Legislative Updates

The Bill

From January of 2013 through the summer of 2014, the Coalition worked within and without the MA State House by advocating for the following legislative priorities, 4 of 5 of which were included, in some form, in the final bill – “An Act Relevent to Redicing Gun Violence.” We were there to see the Governor sign this it into law in August of 2014.

Universal background checks at point of sale every time a gun is sold, including private sales and gun shows.

Gun licenses in MA last for six years. If a licensee purchases a gun from a licensed dealer during this 6 year period there is a background check at the point of sale. This supplemental check is not currently required for private sales. The easiest way to address this gap in background checks is to require that all private sales be conducted at a federally licensed dealership where there is access to the federal NICS (National Instant Check System) database. A provision requiring background checks for internet sales has been in effect in CA for many years, and has been successfully enforced. Background checks at gun shows were recently successfully implemented in New York.

Limit HANDGUN sales to one per month in order to deter straw purchasing and make it harder for gun traffickers to acquire multiple guns in a single transaction.

Trafficking is the primary source of crime guns in the city of Boston and other urban areas in MA, and while many of these guns are trafficked from other states, a large share (at least 1/3) originate in MA. A one-handgun-a-month law would prevent traffickers from purchasing large quantities of guns for illegal resale. One handgun a month laws have been successful in other states. When VA implemented such a law, the odds of tracing a gun originally acquired in the Southeast to a VA gun dealer (as opposed to a dealer in a different southeastern state) dropped by 71% for guns recovered in NY, 72% for guns recovered in MA, and 66% for guns recovered in NJ, NY, CT, R I and MA combined. CA, MD, NJ and Washington DC currently have one handgun/month limits in place. Traffickers often use straw purchasers (often women who can pass background checks) to purchase their guns in bulk. Limiting handgun sales to one per month makes it much more difficult for traffickers to acquire the weapons because the straw purchasers are now limited. It also protects the straw purchasers who are sometimes being coerced to buy the guns.

Share records of adjudicated commitments for mental health and substance abuse with the National Instant Check System as required by federal law

States are required under federal law to share records of involuntary commitments to mental health institutions for inclusion in NICS background checks. Massachusetts is sharing information about criminal records and restraining orders, but we have failed to come into compliance regarding records of involuntary adjudicated commitment. Failure to comply has put Massachusetts at risk of losing substantial amounts of federal public safety grant funding, and undermines the effectiveness of the NICS System by allowing prohibited persons to purchase guns.

EXPAND the existing suitability standard that currently applies only to the issuance of a License to Carry to the issuance of FID cards as well.

When considering the issuance of a license to carry MA police chiefs have the discretion to deny a license based on a judgment of suitability, such that they can deny a license to an individual who passes a basic background check if they believe, based on all of the information available to them, that the applicant may nonetheless be a danger to the community or to themselves (ie, instances of domestic violence). However, this same discretion does not apply to the FID card (the license needed to purchase or possess a rifle or shotgun). Under current law police chiefs are required to issue an FID card to an applicant who passes a background check, even if the chief believes the person to be dangerous. The MA Chiefs of Police Assoc. has called for the expansion of the suitability standard to cover the FID card so that they can keep guns out of the hands of potentially dangerous individuals. We strongly support this change. We also strongly oppose any proposals that would limit existing police chief discretion regarding the License to Carry.

Require law enforcement authorities to attempt to determine, every time a gun is involved in an injury or death, who owned the gun and where the gun came from; to maintain that data in a statewide database, and to share that data with public health researchers, policy makers, other law enforcement agencies and the general public.

The gun lobby has passed laws and restricted funding at the federal level to prevent researchers from obtaining data about guns used in crime or suicide. They have pushed through provisions that prevent federal funding of gun injury research as well as a federal provision preventing the ATF from sharing the data it collects with researchers. The Coalition supports measures requiring state and local law enforcement to collect this important data and share it with researchers and policymakers, so that we will have the information needed to craft the best laws possible to stop gun violence.