ATTLEBORO — Local state representatives voted for a bill that allows for a court order to take away the guns of those found to pose “extreme risk” to themselves or others.
The so-called “Red Flag” bill passed the House 139-14 Wednesday with the support of all five local representatives, although Republicans were initially reluctant to back it.
Democratic supporters said the bill was necessary following multiple school shootings in which the killer had previously shown signs of being a danger.
If passed by the Senate and signed by the governor, the law would allow family members to get a court order to take away guns from those demonstrating behavior that indicates they might shoot themselves or others.
State Rep. Betty Poirier, R-North Attleboro, said several amendments that were attached to the bill made it more acceptable.
“We were able to get amendments to make it better. It’s not perfect by any means whatsoever,” she said.
One key change, she said, is that a provision allowing guns to be taken away for a year was reduced to up to a year, leaving the possibility of the owner getting the guns back sooner.
State Rep. Jim Hawkins, D-Attleboro, also supported the bill and spoke more favorably about it. He said it should help prevent suicides.
“Suicide by gun is all too common and this bill gives the immediate family the ability to act quickly if a person is spiraling out of control,” he said.
State Rep. Steven Howitt, R-Seekonk, said there were other important amendments adopted that improved the bill.
One, he said, would set penalties for someone who falsely accuses a gun owner of being a danger. Another would speed up the process of returning guns if the owner’s job depended on it, he said.
State Reps. Jay Barrows, R-Mansfield, and Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, also said they were skeptical of the bill at first but ended up voting for it.
Barrows said amendments made the bill “less bad” so that he could support it.
“It is not perfect, we don’t address mental health,” he said, explaining that that is what the issue was suppose to be about. But, Barrows said, “I’m sure we agree people who have exhibited a threat to themselves and to others probably shouldn’t be licensed to carry a gun.”
Dooley said he thought the bill lacked substance and addressed issues that other laws already provide for, but also voted for it.
“I voted for it because it basically did nothing that wasn’t already allowed for in Mass. law, except it added in some due process and created a penalty for false reporting, as opposed to the chief of police just determining it at his or her sole discretion,” he said.
Jim Hand may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter at @TSCpolitics.or
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