Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Statement on S.2572

Last week the Senate approved its version of new gun safety legislation (S.2572), one of many steps in the legislative process around this subject. This narrower and reformed version of the bill (35 pages) earned the unanimous support of the Massachusetts Association of Chiefs of Police, whereas the much different and expansive bill put forth earlier by the House (129 pages) was unanimously opposed by those same police chiefs from across the state.

Because the Senate bill had not been subjected to a public hearing, my first action was to move that it be referred to the Committee on Public Safety, which is charged with dealing with firearms legislation, to be properly addressed, including a public hearing. Unfortunately, this effort failed on a 9-31 vote leaving us to deal with the bill.

Next, the entire Republican caucus moved to make major changes to S.2572 by offering amendment #63, which would substitute a new narrower bill that protected second amendment rights while strengthening public safety. Unfortunately, that substitution was rejected on a vote of 6-33.

While it was unfortunate that commonsense amendment #63 was not adopted, I worked with my colleagues to further refocus the bill on punishing those who break the law - while protecting those who abide by it. We fought to ensure the following amendments were adopted:

- Amendment #6: requires that an individual charged with a criminal offense involving a gun, or who is on parole for such an offense, and that is subsequently charged with another crime involving guns or violence, is detained until trial for that crime

- Amendment #11: provides for grandfathering in the assault weapons ban for firearms lawfully possessed

- Amendment #22: changes the overly broad definition in the bill of "Rapid Fire Trigger Activator," which would have misclassified some common components as "Glock Switches"

- Amendment #30: requires the Secretary of Public Safety to report on numerous measures, originally adopted in 2014, to provide education and to punish criminal behavior which appear to be languishing without implementation

- Amendment #32: expands the ability of lawful gun owners and gunsmiths to repair and reassemble guns to include rifles and shotguns

- Amendment #55: creates a separate, additional penalty for shooting a firearm at a police officer, which includes imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than 2 years and a fine of not more than $1,000 or by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than 5 years, and liability for civil damages

- Amendment #74: limits the otherwise broad and vicarious liability for manufacturers contained in the bill by recognizing legitimate youth sporting activities involving firearms

My “yes” vote for the amended Senate version of the bill was an endorsement of the process to limit its scope, incorporate significant amendments to protect lawful gun owners and punish criminals, and move to conference committee from a strong posture.

With significant differences between the House and Senate bills on this subject, there is still a long way to go before any final version becomes law. Throughout all of the process that remains, I will continue to work to ensure that public safety is our top priority, and that we seek to strengthen it without infringing on the second amendment rights of safe, responsible gun owners and sportsmen like me. It remains to be seen whether or not that can be accomplished.