In October 2023, I joined my House colleagues to pass a major gun safety bill, the largest update to gun safety laws in Massachusetts since 2014. By a vote of 120-38.
H.4135, An act modernizing firearm laws addresses and updates multiple areas of gun safety. The bill addresses and regulates the problem of ghost guns (guns that evade current licensing procedures); strengthens the Commonwealth’s red flag laws (the laws which seek to prevent people who may do harm to themselves or others from possessing firearms); updates the definition of assault weapons; limits the carrying of guns into schools, polling places, and government buildings, and requires permission in order to carry firearms into private residences of others.
The bill is a result of a comprehensive review of the Commonwealth’s gun laws and addressing emerging threats in technology (like ghost guns), and responding directly to last year’s U.S. Supreme Court’s New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n., Inc. v. Bruen decision in a way that allows Massachusetts to continue to take the lead in gun safety.
Prior to voting on this bill, the House Chair of the Judiciary Committee held 11 public listening sessions across the commonwealth (at least three of which were held in western Massachusetts), held a public hearing and received comments from the public on it. The bill even went through revisions, with a new one filed in early fall to reflect the public’s concerns and feedback, and further amended on the floor of the House prior to voting on the whole package.
Some of the bill’s major provisions:
Regulates Ghost Guns: New technology allows some firearms to evade Massachusetts’ registration and licensing laws. The bill requires that homemade firearms, 3D printed or made from a parts kit, include a serial number and creates penalties for the use of untraceable, unregistered “ghost guns.” There are currently no laws on the books that deal with these firearms and these measures were a top priority since they have been previously ignored. The provision requires that all firearms manufactured, assembled, possessed, purchased, or transferred into MA be serialized and registered with the Commonwealth.
Expands Red Flag Law or Extreme Risk Protective Order (ERPO): The current “red flag” law allows family members, domestic partners, and local police to petition a court for an extreme risk protective order if they may pose a risk to self or others. The ERPO temporarily suspends a person’s access to a firearm if a judge rules that they are at risk of causing bodily harm to themselves or others. This bill expands who is eligible to file an ERPO to include employers, school administrators, or a licensed medical provider. The law still requires a hearing has to be held and there are penalties for filing materially false info or doing so with an intent to harass.
Updates Assault Weapons Ban: Massachusetts has had an assault weapons ban since the federal ban expired in 2004. This bill updates and expands the list of prohibited assault weapons which has not changed since that time. These regulations apply only to new assault weapons.
Prohibits all machine gun conversion devices or devices that increase the rate of fire of firearms
Establishes Penalties for Discharging Guns at Homes: The bill creates a new penalty for the reckless discharge of a firearm that strikes a person’s home. This does not apply to a person acting in self-defense of their life or property.
Reinforces Prohibited Areas: Picking up on the Supreme Court’s Bruen decision where it made clear that the government has an interest in restricting the presence of firearms in what is called “sensitive spaces”. The Supreme Court specifically listed schools, polling places, and government buildings. Under the MA bill, you may not carry a weapon into a school, polling place during an election, or government building, or (an added “sensitive space”) to a person’s private home without their permission. The bill includes an exemption for on-duty law enforcement officers and was amended on the floor to include off-duty officers as well. Businesses may continue to prohibit the carrying of firearms onto their property.
Establishes Standardized Training: The current courses for a license to carry vary greatly with no requirement that an applicant handle or fire a handgun before purchase. This bill will require State Police to promulgate a uniform training curriculum and standardized test for all new applicants for a license to carry or long gun permit. The curriculum will include live firearm training, civilian use of force and de-escalation, injury prevention and harm reduction, active shooter and emergency response training.
Explores Best Practices for Violence Prevention: Establishes a commission to study the funding structure for community-based violence prevention services
Streamlines Licensing Regulations: Feedback from gun owners described existing state firearms laws as needing consolidating and reorganizing. The bill does this.