The only bits of good news about the “SAFER Act” that I can find is that the gun control bill introduced by the Massachusetts Senate on Thursday does not include a live-fire training mandate in order to obtain a gun license, nor does it impose a lengthy list of new “gun-free zones” in the state. But while S2572 may have a slightly narrower focus than its House counterpart (nicknamed the Lawful Citizens Imprisonment Act by the Gun Owners Action League), it’s still aimed mostly at lawful gun owners instead of the real perpetrators of most violent crime in the state.
Under S2572 Massachusetts residents would need a license to manufacture firearms before they could build a gun using a 3D printer, the state’s ban on so-called assault weapons would be codified to fit the Attorney General’s interpretation of the law (which renders most semi-automatic long guns illegal to manufacture, sell, and transfer), and a new civil cause of action would be created allowing individuals to sue gun makers and sellers over “the marketing of unlawful firearm sales to minors”; something that wouldn’t be an issue were it not for the fact that anti-gunners view almost every bit of marketing by gun companies as if it was targeted to those too young to legally purchase a firearm.
The only new “gun-free zones” established by S2572 would be government administration buildings, and local municipalities would be able to opt-out of the ban and allow lawful carry if they choose. That’s a far different approach than what we’ve seen in other anti-gun states like California, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland, where lawmakers enacted so many new “sensitive places” that the right to carry would be largely limited to a few sidewalks and streets, but given the other provisions in the legislation its hardly something to cheer about.
The bill also expands the state’s current “red flag” law (which is already fatally flawed and lacking in due process protections) to allow a health care provider to file an Extreme Risk Protection Order petition against any client they’ve seen within the last six months, while also barring anyone subject to an ERPO from obtaining a license to carry while the order is in effect. As defined in the bill, “health care providers” who can file an ERPO petition include licensed physicians, licensed physician assistants, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, certified nurse practitioners, certified clinical nurse specialists, certified psychiatric clinical nurse specialists, licensed psychiatrists, licensed psychologists, licensed mental health counselor, licensed marriage and family therapist, licensed alcohol and drug counselor, licensed independent clinical social worker or licensed certified social worker. This seems like a really good way to get gun owners to avoid talking to mental health workers and their family physician, while still failing to address the actual dangerousness that might be present. If someone poses a threat to themselves or others, they wouldn’t be provided any sort of treatment options. Instead, after a judge removes their ability to lawfully possess a weapon the authors of S2572 apparently believe that individual would no longer pose a danger at all.
The only section of the bill that’s specifically aimed at violent crime is the creation of a new criminal offense for “firing a weapon directly at a dwelling or a building in use, which would be punishable by 2 1/2 to 5 years in prison. Beyond that, however, the bill pays far more attention to legal gun owners and firearm retailers than those using firearms in the commission of a violent crime.
You can read all 35 pages of the bill here, but keep in mind that the legislation is likely to go through several changes before it hits the floor for a vote sometime next week. While senators may have taken their time in drafting the bill, they’re racing to bring S2572 up for a vote, knowing that once the Senate bill has been approved a conference committee will then begin trying to cobble together a bill that meets with approval from both chambers. S2572 may have a more narrow focus than the bill approved by the House last fall, but that doesn’t mean that whatever the committee comes up with is going to stay that way.
We’ll be talking with the folks from the Gun Owners Action League about S2572 on Cam & Co next week, and I know they’ll have a lot to say after they’ve gone over each line of the legislation. They’ll be posting updates on their website as well, and if you’re a Massachusetts gun owner I encourage you to bookmark that page, sign up for GOAL’s email alerts, and contact your own senator and encourage them to put their focus where it belongs; on violent criminals, not lawful gun owners.