Massachusetts has become the latest state to allow law enforcement officials to remove firearms from individuals it deems to be a danger to themselves or to others. Governor Charlie Baker signed H. 4760 into law today, making The Bay State the twelfth state to pass a so-called “red flag” law.
Under the terms of the law, once a petition is filed against a gun owner, a hearing is held within ten days to determine whether the individual indeed poses a risk. If the judge in the hearing determines the person to be a risk, the individual will be ordered to surrender all firearms and to stay away from any weapons for a period of twelve months. They will have to relinquish any permits and their names will be entered into a federal database preventing them from purchasing any other weapons.
The Massachusetts law also allows for emergency protection orders to be issued, under which firearms are seized without notice. Under that contingency, firearms are removed up to ten days ahead of a hearing, at which point the judge in the case can decide to extend the order for up to a year or end it.
Baker, despite being a Republican, had previously indicated that he would sign the bill into law, citing support from the state’s police chiefs.
Massachusetts becomes the seventh state to sign a red flag into a law since the deadly school shooting in Parkland, FL, earlier this year with the enactment of H. 4760. Prior to that incident, California, Washington, Oregon, Indiana and Connecticut were the only states that had red flag laws. Since the shooting, Vermont, Maryland, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware and now Massachusetts, have passed red flag laws. A bill has passed the Illinois State Legislature and is awaiting the governor’s signature.
Despite outcries from students, parents and lawmakers, the Congress has failed to take concrete steps in passing gun control legislation in the wake of Parkland. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seemed to acknowledge the futility of trying to get bipartisan gun legislation through Congress today when he said that any significant gun control measures would have to be passed at the local level.
“I don’t think at the federal level there’s much that we can do other than appropriate funds,” McConnell told a meeting of constituents in his home state of Kentucky Tuesday.
“It’s a darn shame that’s where we are but this epidemic is something that’s got all of our attention. And I know it’s got the attention of every school superintendent in the country,” he said.
Gun control advocates applauded Massachusetts’ move today.
“Today Massachusetts continues it’s [sic] incredible legacy of leading the country on gun sense laws. We are thrilled Gov. Baker, Rep. Decker and all lawmakers who supported this bill listened to their constituents, law enforcement officials, students and gun violence prevention activists, all of whom tirelessly advocated for this critical public safety law,” Molly Malloy, Volunteer with the Massachusetts chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America wrote in a statement emailed to ITN.
“Today’s Red Flag bill signing is an incredible victory for gun safety. We know this new law will save lives,” she added.
Gun rights advocates denounced the move. The Massachusetts-based Gun Owners Action League criticized the law as a violation of gun owners’ due process. “Its strict purpose is to take the gun, not provide help,” the group recently told The Huffington Post.
Photo by the Office of Gov. Charlie Baker