Legislature moves ‘red flag’ gun bill to Baker’s desk
State lawmakers on Thursday sent a bill to Governor Charlie Baker that would give judges the power to confiscate weapons from individuals deemed a risk to themselves or others.
The House and Senate moved quickly to pass a compromise version of the so-called “red flag” legislation, which would allow family members, roommates, current and former romantic partners, and police officials to petition a local court to take away a gun owner’s weapons for up to a year.
Baker, who has said he supports the concept of the bill, has 10 days to act on it. His office said Thursday that he’ll carefully review the legislation.
The proposal gained momentum after the mass shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida and has been cheered by supporters as a way to save lives. Opponents say the measure amounts to a gun grab disguised as substantive public safety legislation.
“This is all about saving lives. It’s about preventing suicides, and it’s about preventing homicides,” said Linsky, who said “the bottom line” of the bill hasn’t changed during closed-door discussions, which began Monday.
Jim Wallace, executive director of the Gun Owners’ Action League of Massachusetts, said that while the group is still reviewing the final language, the bill represented a missed opportunity to address mental health issues. Instead, lawmakers chose to make it “totally about guns,” he said.
“It’s an incredible mess,” he said.
The bill allows a petitioner to seek to have a person’s firearms removed under an extreme risk protection order. An on-call judge — who under current law is available for warrants, emergency restraining orders, and the like — would determine whether there is reasonable cause that the gun owner would cause bodily injury to himself or herself or someone else. If warranted, the judge could authorize police to order the surrender of the gun owner’s firearms.
The court would then have 10 days to hold a formal hearing on the petition, and in the interim could order police to keep custody of the weapons.
Linsky said the law would allow a judge, “with all due process protections,” to issue an order up to a year to ensure that “those people who are having a temporary mental health crisis will be able to be in a safe situation and get the help they need without having access to guns.”
A judge’s order could also be renewed with judicial approval. Anyone who surrenders guns could not legally obtain any new guns until the order expires.
The legislation also includes language subjecting electronic control weapons, or stun guns, to the same licensing requirements as firearms. The changes come after the Supreme Judicial Court issued an April decision striking down the state’s civilian ban on stun guns.
“It became clear to me that the stun gun deserves this higher level of licensing,” Senator Cynthia S. Creem said from the Senate floor Thursday. “They’re easily conceivable and capable of inflicting significant harm on an individual.”