Submitted by Representative Ken Gordon
Representative Ken Gordon(D-Bedford)joined his colleagues in the House to establish a process for family, household members or licensing authorities (petitioners) to petition the court for an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) for individuals who “pose a risk of causing bodily injury to self or others” by owning, possessing or having a firearm. An ERPO, if issued by the court, is in effect for up to one year and results in the immediate suspension and surrender of all firearms and ammunition.
Licensing authorities are required to provide the recipient of ERPO with a list of services “relating to crisis intervention, mental health, substance abuse and counseling.”
“This is a well-balanced and common sense approach to protecting our residents,” said Representative Ken Gordon.
“I’m proud of the members of the House for passing this thoughtful legislation that will save lives,” House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop) said. “In Massachusetts, we have the most effective gun laws in the country. Now, we have a new way to keep people safe and prevent senseless tragedies. I thank Chairman Naughton, Representative Decker, my colleagues in the House, and the students who raised their voices for their work on this crucial, life-saving measure.”
“I would like to thank Speaker DeLeo for his incredible leadership on this bill and for his commitment to firearm safety. Thanks to his leadership, as well as tireless advocacy from survivors, parents, and students, we have continued to be a leader in the nation in preventing gun violence and enhancing the quality of life in the Commonwealth,” said Representative Harold P. Naughton, Jr. (D-Clinton), Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Safety & Homeland Security. “This public safety legislation provides a critical tool for families to protect loved ones from harming themselves or others by preventing them from accessing a firearm in a crisis. I am incredibly proud to have been able to play a small part in crafting a policy that I firmly believe will save lives.”
“I sleep well at night knowing this bill continues to ensure that Massachusetts is doing everything it can to lead the nation with common sense gun legislation that we know will save lives,” said Marjorie C. Decker (D-Cambridge), sponsor of the bill. “I could not be more proud or grateful for Speaker DeLeo’s leadership and courage. We can continue to look our constituents in the eyes and into the faces of parents across Massachusetts who know that their legislature is working to keep them safe.”
While licensing authorities in Massachusetts can currently suspend or revoke a license to carry (LTC) or firearm ID (FID) card on the basis of suitability, the ERPO court process provides petitioners – particularly family and household members who are far more familiar with an at-risk individual’s behavior – an additional tool to keep the licensee and others safe. It also provides an independent avenue for petitioners who are reluctant to go to law enforcement by allowing them to directly approach the court, doing so “under the pains and penalties of perjury”.
The legislation also allows the court to issue an emergency ERPO prior to a hearing in certain situations and provides for a justice of the court to grant an ERPO on nights and weekends if it finds “reasonable cause to conclude that the respondent poses a risk of causing bodily injury to self or others”.
The bill includes a range of due process protections for licensees, including a requirement for the court to hold a hearing within ten days of a petition being filed. Respondents will be able to use all existing statutory law remedies to demonstrate that they are not at risk, including legal counsel and the appeal process.
Any person who files for an order falsely is subject to a $5,000 fine or 2 ½ years in a house of correction.
Finally, in the wake of the recent Supreme Judicial Court ruling in Commonwealth v. Ramirez, the bill repeals the ban on stun guns and puts a licensing procedure in place.
The bill now goes to the Senate.