Mass. Senate passes expansive gun control package

The Massachusetts state Senate passed a sweeping gun reform bill Thursday, taking a major step towards tightening a set of gun laws that are already among the strictest in the country.

The SAFER Act would crack down on privately assembled and untraceable "ghost guns," prohibit guns from being carried in certain government buildings, and ban devices like Glock switches that allow semiautomatic weapons to fire more quickly.

"I believe strongly that the bill before us will reduce gun deaths and gun injuries in Massachusetts, and that it will do so without infringing on gun owners' rights," said Sen. Cynthia Creem, who wrote the bill after months of private meetings with advocacy groups, prosecutors, and police.

Legislative leaders made gun control a key issue this session, after the Supreme Court's landmark 2022 Bruen decision upended many states' gun laws by finding a constitutional right to carry a handgun in public for self defense.

The Senate's gun reform package contains many of the same provisions as the version passed by the House in October.

But there are several differences that must be hashed out between House and Senate negotiators before they can send a compromise to Gov. Maura Healey. The House bill is nearly a hundred pages longer, and further expands the list of people who can petition a court to remove somebody's weapons under the state's "red flag" law.

Both versions ban people from carrying weapons in government buildings, but the House version also prohibits carrying in polling places. The Senate bill would allow cities and towns to opt out of the ban.

The Senate also added a provision banning the firearm industry from marketing to minors.

The legislation got a major boost with the endorsement of the influential Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, which had opposed the House bill.

"What we find in the Senate bill makes sense," Agawam Police Chief Eric Gillis said when the proposal was unveiled last week. "At the end of the day, it has to be enforceable. Whatever this body does has to be carried out by people in our sphere, and when it's distilled down and simple and makes sense, it's going to work."

Both bills were vocally opposed by gun owners and Second Amendment advocacy groups. Gun Owners Action League executive director Jim Wallace called the Senate version a "substantial assault on our civil rights."

Gun violence prevention groups say the proposals will make the state safer. Massachusetts has one of the lowest rates of gun deaths in the country, and some of the strictest gun control laws.

“Every death caused by gun violence is preventable, and this bill introduces the forward-thinking tools that this crisis demands," said Peter McConarty, a volunteer with the Massachusetts chapter of Moms Demand Action.

Senate and House negotiators will now need to reconcile the differences in their two proposals in a conference committee. Leaders in both branches say they hope to get a compromise bill to Gov. Healey before the end of formal sessions in July.


Headshot of Walter Wuthmann

Walter Wuthmann State Politics Reporter
Walter Wuthmann is a state politics reporter for WBUR.



More from WBUR

Listen Live