Gun Legislation Passed

The following (from the Bostonglobe.com) presents information on the legislation that has been passed.

Lawmakers agree on deal to tighten Mass. gun laws; By David Scharfenberg and Michael Levenson;| Globe Staff   July 31, 2014
      “George N. Peterson Jr., a Grafton Republican, held up a firearms identification card application while testifying during a hearing on gun rights laws at the Statehouse in Boston, Tuesday, June 3, 2014. George N. Peterson Jr., a Grafton Republican, held up a firearms identification card application while testifying during a hearing on gun rights laws at the Statehouse in Boston, Tuesday, June 3, 2014. Massachusetts House and Senate negotiators reached an agreement Wednesday night on legislation that would tighten what are already some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country. Police departments could go to court to keep rifles and shotguns out of the hands of people they deem dangerous under a compromise worked out by the lawmakers. The new legislation, crafted in response to the 2012 school massacre in Newtown, Conn., would also require the state to join a national database for criminal and mental health background checks and mandate that schools develop plans for students’ mental health needs. “My sense is there should be enough votes to pass it in both houses,” said Representative George N. Peterson Jr., a Grafton Republican who served on the conference committee that worked out the agreement. With lawmakers racing to meet the Thursday deadline for passing legislation this session, House and Senate negotiators also reached agreement to establish a sales tax holiday on Aug. 16 and 17 and came to a deal on a separate bill to strengthen the state’s domestic violence law. Governor Deval Patrick alluded to the time crunch Wednesday when he signed into law one of the major bills that has reached his desk, a measure aimed at curbing harassment outside abortion clinics. “There’s a lot of business before the Legislature, which is why I am going to keep my comments brief, and let you all get back to work,” he said, prompting chuckles from House and Senate members who were bracing for late-night sessions. The conflict between the two chambers on the gun bill centered on a provision in the original House bill that gave police broad discretion to deny a license for a shotgun or rifle to anyone they deem unsuitable. Existing law gives police that discretion to deny a handgun permit. “Obviously, the suitability issue was the main sticking point,” said Representative Ronald Mariano, a Quincy Democrat who served on the conference committee. Hunters and civil liberties groups alike believed the House provision was overreaching. The Senate voted two weeks ago to strip it out of its version of the gun bill. That created the main flashpoint between the two chambers. And while negotiators ultimately agreed to give the police new powers, they limited those powers. Under the legislation, a police department that aims to deny, suspend, or revoke a shotgun or rifle license could not do so unilaterally. It must file a petition in court, with a written notice explaining the reasons. The court must base its decision, under the law, on “reliable, articulable, and credible information” that suggests one “could potentially create a risk to public safety.” Advocates on both sides of the bill were still digesting the latest version of the legislation Wednesday night. Jim Wallace, executive director of the Gun Owners Action League, said that at first glance the bill looked promising. “It looks pretty good,” he said. “I’m really hoping it’s something we can support.” John Rosenthal, founder of Stop Handgun Violence, said he was disappointed the agreement did not give chiefs the unilateral authority to deny permits for rifles and shotguns, but called the bill a step forward nonetheless. “It’s certainly a burden on chiefs who are simply trying to save lives, but it’s a compromise,” Rosenthal said. “It does give police chiefs discretion, and the check and balance with the court, which is far better than nothing.” …(sic…remaining sections of article not related to the gun legislation)

Police chiefs rip change in Mass. gun control bill Want discretion to turn down applicants

By Joshua Miller;  | Globe Staff   July 22, 2014 David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

