Gun Group Wants to Give Domestic Abuse Victims Free Access to Weapons Permits

They also think anyone that needs pepper spray should be able to get it.

Photo By Alex Lau

Photo By Alex Lau

As legislators get ready to discuss a new domestic violence bill, spurred by the tragic murder of a Waltham woman last summer, gun advocates are calling for additional protocols to be put in place as part of the overall proposal, including allowing victims of abuse to obtain gun licenses at no charge and eliminating the need for permits to buy pepper spray.

Two amendments to the highly-anticipated domestic violence reform bill that’s up for debate at the State House Tuesday, spearheaded by House Speaker Robert DeLeo, were filed on behalf of the Gun Owners’ Action League, or GOAL.

The group is asking elected officials to insert two amendments to the current version of the bill, specifically removing the licensing requirement entirely for the purchase of defense sprays, and giving domestic violence victims free access to an unrestricted gun license. “Pepper sprays and firearms are important tools for women’s self-defense,” said Jim Wallace, GOAL’s executive director. “What’s the reason to license pepper spray and make it inaccessible to 95 percent of the very people who need it? Why should victims have to pay to keep themselves safe? There is no logical reason not to pass these reforms and make our streets and our communities safer.”

After Jared Remy was charged with the brutal stabbing death of his girlfriend Jennifer Martel last August, the state decided it was time to give the current domestic violence protection laws an overhaul. Last week, DeLeo announced—with the backing of Attorney General Martha Coakley—that Massachusetts needed to toughen penalties for repeat abusers like Remy, who had a long history of offenses that allegedly included terrorizing female victims, according to a Globe investigation.

DeLeo’s proposed legislation, which goes before state elected officials on Beacon Hill today for debate, would also create new criminal offenses for things like strangling, increased penalties for offenders, and boost overall domestic violence prevention efforts. The bill also aims to introduce delays to the issuance of bail for criminal suspects to provide the victim with time for safety planning, as well as establish employment leave for victims, according to the wording in the bill.

Wallace and members of GOAL think while those protections are necessary, the bill needs to go one step further to ensure the safety of people impacted by physical violence and threats. The group said in a statement that the amendment to waive the fee for a gun license for victims comes after “multiple reports of people not obtaining gun licenses due to the high fees.”

GOAL has been pushing for the passage of legislation to make non-lethal methods of defense, like sprays, easily accessible to those who need it. Since their original legislation stalled in the House Ways and Means Committee earlier this year, members of the group are instead trying to squeeze their proposal into DeLeo’s domestic violence bill. Currently, a person has to obtain a Firearm Identification Card, or FID, from a local law enforcement agency in order to possess mace or pepper spray because of the state law. Each application for a FID card costs $25 and is renewable on an annual basis. Similar calls for change to the pepper spray laws were proposed by state officials last summer.