On February 1, the Senate debated a comprehensive gun safety bill, S.2572, An Act to sensibly address firearm violence through effective reform—the SAFER Act. The following is a summary of what’s in this bill, which passed the Senate by a vote of 37 to 3.
As part of my work on this legislation, driven by my interest in reducing gun violence, my team and I met with constituents and advocates including the Western Mass Police Chiefs, the Northwestern District Attorney’s office, sport shooting advocates, hunters, Moms Demand Action, Giffords Center for Violence Intervention, and Everytown for Gun Safety.
The bill includes the following gun safety policies:
- Ghost Guns. Updates the state’s laws to bring Massachusetts in line with national standards and to ensure accountability and oversight for those who own and possess unserialized and untraceable firearms.
- Assault Weapons. Codifies Massachusetts’ existing prohibition on assault weapons and copies or duplicates of those weapons, to ensure that our residents are kept safe from weapons of war.
- Glock Switches and Trigger Activators. Makes it illegal to possess devices that convert semi-automatic firearms into fully automatic machine guns.
- Inspections of Gun Dealers. Ensures that gun dealers are inspected annually and allows the Massachusetts State Police to conduct those inspections if a local licensing agency does not or cannot do so.
- Red Flag Law and Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO). Allows health care professionals to petition courts to remove firearms and licenses from patients who pose a risk to themselves or others. The bill also allows preemptive orders to prevent a dangerous individual from obtaining a license to carry a firearm.
- Harassment Prevention Orders. Protects survivors of harassment by requiring courts to compel the surrender of firearms by individuals who are subject to harassment protection orders who pose an immediate threat.
- Sensitive Places. Prohibits the carry of firearms in government administrative buildings, with exceptions for law enforcement officers and municipalities that choose to opt out.
- Mental Health and Gun Licensing. Ensures that firearm licensing authorities have access to certain information about an applicant’s history of involuntary mental health hospitalizations due to posing a serious harm—with appropriate safeguards to guarantee privacy and due process.
- Data Collection. Creates a more robust data reporting and analysis mechanism for guns used in crimes, suicides, and attempted suicides to ensure that the Commonwealth can better target training and enforcement efforts.
- Gun Industry Accountability in Advertising. Prohibits the marketing of unlawful firearm sales to minors and allows industry actors to be held civilly liable if such marketing practices lead to an individual being harmed.
- Firing at a Dwelling. Creates a criminal charge for intentionally firing a firearm at a dwelling or other building in use.
- Community Violence Prevention. Creates a commission to analyze the allocation of state violence prevention funding and recommend changes to reduce gun violence in disproportionately impacted communities; develops a pilot program to promote gun safety awareness and firearms licensing education; and establishes a task force to make recommendations for maximizing federal funding for gun violence prevention in the most equitable way.
- Emerging Firearm Technology. Establishes a commission to study emerging firearm technology, with a particular focus on products and features that could increase safety.
During debate, the Senate adopted several amendments, including:
- Providing the department of public health with access to gun crime data to ensure gun violence is treated as the public health issue it is.
- Creating a commission to better understand data around gun violence to help get to the root of gun violence crimes.
- Providing information on suicide prevention to individuals taking firearm safety and hunter safety courses.
- Creating a voluntary do-not-sell firearm database to allow individuals who worry they are a threat to themselves or others to voluntarily exclude themselves from having the ability to purchase firearms.
I heard concern from constituents that the bill voted on by the Senate did not have a public hearing, however, this was an omnibus bill comprised of multiple, individual gun safety bills, and each of the bills that made up this omnibus legislation received a public hearing before either the Joint Committee on Public Safety or the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.
I filed one amendment that was adopted during debate. Currently, if a firearms dealer is denied a permit to sell firearms in a given municipality, they can appeal that denial and the appeal is heard by the Colonel of the State Police. My amendment changes the law so that these appeals will now be heard by the court with regional jurisdiction. This court will be more familiar with the area in which the firearms dealer seeks to operate. This court also currently hears appeals when a License to Carry permit is denied, so this aligns the permitting process for firearms dealers with the process for a License to Carry.
The House of Representatives previously passed gun safety legislation, and the branches will now reconcile the differences between the two versions of the legislation.