BAKER TO SIGN “RED FLAG” CONFISCATION ORDER BILL
By Michael P. Norton
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
JULY 3, 2018….“Republican“ Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday afternoon plans to sign legislation allowing family or household members to petition the courts for a one-year renewable order suspending gun ownership rights of someone they believe to be a danger.
The bill also calls for the regulation of stun guns, or electronic weaponry, in response to a high court ruling that rendered such weapons unregulated.
Known as the “red flag” bill, the legislation creates a process through which family or household members can ask the courts to suspend someone’s gun license through what is known as an extreme risk protection order (ERPO). The petitioner would need to explain why the respondent “poses a risk of causing bodily injury to self or others by having in the respondent’s control, ownership or possession a firearm, rifle, shotgun, machine gun, weapon or ammunition.”
“We are ensuring that there will be strong avenues for people to keep themselves safe and to keep others safe,” said Rep. Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge) said last Thursday, when the bill cleared the House and Senate.
Under the bill, the court would hold a hearing within 10 days of receiving the petition, and if the order is granted, would issue an extreme risk protection order (ERPO) requiring the respondent to immediately surrender their license to carry or firearm identification card, and all firearms, rifles, shotguns, machine guns, weapons or ammunition to local police.
During debate on the bill last week, House Public Safety Committee Co-chairman Rep. Harold Naughton said police chiefs were in “full support” of the bill.
“These instances are often sensitive and this bill expedites the hearing process to allow those family members to get their loved one into a safe place,” said Naughton, who called on the Department of Mental Health to provide literature to people involved in red flag orders.
Opposing the bill, Rep. Paul Frost (R-Auburn) said the legislation does “little to nothing but providing literature” to someone deemed an extreme risk. “We let them just go home and we feel better somehow that if they do have guns that, we’re going to confiscate them all but do nothing about that person’s instability and if that person wants to truly hurt other people or truly even hurt themselves that they can find other means to do it,” he said.
Baker plans to sign the bill at 12:30 p.m. in his office. He will be joined by lawmakers in what his office says is a “photo only” event for media coverage.
The bill creates a penalty — a fine between $2,500 and $5,000, up to two and a half years in jail, or both — for anyone who files for an ERPO with information they know is “materially false or with an intent to harass the respondent.”
It also charges the Trial Court chief justice, in consultation with the District Court chief justice and the chief justice of the Boston Municipal Court, with developing rules, regulations, policies and informational material on ERPOs.
Each year, the courts would need to file with lawmakers and the Executive Office of Public Safety a report on ERPO use, including how many petitions were filed, how many led to surrender of firearms, how many proved to be fraudulent, details on “emergency extreme risk protective orders,” gender, race and ethnicity of parties involved, and data on duration of the orders.
The bill also allows courts to issue emergency ERPOs, which expire after 10 days, “without notice to the respondent and prior to the hearing required” in certain circumstances, a provision to which the Gun Owners Action League has objected.