“Wellesley Police Chief Terrence Cunningham held up pictures of rifles during a press conference on Tuesday to advocate for police chief discretion in the issuance of FID cards.  Top police officials and activists from Boston and area communities blasted the state Senate Tuesday for watering down gun control legislation by stripping a provision aimed at keeping rifles and shotguns out of the hands of dangerous people. “I’m real disappointed in the Senate,” said Boston police Commissioner William B. Evans, standing with more than a dozen police officials and gun control advocates at the State House. “What the Senate chose to do is placate the NRA instead of supporting law enforcement,” said John Rosenthal, founder of Stop Handgun Violence. The unusual public criticism by police chiefs comes after the Senate last week voted to remove a House provision giving chiefs discretion to deny firearms identification cards, required to buy shotguns and rifles, to people they deem unsuitable. They now have that discretion over licenses to carry handguns. “Are people really going to be any less dead if they’re killed with a rifle or a shotgun than a handgun?” Police Chief Terry Cunningham of Wellesley said at the morning press conference. On Tuesday, both chambers named members to a conference committee on the legislation. The panel will have to act quickly to hammer out differences between House and Senate versions of the bill. Formal legislative sessions for the year are to conclude next Thursday. Senators defended the vote on the controversial provision, which state gun rights advocates, including the local affiliate of the National Rifle Association, pressed hard to have removed. “A lot of members felt that since the focus of that was on long guns, which is basically what people use for recreation and sport, there were sufficient controls through the federal criteria and therefore it was not necessary,” said Senator Stanley C. Rosenberg, an Amherst Democrat. There was a glimmer of a potential compromise Tuesday evening: Six senators who voted to remove the provision offered new language in a letter to the conference committee. But the dispute was clearly simmering earlier in the day. Senate President Therese Murray initially declined to answer shouted questions from a reporter about the police chiefs’ concerns Tuesday afternoon. She later referred queries to the Senate chairman of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, James E. Timilty. Pressed for her personal opinion on the disputed provision as she entered a State House elevator, Murray declined to say. Under current law, police chiefs must give people who pass a background check and meet other basic criteria a firearms identification card, which allows them to buy shotguns and rifles. But for handguns, police chiefs have discretion on whether to issue a license to carry and can deny one if they deem an applicant unsuitable. The disputed part of the bill would give chiefs the same discretion they currently have on issuing handgun licenses and apply it to rifles and shotguns. Police chiefs say they and their officers know their communities and are well positioned to screen out potentially dangerous people from gaining access to shotguns and rifles. The Senate legislation, said Evans, the Boston police commissioner, “doesn’t give us the ability to stop people from possessing rifles and shotguns . . . who aren’t suitable persons to have them, whether they have [been] involved in domestic violence incidents that we’re well aware of or they have some mental issues.” In an e-mailed statement, Timilty expressed concern that the measure might violate the US Constitution. He has said critics should look at the whole bill. Among other measures, it would have Massachusetts join a national database for criminal and mental health background checks, require schools to develop plans to address students’ mental health needs, and increase penalties for certain firearm crimes. The Gun Owners’ Action League of Massachusetts, a local affiliate of the National Rifle Association, opposed the disputed provision giving police chiefs the added authority and pressed hard for its removal from the Senate bill. Jim Wallace, GOAL’s executive director, told reporters Tuesday it would be problematic to expand police chiefs’ ability to decide who can get a gun because, he said, those powers have already been widely abused. But Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association president Erik Blake said at the press conference that the provision giving police added discretion on firearms identification cards is “not about being capricious or arbitrary or taking away people’s rights.” Despite pressure from both gun control and gun rights advocates, there appeared to be a path to a compromise. Tuesday evening, six senators who said they have supported gun control for years and were among the 28 senators voting to strip the disputed provision last week released a letter. They called the provision removed by the Senate “unacceptably vague” and offered language to give police chiefs authority to deny someone a firearms identification card using what they said was a narrower legal standard. “We think it is a more targeted way of getting at what is a broadly shared goal,” said one of the senators, Benjamin B. Downing, Democrat of Pittsfield. The early response from one gun control advocate was guardedly positive. “That’s much better than nothing,” said Rosenthal, the founder of Stop Handgun Violence. A GOAL spokeswoman said Wallace was reviewing the language but is glad more voices are joining the conversation. The Senate passed the amendment taking out the disputed provision by a vote of 28 to 10 Thursday. It subsequently passed the broader bill by a voice vote, which meant that individual lawmakers did not have to record where they stood on the legislation. The press conference with the chiefs of police and advocates was organized on short notice by Stop Handgun Violence and the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence.  Cunningham, the Wellesley police chief who is also a former president of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, said it was very rare to have police chiefs protest at the State House on such short notice. But, he added in a telephone interview, the rally came about because the disputed measure “is really important to us. It’s important to keep people safe.” If a new anti-gun violence bill, crafted in response to the December 2012 Newtown, Conn., school massacre, becomes law, it will build on the state’s wide-ranging 1998 gun law, which has been called among the toughest in the nation. “

State senators reject provision to tighten permits for firearms

From the Bostonglobe.com July 17, 2014

State senators reject provision to tighten permits for firearms

By Joshua Miller

| Globe Staff   July 17, 2014

Under pressure from gun rights groups including the National Rifle Association, state senators Thursday rejected a provision aimed at keeping rifles and shotguns out of the hands of dangerous people before approving a broad bill meant to reduce firearm violence. The provision, which was included in the House version of the legislation that passed last week and the Senate bill that was debated Thursday, would give police chiefs discretion to deny issuing permits for shotguns and rifles to those they deem unsuitable. Gun control advocates cried foul and expressed hope that the provision would be reinstated as the two chambers hammer out a compromise measure.  If it is not, said John Rosenthal, the president of Stop Handgun Violence, “the most significant gun safety measure in the bill will have been scuttled and people will die as a result of it, as they have for years.” State Senator James E. Timilty, Democrat of Walpole, defended the change, which passed by a vote of 28-10.

