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Massachusetts House approves sweeping bill tightening firearm laws

PoliticsMassachusetts House approves sweeping bill tightening firearm laws
  • In response to a 2022 Supreme Court decision that ruled citizens have the right to carry guns in public, the Massachusetts House has approved a sweeping bill tightening firearm laws in the state.
  • Under the measure, the state will crack down on unregistered guns and prohibit visitors from carrying firearm into another person’s home without permission.
  • The bill will now head to the Massachusetts Senate, which may come up with its own version of the measure.

The Massachusetts House approved a sweeping gun bill Wednesday aimed at tightening firearm laws, cracking down on unregistered “ghost guns” and strengthening the state’s assault-style weapons ban.

The bill, which passed on a 120-38 vote, would also prohibit individuals from carrying a gun into a person’s home without their permission and require key gun components to be serialized and registered with the state.

The 125-page bill — a priority for Democratic Massachusetts House Speaker Ronald Mariano — is in part a response to a 2022 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that U.S. citizens have a right to carry firearms in public for self-defense.

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The proposal would create new laws that bar firing guns at or near homes and outlaw carrying firearms while intoxicated. It would also prohibit carrying firearms in schools, polling places and government buildings.

The bill expands the state’s ban on assault weapons by prohibiting new purchases of AR-15-style weapons. It would also ban someone from turning a legal firearm into an illegal automatic weapon.

The proposal includes an enhanced system to track firearms used in crimes to help curb the flow of illegal guns into the state. It would also modernize the existing firearm registration system while increasing the availability of firearm data for academic and policy use, lawmakers said.

woman holds anti-gun poster

A woman holds a placard that says, “Where did the gun come from?” during a rally in Boston on June 15, 2010. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

Massachusetts, which already has tough gun laws, had the lowest rate of gun deaths in the country, at 3.4 deaths per 100,000 people in 2021, compared to Mississippi, which had the highest rate, at 33.9 deaths per 100,000 people, according to the most recent statistics listed on the website for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The state Senate has yet to release its version of a gun bill. It will be up to both Democratic-led chambers to hammer out a single bill to ship to Democratic Gov. Maura Healey’s desk for her signature before it can become law.

Gun owners opposed to the bill say the measures outlined in the legislation do more to target gun owners than to reduce crime.

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“All of it goes against us, the lawful people. There’s nothing in there that goes after the criminals,” said Jim Wallace, executive director of the Gun Owners’ Action League.

Wallace also said the bill is an overreaction to last year’s Supreme Court decision.

“This is a tantrum. This is a flat-out tantrum,” he said.

Supporters of the bill say it will help address holes in the state’s gun laws, while also responding to the Supreme Court ruling.

One response is a measure in the bill that would prohibit guns in safe spaces such as schools, polling places and the Statehouse, said Jennifer Robinson of the Massachusetts chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

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Robinson said the bill also contained what she called commonsense steps.

“We believe that if you’re going to have a license for a gun, you should have live fire training, much like if you’re going to drive a car, we don’t just throw the keys at you and walk away,” she said. She also pointed to a section of the bill that would transfer to the state police the responsibility of inspecting gun dealers.

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