State representative, Marblehead Democrat
In the 10 days after the Parkland, Fla., shooting, at least 21 more children were killed by firearms. If for no other reason than to protect children, it is time for Massachusetts to act to end this senseless epidemic. The Legislature should pass a bill allowing law enforcement, mental health professionals, and family of troubled individuals to file Extreme Risk Protective Orders in court to disarm those who show signs of hurting themselves or others.
These orders would protect both the public and the due process of the gun owner. Before a protective order could be issued, the petition would be heard by a judge. If a judge determined there was good reason to believe the individual is a danger to him or herself or others, the person’s firearms would be confiscated for one year. Crucially, these court orders could help loved ones prevent suicide, which accounts for 60 percent of gun deaths.
Extreme Risk Protective Orders would allow family members, health care providers, or law enforcement to petition a judge to temporarily suspend an individual’s access to firearms if he or she are deemed a danger to themselves or others. The current legal framework rarely provides a mechanism for witnesses to this behavior to take preventative action.
As vigilant and knowledgeable police chiefs are about the challenges in their communities, they cannot be everywhere at once. The National Rifle Association and its state affiliate, the Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts, vigorously oppose the bill, but the Massachusetts Police Chiefs Association supports it. Contrary to some opponents’ claims, this legislation would expand our current laws by establishing a legal framework to prevent individuals in crisis from accessing firearms, even if they are not otherwise prohibited under federal or state law. This legislation is already the law in five states, and at least 18 other states are currently considering similar measures.
The more we learn about the Parkland shooter’s past, the more red flags we see. Florida lacked options for concerned citizens to turn red flags into action. After the Las Vegas shooting in October, the Massachusetts Legislature moved quickly to ban bump stocks.
Let’s once again be proactive. We in Massachusetts know that common sense reforms like protective orders can save lives. Let us together say “never again” to these tragedies by backing Extreme Risk Protective Orders.
Newburyport resident, Executive Director of Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts
As the Executive Director of Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts, I oppose proposed legislation that would allow for Extreme Risk Protection Orders. It is my opinion that this type of legislation is both cruel to the individual, a violation of their civil rights, and dangerous to the general public.
It should be noted from the outset that Massachusetts police chiefs and the courts already have extraordinary powers to suspend a firearms license and confiscate a person’s guns. Police have “Chief’s Discretion” to suspend licenses at a moment’s notice. Courts already have a civil commitment process to deal with people that are having mental health and substance abuse problems that might cause them to be a danger to themselves or others. Courts also can issue restraining orders. All of these judicial mechanisms require the affected individual to surrender his or her firearms and to have their firearms license immediately revoked. Anti-harassment orders also can have that effect.
One of the driving objectives of this proposal is supposedly to prevent suicides, which is a very complex issue. However, there is nothing in these bills that provides assistance or support to the individual or their family. It is extraordinarily cruel for the law to treat a person who is suicidal or depressed in the same manner as a potential mass murderer. Extreme Risk Protection Orders would simply deprive people of their civil rights and then send them back into society with no help or structured support system.
This legislation also is supposedly intended to identify potential mass murderers before they strike, which the Gun Owners Action League thinks is a worthy task. But if a court determines a person is an “extreme danger,” are we OK with them practicing medicine, driving a school bus, flying a plane, renting a U-Haul, or teaching our children? The answer should be resoundingly “no.” Yet this legislation does nothing to address or prevent the further harm a dangerous person could commit while engaged in those types of activities.
If we are identifying people who present such an extreme public safety risk, why are we setting them free? I believe there are better ways to protect our schools, citizens, and communities in the Commonwealth and the Gun Owners Action League looks forward to being part of the solution.
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