OCTOBER 18, 2023
Representative Mike Connolly joined with his Cambridge and Somerville colleagues in the House of Representatives today to pass a major gun control bill, the largest update to gun safety laws in Massachusetts since 2014.
H.4135, An Act Modernizing Firearm Laws, addresses the problem of ghost guns; strengthens the Commonwealth’s red flag laws; updates the definition of assault weapons; and limits the carrying of guns into schools, polling places, government buildings and the private residences of others.
The bill is a result of a comprehensive review of the Commonwealth’s gun laws, with the goal of proposing solutions to emerging threats in technology, such as the prevalence of ghost guns, and responding to last year’s U.S. Supreme Court’s New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n., Inc. v. Bruen decision.
"The comprehensive gun reform legislation that the House passed today will make Massachusetts residents safer and will further strengthen the Commonwealth’s status as a national leader in the effort to combat gun violence," said House Speaker Ronald J. Mariano. "While the Commonwealth annually ranks as one of the safest states in the entire country from gun violence, the Supreme Court’s Bruen decision nullified existing components of our gun laws, threatening the safety of the Commonwealth’s residents. With the passage of this legislation, the House has once again displayed an unwavering commitment to ensuring that Massachusetts remains one of the safest states in the country. I want to thank Chairman Michlewitz and Chairman Day for their work on this issue, and all my colleagues in the House for recognizing the critical nature of this legislation, and for working to get it passed."
Following last year’s U.S. Supreme Court’s Bruen decision, Massachusetts lawmakers acted quickly to patch areas in the Commonwealth’s framework governing the issuance of licenses to carry firearms, which were undone by the Supreme Court’s actions. In addition to a review of the Commonwealth’s gun laws, Representative Michael S. Day, House Chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary embarked on a listening tour that took place across the Commonwealth, and participated in numerous meetings, including a public hearing, with a variety of stakeholders and Members of the House. Representative Connolly was proud to participate in this listening tour, where he shared our community's struggles with ongoing gun violence with Chair Day and other House colleagues and listened to concerns from those on all sides of this issue.
"Massachusetts has been a consistent national leader on gun control laws. Once again, the House has led the way to continue that trend by passing a strong bill today," said Representative Aaron Michlewitz, Chair of the House Committee on Ways & Means. "I want to thank Speaker Mariano and Chair Day for their commitment to this issue and I look forward to continuing to work with them and all my colleagues on this issue to see it enacted in a timely manner."
"Today, as we have always done in the area of firearm safety, the House takes the lead in acting to make the Commonwealth a safer place by giving law enforcement the tools they need to go after ghost guns, keeping battlefield weapons out of our neighborhoods and keeping our schools, homes, town halls and polling locations safe," said Representative Michael S. Day, House Chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. "While Washington is paralyzed by dysfunction that endangers Americans across the country, we in Massachusetts address our challenges directly and take the steps necessary to modernize our firearms laws to keep us safe."
Major provisions of the bill include:
Stemming Illegal Firearm Flow
As the number of legal firearms in the Commonwealth grows, it has become increasingly important to combat the flow of illegal firearms into Massachusetts. This bill provides tools for law enforcement to target illegal gun trafficking by including an enhanced tracing system to track firearms used in crimes, modernizing the existing firearm registration system, and increasing the availability of firearm data for academic and policy use. The bill also enhances requirements for reporting lost, stolen, and surrendered firearms.
Protecting Communities from Gun Violence
Although Massachusetts has some of the lowest rates of gun deaths in the country because of its strong gun safety laws, the rate of gun deaths increased 16 percent from 2010 to 2019. The rate of gun suicides increased 7 percent and gun homicides increased 26 percent, according to data from Everytown for Gun Safety. Since July 1 of this year alone, there have been 91 shootings in Massachusetts, resulting in 40 deaths and more than 80 injuries.
To address these problems, the legislation creates specific crimes that will prohibit discharging firearms at or near dwellings. Additionally, the bill standardizes training requirements for individuals seeking a license to carry and will now require live firearm training. The bill will also expand who may petition a court for an extreme risk protection order against a person who poses a risk of causing bodily injury to themselves or others beyond just household members and law enforcement to include school administrators, medical professionals, and employers. It creates a special legislative commission to study and make recommendations to improve the Commonwealth’s funding structure for violence prevention services.
The bill directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to seek federal reimbursement from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for violence prevention programs, thanks to Amendment #6, which was filed by Rep. Dan Cahill and co-sponsored by Rep. Connolly and others and adopted by the House during this afternoon's floor debate.
The legislation also limits the carrying of firearms into schools, polling places, government buildings with an exemption for law enforcement. To carry a firearm into a private home, the individual must get permission from the homeowner or tenant. Businesses may continue to prohibit carrying of firearms onto property by expressed communication or posting.
Modernizing Massachusetts Firearm Laws
The bill ensures that Massachusetts laws remain in compliance with the Bruen decision and streamlines the process of obtaining a license to carry a firearm for responsible individuals. The legislation will also expand the existing assault-style firearms and large capacity feeding device prohibitions and closes loopholes that allow the modification of legal firearms into illegal automatic weapons. It provides a legacy clause so all assault-style firearms legally owned and registered in Massachusetts as of the effective date will continue to be legally owned and may be bought and sold within the state.
Between 2019 to 2021, the Boston Police Department alone saw a 280 percent increase in the number of untraceable ghost guns it recovered on the streets, and we know ghost guns have been an escalating problem in Cambridge and Somerville, too. The bill tackles this rise in untraceable guns by requiring the registration and serialization of frames and receivers.
Having passed the House of Representatives on a roll call vote of 120-38, An Act modernizing firearms laws now goes to the Senate for their consideration.