Massachusetts, the only state in New England wracked by increasing violent crime, is doubling down on its policy of extreme anti-gun laws. The most controversial policy proposed by State House Speaker Robert DeLeo is to add the state’s “May Issue” standard for handgun licenses, which is a de facto “No Issue” in many jurisdictions, to the requirements for the Firearms ID Card. The FID Card is required for long guns, air guns, and such non-firearms as pepper spray and model rocket engines.
Massachusetts is one of eight states that require some sort of permit to purchase long guns, and one of only seven that register them (some states apply these laws only for “assault weapons”); if this provision passes, MA will be the only state that makes a routine long-gun permit subject to the whim of the issuing authority.
DeLeo, who recently came out ahead on a photo finish with a Federal grand jury that indicted a number of his friends, aides, supporters and family members in a jobs-for-cash scandal in the Probation Office, is unlikely to propose anything that is a threat to organized crime, to which he is at least well disposed, if not well connected.
It’s unlikely even an indictment would inconvenience DeLeo. In the one-party-state that is Massachusetts, the three previous Speakers of the State House are convicted felons, and the former Senate President was the brother of, and enabler for, serial killer, mob figure and pedophile Whitey Bulger.
The Bill’s Genesis: A Gun-Control Commission
The Speaker commissioned a Gun Violence Commission of anti-gun activists to propose new restrictions after the Sandy Hook shootings. Representatives included academic activists; politicians; a Soros-funded Harvard economist; a political and anti-gun Chief of Police whose very brief experience as a police officer was hassling open-container violators as a Brandeis U campus officer; a representative of the mentally ill; and a criminal defense attorney as a representative of criminal gangs. No pro-gun individuals were named to the commission, although some were interviewed on one day of the Commission’s nine-month effort, and another day was spent grilling FFLs.
The Commission expressed distress that the state had slid in the Brady Center’s ratings from 3rd to 6th most prohibitory state, and offered a variety of proposals to recapture previous heights. To give you an example of a point they thought they were reasonably compromising with gun owners on, they considered, but in the end did not adopt, a proposal that all guns must be stored at licensed ranges. They also backed down from requiring guns to be forfeit in cases of “a divorce, loss of employment or other personal crises,” but they urged this and the final bill proposes a study along these lines.
The Commission blames “lax laws in New Hampshire” for Boston gun crime. But those lax laws have not produced a similar crime wave in Maine or, for that matter, New Hampshire. They explain this by saying that those states are rural and therefore crime-free. MA does have a high population density at 840/mi compared to NH’s 147/mi. But Connecticut’s is 739/mi and Rhode Island’s is 1006/mi, and how do they fare in violent crime per capita?
So who are we going to believe, the Commission, or the lyin’ numbers? But remember, these people are real academics with degrees and everything (one of the principal authors is a gun control activist finishing her master’s. Oooh. She’s special!)
The DeLeo bill incorporates the recommendations of the gun control activists with only a few exceptions. The committee report can be found at Northeastern University.
Results of the Last Bill
The last major change in MA gun laws was 1998, passed over the veto of Governor Romney. That law, Section 180, has had one result that its promoters boasted in ’98: MA has the most gun-hostile legal environment in the Northeast, and arguably the nation. The rest of its results, though, run contrary to what its promoters claimed was their objectives:
- Massachusetts has a much higher homicide rate than any other New England State.
- Massachusetts has about double the violent crime rate than other New England States, and a higher violent crime rate than New York.
- Gun Homicides have roughly doubled, in absolute terms. (The population of the state is stable to down).
(Note also, that gun homicides are about half of MA homicides annually).
- Gun Related Hospital Discharge Assaults have trebled.
- Gun Related Emergency Room Visits have trebled.
- Massachusetts’s gun suicide rate is stable since 1998, but non-gun suicides have soared.
- There is no effect on the rate of fatal gun accidents, which is almost immeasurably low.
Our Reading of the Bill
Language available here.
Under the new bill, private sales, which are already very difficult in Mass., are banned outright.
There is a remarkable ex post facto law requiring any person who was at any time after 1 Jan 94 a gun dealer, but is no longer, to transmit duplicate records to a state office and the BATF now or face a criminal fine.
Any dealers still sticking it out are responsible for the criminal and mental health records, if any, of every one of their employees.
The “Secretary of Public Safety” has new powers, advised by a “Gun Control Advisory Board” of volunteer (but paid, we think) gun-control activists. Those powers include not just the ability, but the requirement to issue an expanded ban list of “large capacity rifles, shotguns, firearms and feeding devices,” three times a year.
The secretary may amend the roster upon his own initiative or with the advice of the gun control advisory board or the attorney general. A person may petition the secretary to place a weapon on, or remove a weapon from, the roster, subject to the provisions of this section. A person who so petitions shall give the reasons why the roster should be so amended.
All crime guns must now be traced, and the Colonel (top banana) of the State Police must furnish an annual report on these traces to the press and to gun control activists in academia and nonprofit groups.
Under the new bill, every license holder (which will now include every .22 and shotgun owner) must list all weapons owned every time they interact with the licensing authorities. An error or omission is enough to send them for prison and “get their guns off the street.”
Failing to report theft or loss of a firearm is now permanent revocation of licenses, and a felony, and so is failing to report recovery of a previously lost firearm.
Mandatory minimum for some gun crimes is now 7 years. (This appears to apply to real violent crime, such as carjackings and armed robberies and burglaries. Unfortunately even the current sentence is seldom applied because soft on crime prosecutors don’t charge this offense).
Home defense will now be illegal. Failing to store a firearm under lock and key, with ammunition under separate lock and key, is a felony.
Having a weapon stolen is sufficient proof that it wasn’t secured adequately, which is now a felony with a long prison sentence, depending on the magazine capacity of the weapon, up to 14 years.
BB guns, air rifles and Airsoft toys are redefined as “firearms” in an expansive new definition.
“Firearm” shall mean any pistol, revolver, rifle or smoothbore arm from which a shot, bullet or pellet can be discharged by whatever means.
There are some other interesting parts of the bill. There’s a section that appears to require school resource officers, but that also offers all school and public officials absolute immunity for any negligence, lapse or failure of school security.
There’s a requirement that hunter and firearms safety classes must now include an extraneous block of instruction on suicide prevention. Phone numbers for two suicide hotline must now be printed on the license to carry.
There appears to be a requirement that physicians collect gun ownership data from their patients, although it’s hard to understand because it’s written at DeLeo’s 6th Grade education level.
There is a requirement that even mental evaluation hospitalizations produce a lifetime firearms disability which may be lifted by a court if the individual petitions and a mental health professional pronounces him or her cured — but that the court may not, at its sole discretion.
There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors about people with firearms disability for mental illness or felonies having rights restored
If the circumstances regarding the person’s disqualifying condition and the person’s record and reputation are determined to be such that: (i) the person is not likely to act in a manner that is dangerous to public safety; and (ii) the granting of relief would not be contrary to the public interest.
What this is, is the exception for the “connected.”
Gun shops have to post suicide prevention posters. Because, everyone knows a suicide just needs a pithy phrase on a poster, and a worthless 800 number that brings a SWAT team to kill you, or at least trash your place.
This bill is not law yet. It will go to the floor of the legislature, where the less anti-gun Western Mass. legislators and the more anti-gun Greater Boston legislators will both try to amend it. The anti-gun legislators have a pretty solid lock on the State House, so the bill may get worse before it passes. The governor will sign any anti-gun bill that’s brought before him.