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Top House Democrat’s omnibus gun bill would crack down on ghost guns, expand ‘red flag’ law

A state lawmaker on Monday filed a wide-ranging proposal aimed at reforming gun laws in Massachusetts, which already has some of the strictest rules in the country.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

A top House Democrat on Beacon Hill delivered Monday on a request made a year ago by House Speaker Ronald J. Mariano, when the lawmaker filed a wide-ranging proposal aimed at reforming gun laws in Massachusetts, which already has some of the strictest rules in the country.

The bill, filed by Joint Judiciary Committee Chair Michael S. Day would “modernize” the state’s gun laws and take steps to get rid of so-called “ghost guns,” among other measures.

Lawmakers passed some language last year to retool the state’s gun laws to bring Massachusetts in compliance with a 2022 US Supreme Court decision that effectively invalidated the state’s law restricting who could carry concealed weapons.

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“One of the most important duties we have as lawmakers is to ensure the health and safety of our residents, and neither a rogue Supreme Court nor increasingly sophisticated criminal activity will stop this Legislature from meeting those duties,” Day said. “Massachusetts has the lowest rate of gun-related deaths in the continental United States because our firearm laws work.”

The proposal is a culmination of a year of hearings, public testimony, and an 11-stop listening tour across the state, the Stoneham Democrat said.

Each stop on the tour focused on a single issue, with topics including illegal firearm trafficking, violence prevention, ghost guns that are assembled from kits and other untraceable firearms, and reforms designed to prevent suicide, domestic violence, and school shootings.

Day said the bill would both bring Massachusetts firearms laws up to date and help stem the flow of illegal guns into the state. It would also protect Massachusetts communities from further gun violence, he said.

Gun violence kills 255 people and wounds 557 others in Massachusetts each year, according to the gun violence prevention group Everytown for Gun Safety.

Mariano called for a such a bill last year after the June 2022 ruling from the high court.

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“It is my hope that the work we do here will not only make Massachusetts a safer place to live, but will serve as a national model for Congress and other states,” the Quincy Democrat said in a statement Monday. “I want to thank Chairman Day for working diligently to produce a comprehensive bill.”

Day’s bill includes proposals to:

  • Clamp down on ghost guns by requiring receivers and barrels, the two parts necessary to build a gun, to be registered and serialized. It also criminalizes building and selling the untraceable guns. Day’s office said the Boston Police Department reported a 280 percent increase in the number of ghost guns recovered on the streets between 2019 and 2021.
  • Expand the state’s “red flag law” to include school administrators, medical professionals, and employers on the list of people who can request emergency protective orders against gun owners who pose a risk of harming themselves or others.
  • Close loopholes that allow people to turn a legal gun into an illegal automatic weapon by using modifications.
  • Transfer inspections and oversight of gun dealers to Massachusetts State Police from local police. Last year, Globe reporting found more than half of local police departments surveyed never inspect gun shops as required by law.
  • Remove semi-automatic rifles or shotguns from the newly created long-gun permit for 18- to 21-year-olds.
  • Increase penalties for failing to report a lost or stolen guns.
  • Update a statewide firearm surrender program to allow people with illegal guns to anonymously give them up without facing prosecution.
  • Prohibit firing guns at or near residential buildings and carrying firearms or hunting while intoxicated.
  • Require people seeking a license to own a gun to complete a live firearm training in addition to a written exam.
  • Explicitly prohibit guns in schools, polling places, government buildings, and private property without the permission of the owner. Day told the State House News Service the measure was “spawned” by the Supreme Court’s decision last year that overturned a New York law — similar to one in Massachusetts — that required applicants to prove a special need to get a license to carry a firearm in public.

Lawmakers passed language last year that banned issuing licenses to carry to anyone who has a harassment prevention order against them and required police to conduct a “personal interview” of anyone seeking a license to carry.

The language also barred police from imposing restrictions on licenses, something Massachusetts officials said the high court case demanded.

It did not include House language to require gun owners to renew their licenses twice as often — a proposal that also did not make it into Day’s bill on Monday.

The omnibus bill, however, was lauded by gun safety advocates, who say the proposal is another example of the state’s leadership on the issue.

“The Commonwealth has long been a national example of how strong gun safety laws work — today we renew our commitment in tackling gun violence at its core,” Jennifer Robinson, a volunteer with the Massachusetts chapter of Moms Demand Action, said in a statement.

Gun rights advocates, including the Gun Owners Action League, slammed the bill, referring to it in a post on the group’s website as “The Lawful Citizens Imprisonment Act.”

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“The gun laws are already so convoluted and complex that it is extremely difficult for the average citizen to comply with them,” the group wrote. “The newly proposed language will add a finality to that as it will now be virtually impossible. There will be no way to exercise our [Second Amendment] civil rights in Massachusetts without risking arrest and prosecution.”

The omnibus bill will next head to the Judiciary Committee for review before being scheduled for a public hearing.

“I look forward to hearing from members, constituents, and outside experts as this bill moves through the legislative process,” Mariano said.

Matt Stout of the Globe staff contributed to this report.


Samantha J. Gross can be reached at samantha.gross@globe.com. Follow her @samanthajgross.