Should Massachusetts courts be allowed to order the seizure of guns when a person is deemed to pose a significant danger?
David P. Linsky
State Representative, Natick Democrat
There is a gun violence epidemic in our country. No parent should have to fear for a child’s safety when dropping him or her off at school. No student or educator should live in fear of a mass shooting. This is not normal. School should be a place of learning. As legislators, we must do everything in our power to ensure that schools, movie theaters, concert venues, and shopping malls are safe.
There is no single solution to gun violence, but there are common-sense steps we can take to reduce the everyday tragedy of gun deaths in our country. Extreme Risk Protective Orders would allow family members, health care providers, or law enforcement officials to petition a judge to temporarily suspend someone’s access to firearms if that person were deemed a danger to himself or herself or to others.
Studies have shown that individuals who have engaged in dangerous behavior are significantly more likely to commit an act of violence towards themselves or others, and that people experiencing mental health crises are also at high risk during those periods. The current legal framework rarely provides a mechanism for witnesses to this behavior to take preventative action. That would change in Massachusetts with a bill I have sponsored to allow for Extreme Risk Protective Orders in our state. If passed, it would save lives while ensuring critical legal protections for respondents, just as it has in states that have already taken this responsible step.
The time for ‘thoughts and prayers’ is over. It’s time for action. Parkland could have been Plymouth. Columbine could have been Cohasset. Las Vegas could have been Leominster. Aurora could have been Arlington. And Newtown could have been Natick, Needham, or Newton, or any number of towns and cities in the Commonwealth. It could have been your kids, it could have been mine. We need to pass laws that protect our citizens from these senseless acts of violence.
The Massachusetts legislature has the opportunity to do this by adopting this legislation (H3081) establishing Extreme Risk Protective Orders. I hope you will contact your state representative and senator and urge them to support bringing the bill before the House for a vote.
Shirley resident, president of the board of the Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts
I am opposed to legislation being proposed at the State House regarding so-called “Extreme Risk Protection Orders.” It is my opinion that this type of legislation is not needed because there are already ample provisions in the law to keep firearms away from unstable people, and the new proposal could provide an extreme risk to the general public.
Local police in Massachusetts have extraordinary powers to suspend a firearms license and confiscate a person’s firearms – this is called “chief’s discretion” or a “wellbeing check.” Family members, friends, mental health professionals, social workers, the police themselves, and even concerned citizens can already go to a Massachusetts police department and express concern about a person’s mental state and set in motion a process in which the police interview that person, seize the individual’s firearms, and revoke his or her license to carry.
This happens frequently: We have all seen news reports of police confiscating firearms from unstable individuals after receiving calls from concerned citizens.
Additionally, there is an already established process in Massachusetts to deal with people who are having mental health issues and are a danger to themselves or others. It is commonly referred to as Section 12 or Section 35 civil commitments. Persons who are civilly committed can no longer possess or own firearms and their licenses are revoked. The same is true if a person is served with a 209A restraining order or in some cases a 258E harassment prevention order.
The legislation now before the House is supposedly geared in part to prevent suicides. However, nothing in this legislation provides assistance or support to the affected individual or his or her family. The proposal only makes an individual’s problems public, remove one of his or her civil rights, and then send that person home. Such treatment is extremely dangerous to the individual, his or her family, and the general public. It will also only further deter people from seeking help.
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.
(This is an informal poll, not a scientific survey. Please vote only once.)