HOUSE ADDRESSES SJC STUN GUN RULING IN REDRAFTED “RED FLAG” BILL
By Matt Murphy
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, MAY 21, 2018….The gun bill that the House intends to debate on Wednesday would add stun guns to the state law governing ownership of firearms, subjecting the weapons to the same licensing requirements as a rifle or shotgun.
The measure was inserted into the bill as it was being rewritten by the House Ways and Means Committee in response to a Supreme Judicial Court ruling in April that struck down the state’s ban on civilian ownership of stun guns, according to committee staff.
The Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez, gave the legislation a favorable recommendation on Monday morning, setting it up for a vote before the full House on Wednesday. The committee vote was 24-2.
In its April stun gun decision, the Supreme Judicial Court said it would delay the judgment for 60 days to give the Legislature time to respond. [Photo: Sam Doran/File/SHNS]
The overarching bill, originally sponsored by Rep. Majorie Decker, would allow a family or household member to petition a court to have someone’s firearms, weapons or ammunition confiscated for a year if they are found by a judge to pose a threat to themselves or others.
Committee officials confirmed to the News Service that the stun gun language added to the so-called “red flag” bill would ensure that anyone wishing to carry a stun gun would first have to obtain a license to carry a firearm.
The bill would also repeal the now unconstitutional provision on the books banning civilian stun gun ownership, they said.
The April 17 decision written by Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants striking down the state ban on stun guns brought the court’s position more in line with the U.S. Supreme Court, which had overruled the SJC in a case involving a Bay State woman’s conviction on stun gun possession charges.
The Supreme Court ruled that Massachusett’s ban on stun guns “does a grave disservice to vulnerable individuals…who must defend themselves because the State will not.”
In Gants’ decision, the SJC said it would delay entry of its judgment for 60 days in order to give the Legislature time to respond, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo at that time said he was reviewing the options and intended to file legislation within the 60-day window.
Thirty-five days passed since that ruling was issued.
By attaching the stun gun provisions to the red flag bill, House leaders tacked the measure onto a bill that has gained considerable momentum since the high school shooting in Florida and will go before House lawmakers just days after another school shooting in Sante Fe, Texas.
Gov. Charlie Baker, who will be the last arbiter of the legislation, has not outlined specific preferences for how either issue gets handled by the Legislature, but would have to consider both when weighing whether to sign a final bill should it reach his desk.