CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — Democratic Speaker Robert DeLeo says he plans to bring a bill before the Massachusetts House that would let firearms be taken from people who show unstable or potentially dangerous behavior.
DeLeo made the announcement with other lawmakers, gun safety advocates, police chiefs and students on Wednesday at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School.
The so-called “red flag” bill would let family members petition a court for an extreme risk protection order if they believe a legal gun owner poses a risk to themselves or others. Such an order would prevent the individual from possessing or purchasing firearms for one year.
DeLeo said the bill would help bolster the state’s reputation for having some of the toughest gun laws in the country — laws that he said have translated into fewer firearms deaths in Massachusetts.
“We seek not only to be the safest state in our country, we strive for Massachusetts to stand up with the safest places in the world,” DeLeo said. “We know that folks all over the country look to Massachusetts as a model for our gun safety legislation.”
Similar legislation has been considered in several states since the Feb. 14 shooting that killed 17 people at a Florida high school. Connecticut has had a “red flag” law since 1999.
The bill’s chief sponsor, Cambridge Democratic Rep. Marjorie Decker, said the goal is simple — to prevent firearm deaths.
“We’re saying if someone is in your home and you don’t believe they are safe with a gun, if they are going to hurt themselves or hurt someone else that there should be a pause and that we should remove those very things that can hurt them and hurt others,” Decker said. “There’s no time for reflection once that decision has been made to shoot yourself or shoot others.”
Massachusetts Gun Owners Action League Executive Director Jim Wallace said the bill focuses too much on guns and not on the individuals.
Wallace called the language in the bill “cruel and dangerous” because of the way he said it treats people with temporary mental health issues and also the way it doesn’t treat people with severe mental health issues who may be the next killer.
Wallace said the bill would drag people through a court system, label them a risk, take their legal gun away and send them home.
“That’s unacceptable,” he said. “If we’re looking for the next school shooter, simply taking their legal gun away and setting them free is not the answer either.”
Wallace said his group is proposing its own bill which would include setting up a hotline for friends and family members.
The bill outlined by DeLeo has the backing of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association. The group said in a recent letter to lawmakers that the proposal would close loopholes in current law.
Police chiefs already have discretion to revoke gun licenses, but they say the bill would offer families a direct route to seek help.
DeLeo says a vote will be taken on the bill later this month and he expects it to pass. It would still need the backing of the Senate and Republican Gov. Charlie Baker before becoming law.
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