Related: Mass. House acts to beef up gun rules

He said he was concerned that the provision might violate the US Constitution’s Second Amendment and could have landed the antigun violence measure in court. “I think a suit would have followed,” said Timilty, Senate chairman of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security. He said critics should consider the bill in its totality.  “Calmly viewed, they will find that this is a net gain to public safety,” he added, ticking through a number of the bill’s sections. Massachusetts would join a national database for criminal and mental-health background checks, require schools to develop plans to address students’ mental health needs, and increase penalties for certain firearm crimes, among measures, if the bill becomes law. But gun control activists and some senators said the stripped provision was an essential part of the legislation.  Under current law, police chiefs must give people who pass a background check and meet other basic criteria a firearms identification card, which allows them purchase shotguns and rifles. But for handguns, police chiefs have discretion on whether to issue a license to carry and can deny one if an applicant is deemed unsuitable. The disputed part of the bill would give chiefs the same discretion they currently have on issuing handgun licenses and apply it to rifles and shotguns.  Some gun owners oppose it because they say police already use the power they have to arbitrarily deny permits, infringing on their right to bear arms. But former Boston police commissioner Edward F. Davis said he hoped the final legislation would include the provision.

Derrick Z. Jackson: On gun laws, Mass. emerges as a model

“Police chiefs are in a very good position to make that determination. I understand the concern about it, but there needs to be someone that’s close to the community that can make the call,” he said, adding he was pleased with the overall sweep of the Legislature’s effort to address gun violence. John M. Hohenwarter, governmental affairs director for Massachusetts for the NRA, spent much of the afternoon walking around the area outside the Senate chamber and talking with advocates and at least one legislator.  After the vote, he said he was “very pleased with what the Senate did today. The bill’s in much better shape than it was when it came over from the House.” Jim Wallace, executive director of the Gun Owners’ Action League of Massachusetts, an NRA affiliate, also expressed pleasure with the bill, calling it history-making. His group had been neutral on the House legislation, which included the disputed provision giving police chiefs added discretion of who gets a shotgun or rifle, but Thursday pressed hard to remove it.  Janet Goldenberg, one of the leaders of the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, said the group was “very disappointed” with the amendment stripping out the provision. “In terms of keeping guns out of the hands of those who pose a danger to themselves, to their households, to the public,” she said, “the Senate bill is really a significant step backward from the House bill, a step backward from public safety.”  “It’s a shame to think that the gun lobby has that kind of influence in Massachusetts,” she said. If the differing bills go to a conference committee to be reconciled, as is expected, legislators won’t have much time to hash out a bill suitable to both chambers: Formal legislative sessions are scheduled to end in two weeks.  The push in the Legislature for the new measure on gun violence followed the Newtown, Conn., school massacre in December 2012.  If the new antigun violence bill becomes law, it will build on the state’s sweeping 1998 gun law, which has been called among the toughest in the nation. Joshua Miller can be reached at joshua.miller@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos.

 

Can you help – Gun Legislation in Senate – Thursday, July 17

Thursday afternoon, the State Senate will debate the Gun Violence Bill. (scheduled for 1 p.m.)  JALSA has put significant effort in the past 18 months toward new legislation to help reduce gun violence and this bill is an important step.  If you are planning to come into the State House tomorrow to listen to the debate, you could be a useful help coming to the JALSA office earlier for 1,2, or 3 hours.  We will be using the HubDialer system to help generate calls to State Senators. Join with the Massachusetts Coalition on Gun Violence by coming into the JALSA office for 1, 2, or 3 hours.  You would need a laptop (or a tablet) and a cell phone. Beginning at 9:30 a.m., we will make calls until at least 1 p.m.. 18 Tremont Street, Suite 320, Boston.  Email jalsaoffice@gmail with any questions or call them.