House Speaker Set to Unveil New Legislation to Combat Gun Violence

After months of public hearings and protests all across Massachusetts, the new recommendations will be revealed.

Massachusetts State House

Photo by Alex Lau

House Speaker Robert DeLeo convened a special commission last year tasked with examining the state’s firearms laws and ways to improve them. After months of heated public hearings and meetings with elected leaders, he will present that committee’s findings and introduce legislation for possible gun law reform on Tuesday.

“He created a multidisciplinary task force last year, and the group made a set of comprehensive recommendations that were released earlier this year,” said Seth Gitell, a spokesperson from DeLeo’s office. “He has been in talks with folks since then, and is now ready to unveil the legislation.”

While he wouldn’t directly address what changes are being proposed, and would only reference the task force’s earlier recommendations, Gitell said DeLeo is looking forward to releasing legislation that will enable Massachusetts to attain its position of setting the bar for gun safety, and continue moving it in the direction of being—if not already—one of the leading states on the issue. “The speaker has stated all along that Massachusetts has some of the best and strongest gun laws in the nation, but that we could do better and should be looking at what some other countries have been doing to increase that safety,” Gitell said.

DeLeo will release the set of recommendations during a press conference at the State House, alongside Representative Hank Naughton, chairman of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, Dr. Jack McDevitt, and members of the Committee to Reduce Gun Violence. “We think the legislation will be pretty well received. There’s nothing out of left field. From all of the information we compiled from the hearings statewide, we are confident it will be received well on both sides,” said a spokesperson from Naughton’s office.

The task force, made up of police officers, lawmakers, and mental health professionals, released a total of 44 recommendations in February that they believe could help reduce gun-related deaths and shootings statewide. The recommendations focused mainly on revamping the gun licensing process to make it less confusing for people seeking specific permits, and to make background checks more stringent. The proposed changes “are intended to tighten the already strong gun legislation in Massachusetts, and are directed toward those irresponsible gun owners who do not follow the Commonwealth laws and regulations,” according to a report released by members of the commission.

The Committee to Reduce Gun Violence—also known as the Gun Violence Task Force—met more than 15 times over the course of a nine-month period between March and the end of December last year. They formulated a portion of their recommendations for DeLeo based on hundreds of testimonies from residents before the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security.

While Gitell said DeLeo worked “very hard” on the legislation that he’ll reveal next week, some of the recommendations made by the special task force were met with opposition from gun owners and members of the Gun Owners Action League, a Massachusetts firearm association founded in 1974 to protect people’s Second Amendment rights. Just days after the proposed recommendations were made public, the group said they felt as though they were excluded from the process of crafting the in-depth report. “While agreeing with some positions, GOAL’s critiques are intended to provide a clear explanation of our objections to others and if possible how they can be corrected,” the group said.