devices with police and fire departments for use during emergencies. Districts would be required to have a school resource officer to provide law enforcement and security services on campuses.

Work on the bill began last year after the 2012 mass school shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

The legislation would also require school districts to provide two hours of suicide awareness and prevention training to school personnel every three years and mandate that the Public Health Department collect and report on suicides in the state. House lawmakers said the majority of gun-related deaths are suicides.

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  • fun bobby

    “The bill, which passed on a 112-38 vote, would strengthen local police chiefs’ discretion over issuing firearms identification cards needed for the purchase of rifles or shotguns, much like the discretion they currently have over issuing licenses to carry concealed weapons.”
    the same discretion that they currently abuse to discriminate against minorities is being expanded!
    this is racist and wrong, people need to call their lawmakers and tell them to stop this

  • fun bobby

    consider this a $10 voter ID has been shown to be discriminatory, in MA it costs $100, this bill will make it about $150 to get your permit. when they then deny the poor person it costs thousands more to go to court and to fight the police who in many cases have lawyers on staff and unlimited legal resources. whether or not you think people should have guns racism is wrong.

  • fun bobby

    GOAL is wrong on this one as well the police already had to make a written denial.

  • fun bobby

    “This is a huge win,” Rosenthal said, pointing to the portion of the bill giving police chiefs more authority over issuing firearms identification cards needed for the purchase of rifles.”
    it is? how many people shot in MA each year with legally owned rifles now?
    why would we expand a power they have consistently abused?

  • fun bobby

    well no need for money for school books that will be much better spent to put a cop in your kindergarten

    • Dataninja

      We need clowns in the schools instead!

      youtu.be/yN2_5jlpMFM

  • LeftShooter

    Here’s language from lines 501-509 of H4278, with my bracketed explanatory comment in the first three lines:

    “Notwithstanding other provisions of paragraph (1) to the contrary, [which says that the licensing authority shall issue unless the applicant is a prohibited person (as
    defined)] the licensing authority may deny the application or renewal of a
    firearm identification card, or suspend or revoke a card issued under this
    section, if in the reasonable exercise of discretion, the licensing authority determines that the applicant or card holder is unsuitable to be issued or to continue to hold a firearm identification card. A determination of unsuitability shall be based on: (i) reliable and credible information that the applicant or card
    holder has exhibited or engaged in behavior that suggests the applicant or card holder could potentially create a risk to public safety if issued a card; or
    (ii) existing factors that suggest that the applicant or card holder could
    potentially create a risk to public safety if issued a card.”

    Am I the only one that finds legislative language like “suggests” and “could potentially” to be very frightening? I sure hope not.

    • X-Ray

      Any peson “could potentially be a risk to public safety”; overly broad.

  • Phinneus

    Really little in this ‘historic bill’ that will stop or prevent the violent criminals that ignore all laws, especially gun laws. Lots of rhetoric here, and lots of inconvenience to lawful people who DO obey the law. There is a law on the books, encacted in the early 70′s called the Fox- Bartley Act, that MANDATES that anyone using a firearm in the commisssion of a crime be sentenced to a minimum of one year in jail. Our lilly-livered state and county prosecutors NEVER charge the criminal element with the crime that would kick this punishment in. The enforcement of the FBA would be effective in getting the scum off of our streets. The rest of today’s action is just political garbage.

  • Emmanuel Ezekiel
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