House Passes Extreme Risk Protective Order Legislation

Representative Mike Connolly joined with House colleagues this evening to vote in support of Extreme Risk Protective Order legislation, H.4517, An Act relative to firearms. After dozens of proposed amendments were debated and considered, the final bill was adopted on a vote of 139-14.

This bill, part of a national trend of "Red Flag laws," will enable family or household members to petition the court for the immediate suspension and surrender of any license to carry firearms for an individual who they believe may pose a risk of causing bodily injury to themselves or others.

"Massachusetts has some of the strongest gun control laws in the nation, and with today's vote, we can all be proud because we have made our gun control laws even stronger," Rep. Connolly said. "At a time when officials on the national-level have been unable and unwilling to act on gun control, we here in the Commonwealth continue to take action to reduce the dangers and mitigate the risks that are caused by guns."

"As we mark today's victory, we should recognize and acknowledge the activism of students at Somerville High School and Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, along with students from across the country who stood up, organized marches and town halls, made phone calls, sent emails, and focused attention on the need to take this important step. For all of these young activists, this is a true accomplishment."

Today's bill is the latest draft of H.3610, An Act temporarily preventing firearm access for extremely dangerous or suicidal individuals, sponsored by Rep. Marjorie Decker and co-sponsored by Rep. Connolly and several others, as well as H.3081, An Act establishing extreme risk protective orders, sponsored by Rep. David Linskey and also co-sponsored by Rep. Connolly and several others.

Extreme Risk Protective Orders are defined as: "an order by the court ordering the immediate suspension and surrender of any license to carry (LTC) firearms or firearms identification card (FID card) which the respondent may hold and ordering the respondent to surrender all firearms, rifles, shotguns, machine guns, weapons, or ammunition which he or she then controls, owns or possesses. A petitioner who believes that a person holding a LTC or FID card may pose a risk of causing bodily injury to self or others may on a form furnished by the court file a petition for an ERPO. 

Petitioners for an Extreme Risk Protective order may be:

  • A family or household member;
  • Someone who is or was married or engaged to the respondent;
  • Someone who is or was residing in the same residence as the respondent;
  • Someone who is related by blood or marriage;
  • Someone with a shared child or expecting a child with the respondent (regardless of whether they live together);
  • Someone who is or has been in a substantive dating relationship with the respondent, determined by the court by the following criteria:the length of time of the relationship; the type of relationship; the frequency of interaction between the parties; if the relationship has been terminated by either person, the length of time elapsed since the termination of the relationship.

ERPO Notification & Hearing

  • ERPO hearing required  no more than 10 days after a petition is filed; if the respondent files an affidavit stating that s/he utilizes firearms in his/her profession, the hearing shall take place no more than 2 days after the petition is received
  • If the court finds by preponderance of the evidence that the respondent poses a risk of causing bodily injury to self or others by having in his/her control, ownership or possession the aforementioned weapons, the court shall grant the petition.
  • If the respondent does not appear at the hearing the court shall grant the petition.
  • Upon granting a petition, the court shall issue an ERPO and shall order the respondent to surrender all firearms, shotguns, machine guns, weapons and ammunition which the respondent then controls, owns or possesses, to the licensing authority of the municipality where the respondent resides. The court shall enter written findings as to the basis of its order.
  • Copies of order sent by clerk magistrate to licensing authority of the municipality where the respondent resides which shall serve a copy of the order and petition upon the respondent (unless otherwise ordered by the court)
  • The licensing authority of the municipality where the respondent resides shall immediately suspend the respondent's LTC and FID card and immediately notify the respondent of said suspension. Upon receipt of an ERPO, the respondent shall immediately surrender their LTC and FID card and all firearms, rifles, shotguns, machine guns, weapons, or ammunition in their possession to the local licensing authority serving the order in accordance with section 129D.
  • Licensing authorities shall establish adequate procedures that to the extent practicable:  fully inform the respondent of the contents and terms of the order and penalties for any violations of the order and provide the respondent with informational resources, including but not limited to, crisis intervention, mental health, substance abuse and counseling, and a list of interpreters as necessary, located within the court's jurisdiction.
  • The clerk magistrate shall issue a copy of an ERPO with relevant information about the respondent to the commissioner of probation and the dept. of criminal justice information services who shall transmit that report to the US AG, National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICBCS), and any other federal or state computer-based systems used by law enforcement or others to identify the prohibited purchase of firearms; the court notifies these agencies, etc. upon termination/expiration of ERPO.

Penalties

  • Violation of ERPO, Unauthorized Transfers (to anyone other than a licensed arms dealer), and Fraudulent ERPO petitioning (any person who filed a petition for an ERPO knowing the information in the petition to be materially false or with the intent to harass the respondent) shall be punished by a fine of no more than $5,000 and/or by imprisonment for no more than 2 1/2 years in the HOC

ERPO Renewal/Expiration Processes

  • Notification to the petitioner (from the licensing authority in the jurisdiction)
  • 30 calendar days prior to the expiration of an ERPO and the petitioner may file a petition to renew the order pursuant to section 131R
  • at least 7 days prior to the expiration of an ERPO, shall notify the petitioner of the expiration of the ERPO and the return of the LTC and FID card and the return of any items to the respondent.
  • As soon as reasonably practicable after receiving notice of the termination of an ERPO by the court, the licensing authority holding any surrendered items shall notify the petitioner of the termination of the ERPO and the return of a LTC, FID card, and any previously surrendered items.
  • A respondent who has surrendered a LTC or FID card and all aforementioned weapons and who does not wish to have the LTC, FID card, or weapons may sell or transfer title of firearms to a licensed firearms dealer. (may be disposed of after 180 days if the licensing authority cannot reasonably ascertain the lawful owner of any weapons)

The bill now moves to the Senate for further consideration.

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