Gun Owners Action League Calls House Speaker’s Firearms Reform Bill a ‘Disappointment’
Members of the Gun Owners Action League (GOAL) said they’re not too impressed with the proposed “gun violence prevention” legislation that was unveiled by House Speaker Robert DeLeo on Tuesday, after elected leaders and a special task force spent months compiling information from all over Massachusetts in hopes coming up with balanced recommendations for safety reforms.
“Our first reaction is disappointment,” said the group’s executive director, Jim Wallace. “We were looking for something that we could support from the get-go. It was very apparent at the press conference—with who was standing at the podium and who wasn’t—just how this bill was going to be drafted.”
Wallace said GOAL is planning on going through the bill with “a fine-toothed comb” for Wednesday. They want to make sure that some language drafted in the legislation— specifically concerning people with mental health issues and registering with a national database—is written correctly.
During a meeting at the State House on Tuesday morning, DeLeo unveiled a bill that would implement stricter guidelines for gun sales, requiring that all secondary transactions in Massachusetts take place at a licensed dealer’s store. DeLeo’s proposal also calls for the state to fall into line with the National Instant Criminal Check System, prohibit a convicted felon from gaining access to a Firearms Identification card, and establish criminal penalties for licensed gun owners who fail to report a lost or stolen weapon, or improperly store a firearm, rifle, or shotgun.
DeLeo’s proposed legislation was based on information compiled by the State House’s Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, and a team of experts that sat on a special committee, known as the Gun Violence Task Force. The committee met more than 15 times over the course of a nine-month period between March and the end of December last year before presenting DeLeo and legislators with a total of 44 gun-violence prevention methods that they believed would help reduce firearms-related deaths and shootings statewide.
Calling it “a great bill,” if passed, the legislation would make Massachusetts the “most effective state in terms of gun laws,” according to DeLeo.
But members of GOAL said they found the elected official’s final recommendations troubling, and vowed to make their qualms known to the public. “What we find most disturbing about the bill language is that it expands the ‘suitability’ requirement to the FID cards,” Wallace said in a statement that listed complaints about the new bill. “Equally disturbing is the proposed requirement that an applicant must have a ‘good reason’ to apply for the card. To expand these requirements is unconscionable and a possible constitutional violation that likely will not withstand scrutiny.”
Currently, law enforcement officials have a procedure for issuing a license to carry, which is used to purchase or possess any legal firearm including handguns. According to DeLeo’s bill, a similar system would be established for the issuance of a FID card, which are used when purchasing a shotgun or rifle.
While GOAL criticized DeLeo’s efforts, Attorney General Martha Coakley stood behind the proposal, and said the gun violence bill “recognizes the critical intersection between gun violence, suicide prevention, mental health care, domestic violence and school safety,” by bunching them together and covering them in one shot. “This bill takes important steps to reduce gun violence by ensuring we comply with the national background check system and closing the gun show loophole,” she said, adding that more federal action needs to be taken to restrict illegal firearms sales.
DeLeo said a public hearing on the bill will be held next Tuesday, and should hit the House floor roughly two weeks later for a vote. A version of the bill will also have to go before the Senate, and later be signed off by Governor Deval Patrick.
Below is a summary of the bill, as submitted by DeLeo on Tuesday: