MASS. HOUSE BANS GUN DEVICES THAT BOOST DISCHARGE RATES
By Matt Murphy
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
The bill’s passage came 10 days after a shooter in Las Vegas is believed to have used a “bump stock” device to rain bullets on a concert crowd and maximize casualties.
The ban on bump stocks and any other device that could be used to turn a legal gun into one capable of firing like an automatic weapon was attached to budget bill moving through the Legislature this week and needed to close out spending on the fiscal year that ended July 1.
Rep. David Linsky sponsored a supplemental budget amendment Wednesday banning bump stocks. [Photo: Sam Doran/SHNS] “The only reason you own a bump stock is to increase the rate of fire of your otherwise legal semiautomatic weapon into the same rate of fire as an automatic weapon to kill people quickly and more effectively. That is the reason. That is not a legitimate reason,” said Rep. David Linsky, a Natick Democrat who filed the amendment.
The House voted 151-3 in favor of the Linsky amendment, with three Republicans – Reps. Peter Durant and Donald Berthiaume of Spencer and Nick Boldyga of Southwick – dissenting. The Senate plans to take up the full budget bill on Thursday, according to a spokesman for the Senate president.
The vote came one week after Linsky filed similar legislation in response to the Las Vegas shooting that would have also banned high-capacity magazines that carry more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
“The magazine issue is a more difficult issue and while I’m still very much committed to closing the magazine loophole we’re going to leave that debate for another day. We have an opportunity to do the bump stock legislation today. We’re going to take it,” Linsky said.
SHNS Video: Chairman Linsky on bump stocks amendment
Multiple bump stocks – spring-loaded rifle modifiers used to increase the rate of fire of a weapon – were found in the Mandalay Bay hotel room of Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock. Law enforcement believes Paddock was able to use the bump stocks to fire thousands of rounds of ammunition into the crowd of a country music festival in the span of about 10 minutes.
One woman from Massachusetts – Tewksbury’s Rhonda LeRocque – was killed in the shooting. Her husband Jason LeRocque plans to make the family’s first public statement on the tragedy Thursday morning at the Tewksbury Police Department ahead of a funeral and memorial service on Friday and Saturday.
The Linsky bill filed last week has not emerged for a public hearing. House Speaker Robert DeLeo indicated last week he hoped to move quickly on the issue, and House leaders decided the spending bill was a proper vehicle to attach the measure.
Asked about acting without the benefit of a public hearing, DeLeo said Wednesday that he believes he would have heard from gun owners if they had concerns after House leaders signaled their interest in moving quickly to take up the bill.
“I think it was oversight on our behalf, and because of that I think it was most important that we take it up and and that we take it up immediately and, again, show that Massachusetts is the number one state in the country in battling gun violence,” DeLeo said after a caucus with his Democratic members.
Boldyga, however, knocked Democrats on Twitter after they muscled the ban through. “After Dems ram through Gun Control they didn’t read, they refuse to stand for a vote to fund substance abuse programs. GOP reps stand,” he Tweeted
The amendment does not address high-capacity magazines, but would ban the possession or sale of any device “which attaches to a rifle, shotgun, or firearm, except a magazine, that is designed to increase the rate of discharge of the rifle, shotgun or firearm.”
Those who violate the proposed law would face a sentence of “no less than” than three years in state prison, with a 20-year maximum allowable sentence. Linsky, a former prosecutor, said the penalties in his amendment were not mandatory minimums.
“A mandatory minimum sentence requires very specific language, so this language in the amendment doesn’t include mandatory provisions,” Linksy said. “The sentence can be suspended, you can be place on probation or you could be sentenced up to 20 years in jail, but if there is a state prison sentence the sentence has to be at least three years. That’s all it is.”
Linksy said gun owners in possession of a bump stock have six months to either dispose of the device or sell it out of state, but Gun Owners Action League Executive Director Jim Wallace questioned what would happened to these lawful owners if the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms bans them nationwide.
The National Rifle Association has urged the ATF to take another look at how bump stocks are classified.
“It’s not that they want bump stocks, but they’re tired of being the fall guy,” Wallace said, referring to his members’ frustrations with the bill.
GOAL, which is the local affiliate of the NRA, favored a bill filed by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr last week on behalf of House and Senate Republicans that would have put bump stocks and trigger cranks in the same category as machine guns.
Licenses to own machine guns can be issued in Massachusetts under a very narrow set of criteria. No Republicans spoke on the bump-stock amendment to the budget bill Wednesday.
Wallace also said the broad language referring to any device used to increase the rate of discharge could impact sport shooters who use springs in speed-shooting competitions to increase the rate of fire, but nowhere near as fast as an automatic weapon.
Linsky added a section to his amendment on the floor that would direct the Baker administration to develop regulations by Jan. 1 “concerning the allowability of maintenance and enhancement of rifles, shotguns, and firearms consistent with the intent of this section.”
Wallace had not seen the language before it passed the House, but said it was an example of how the ban had been “done irresponsibly” by House Democrats.
“They went from banning bump stocks to now telling me how I can clean my gun. That’s insane. It’s tremendously worse. We’re now opening a whole can of worms where the government can tell lawful gun owners how to maintain their guns. They could tell me what color my gun has to be if they wanted,” Wallace said.
Linsky said that since filing his legislation last Wednesday he had received hundreds of letters and phone calls that were mostly positive, including encouragement from gun owners.
“People realize we have to draw the line somewhere,” Linsky said. “With the Second Amendment right to bear arms comes the responsibility, and that responsibility includes to not use weapons that have no place in a civilized society and a bump stock creates a weapon that has no place in a civilized society.”
Gov. Charlie Baker said last week that bump stocks should be “outlawed,” and indicated he would sign legislation banning the devices.
“Governor Baker supports the Second Amendment to our constitution and Massachusetts’ gun laws, including the ban on assault weapons, as they are among the strictest laws in the nation and are proving to keep our communities safe. The administration is open to considering additional commonsense control measures like outlawing bump stocks and will carefully review the final legislation reaching the governor’s desk,” press secretary Billy Pitman said in a statement Wednesday about the Linsky amendment.