Author of Gun Confiscation Bill is Going Bonkers Over the Push Back
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GUN ACCESS BILL SPONSOR SAYS GOAL SPREADING “HYSTERIA”
By Matt Murphy
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, MAY 22, 2018……The state’s leading gun rights organization is up in arms over the newest version of a “red flag” gun bill slated for a vote in the House Wednesday, but the legislation’s original author Rep. Marjorie Decker accused the local NRA group of trying to spread “hysteria” without understanding the facts.
The House on Wednesday plans to vote on legislation that would allow family or household members to petition the courts to issue an extreme risk protection order, or ERPO, suspending someone’s license to carry a firearm and ordering them to surrender their firearms and ammunition if they are believed to be a danger to themselves or others.
The bill, which passed through the Ways and Means Committee 24-2 Monday, has gained steam following the February high school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
Decker said the changes made by the Ways and Means Committee to the red-flag bill were intended to “streamline” the language and fit a bill based off a state of Washington law into Massachusetts statutes. She said deleted sections were determined to be “duplicative” of laws already on the books.
“The reason to file this bill to begin with is if someone is going to be a harm to themselves or other people the court could separate that individual from their weapons and that’s what this bill continues to do,” Decker told the News Service.
The Gun Owners Action League on Monday released a scathing assessment of the latest version after it emerged from the Ways and Means Committee on Monday, accusing Democratic leaders of stripping the bill of an appeals process for the subjects of an ERPO, banning stun guns in violation of a Supreme Court ruling and removing any language that suggested the bill was about treating mental illness.
GOAL, the local affiliate of the National Rifle Association, called the redrafted legislation a “pure gun confiscation bill” that dropped any guise of being about suicide and violence prevention.
Republican Rep. Joseph McKenna tried to propose an alternative backed by GOAL that would have required someone to be committed for mental health treatment before their license to carry was revoked, but his pitch was largely dismissed by Democratic leaders. He and other Republicans have filed a number of amendments to the bill.
GOAL Executive Director Jim Wallace told the News Service on Tuesday that the new version appears based on the law regarding abuse protection orders, but stripped of protections for individuals whose Second Amendment rights are being challenged. He said once a gun owner falls under an ERPO they are unlikely to ever get their license back, even if the ERPO expires after one year.
He also criticized the decision to remove a list of evidentiary standards that a judge could use to determine risk, and questioned how someone could prove in court that they are not a threat.
“It’s like a Frankenstein of 209A without all the good stuff,” Wallace said.
Decker said none of those claims are true.
While the new version does not include any mention of appeals, Decker said that’s because it was unnecessary. A judge’s ruling in civil court can always be appealed, she said.
The new bill also no longer spells out the option for local police to sell weapons abandoned after the expiration of an ERPO and use the revenues for local suicide prevention efforts, but only because state law already allows that, the Cambridge Democrat said.
The biggest change to the bill, Decker said, is probably the addition of stun guns to the definition of firearms, which would subject the devices to the same licensing requirements as a firearm. The change was made because of a Supreme Judicial Court ruling striking down the state’s ban on civilian stun gun ownership.
Wallace said it will be impossible to shoehorn stun guns, by their nature, into regulations that govern handguns, He suggested instead that Taser-brand weapons that shoot projectile probes be regulated as firearms, while traditional stun guns could be sold over the counter.
“It’s going to be like pepper spray all over again,” he said, referring to the fact that for years Massachusetts required a license to carry pepper spray before reversing that policy in 2014.
Decker repeated her willingness to work with her colleagues, like Rep. McKenna, to expand mental health services for all residents, but suggested that GOAL’s complaints about Democrats leaders being unconcerned with suicide and mental health are just meant to muddy the waters.
“They were hysterical about this bill before the language changes and I think they’re grasping at straws now at what the new reasons should be to oppose this bill,” Decker said.
She said, “You have to remember this is a licensing bill. Does that mean someone might need additional support? Of course.”
Another change to the bill, Decker explained, was the deletion of a clause that said a judge could order the subject of an ERPO petition receive a mental health or substance abuse evaluation. Decker said in Massachusetts law civil courts are not allowed to require those evaluations.
“If you are such an extreme danger, police have tools at their hands to deal with that,” Decker said.