The Associated Press

Gun Safety Activists Rally At State House

BOSTON — Police chiefs and gun safety activists are pressing state lawmakers to give the chiefs discretion over issuing firearms identification cards needed to buy rifles or shotguns.

Former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis spoke at the Statehouse rally Tuesday and recalled how a man he had issued an FID card killed an 80-year-old and then held police hostage using a shotgun.

Davis said he only learned later the man had mental health problems. He said the House version of the bill, which gives police chiefs more discretion on issuing FID cards, could have helped him prevent the man from obtaining the gun.

The Senate version of the bill strips out that discretion.

Davis’ successor, Police Commissioner William Evans, also said he opposes the Senate language.

“It doesn’t give us the ability to stop people from possessing rifles and shotguns … who aren’t suitable persons to have them,” he said, adding that police are sometimes aware of ongoing domestic violence problems or mental health issues that should be used as red flags before issuing FID cards.

The founder of Stop Handgun Violence, John Rosenthal, also spoke at the rally and faulted the Senate for stripping the FID provision out of the House version of the bill.

Gun rights activists, including the National Rifle Association and the Massachusetts Gun Owners Action League, have praised the Senate, arguing that the House bill would give police chiefs too much authority.

The House and Senate bills agree on many other changes.

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

The House and Senate bills also would require that schools have access to two-way communication devices with police and fire departments and mandate that Massachusetts join the National Instant Background Check System, which requires the state to transmit information about substance abuse or mental health commitments to a federal database for use by police in reviewing firearms applications.

It’s now up to a six-member House and Senate conference committee to hammer out a compromise bill.

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  • LeftShooter

    In today’s Boston Globe Ed Davis said: “I think it makes sense to allow the police chiefs to have discretion both for handguns and for shotguns and rifles,” said Davis. “The people in the community who have a very good understanding of who shouldn’t have weapons are the police chiefs.”

    Whereas here above: Former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis spoke at the Statehouse rally Tuesday and recalled an incident where a man killed an 80-year-old and then held police hostage using a shotgun after Davis had issued him an FID card. Davis said he only learned later the man had mental health problems.

    Which is it? Do the police chiefs possess special powers of prescience, knowing who will commit future crime or don’t they? This is obviously the problem, no one has those special powers, but the police or Ed Davis anyway, evidently have no problem infringing on the rights of many “balanced” against anecdotal evidence. Unfortunately, current BPD Commissioner Evans feels the same way.

    If the BPD knows all the potential miscreants in the city: 1) how come Boston cops are ever found to exhibit bad behavior, and 2) how come the Boston homicide clearance rate is so low (37%) relative to the rest of the nation (63%)? Our chiefs who want the ability to fathom whether “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” need to work on their clairvoyance skills, I’d say. They should also brush up on the concepts of civil and constitutional rights and the dangers of discrimination attached to one’s “suitability.”

    The FID card allows the holder to purchase non-large capacity rifles and shotguns. According to FBI data (Uniform Crime Report) If you add up ALL types of rifles, including the AR-15 types, the long-gun total homicide (rifles & shotguns) amount is 679 nationwide, as compared to the following weapons used and (# of homicides) knives (1,694), personal weapons like hands & feet (728) and hammers & clubs (496). What we don’t know is how many of the long-gun (FID-card eligible) homicides were carried out by licensed owners. I’d guess very few (with an even lower rate in MA )—and, if truth be told, the police would have to agree that 679 in a nation of 318,497,000 is a very small incidence rate.

    The solution? I think for both LTC-A and FID purposes all parties should work long and hard to develop a “prohibited person standard” based on objective criteria. If you meet any of the prohibitions, you are told why and you don’t get the license, unless you can convince a judge in an open setting that you are not prohibited. Cleaner, simpler and no discriminatory subjectivity.

    • fun bobby

      or we could just do what almost all states do and just prohibit people with criminal records and/or involuntary mental health commitments. No one has been shot with a rifle in MA since 2012 and there is no reason to believe that the person in that case even had an FID. This is just a power grab by people who already abuse the power they have.

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  • George Mason

    Just so I’m clear, the Cheifs want the authority to make subjective decisions on which persons that have not been conviceted of any crime get to exercise a fundamental civil right?

    • fun bobby

      that’s exactly right. also they currently have that power over pistol permits and abuse it constantly and consistently and with little or no effective recourse for citizens.

      • George Mason

        They should be tossed out on their a$$s. To have those laws in Boston considering the history of the city, should be treasonous.

        • fun bobby

          indeed, in the city of boston they even refused to issue a female former officer her permit

  • Magic Newton

    On October 2nd, 2013 the House passed H.J. Res. 71 to allow the city of DC to continue operating with its own funding.Once again, Harry Reid and Senate democrats obstructed.

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