Massachusetts Legal Developments Blog

Massachusetts to Strengthen Gun Control Laws in the Wake of the Sandy Hook Tragedy?

Earlier this month, neighboring state Connecticut passed landmark legislation strengthening its firearms laws in response to the devastating shooting that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School last year. According to the New York Post, the legislation would, among other things, create a dangerous weapon offender registry, ban over 100 firearms under the state’s assault weapons ban, mandate background checks for all firearms sales and establish rules for purchasing ammunition. The legislation passed 26-10 in the Connecticut state Senate and 105-44 in the House of Representatives. Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy is scheduled to sign the bill into law this Thursday at the state Capitol. The legislation would place Connecticut among the states with the strictest gun control laws, including New Jersey, New York, California and Massachusetts.

Connecticut, however, is not the only state in which lawmakers have pledged to strengthen firearms laws in response to recent gun crimes. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick also introduced legislation this Session that aims to further strengthen Massachusetts’ already comparatively restrictive gun control laws.  H 47 would further tighten Massachusetts’ gun control laws that were last significantly strengthened in 1998. The current Bill includes measures that would:

  • Limit firearm purchases to one per month per buyer;
  • Prevent the furnishing of a machine gun to anyone under 21 years of age;
  • Bring Massachusetts into compliance with the NICS background check system, specifically by requiring that all mental health adjudications be provided to the state, which will be provided to the US Attorney General for firearms licensing purposes;
  • Create four new gun related crimes: assault and battery by means of a firearm, assault by means of a firearm, being a felon in possession of a firearm and commission of a violent misdemeanor while in possession of a weapon;
  • Require firearms dealers at gun shows to connect to the Massachusetts Instant Record Check System, and require that private gun sales be made at the business of a licensed dealer for electronic tracking purposes;
  • Allow a rebuttable presumption that an individual charged with a felony involving a firearm and physical force is “dangerous” for determining pretrial detention; and
  • Limit access to rounds of high-capacity ammunition.

H 47 is currently before the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security.  Additionally, according to the Governor’s website, Patrick also introduced legislation that would increase the state budget by $5 million dollars for Department of Health programs for public awareness of mental health treatment and the promotion of public safety.

Whether H 47 will pass the House and the Senate is not certain. It is, however, important to stay mindful of changes in the law as they develop. Common gun crimes that occur in Massachusetts currently relate to carrying firearms, improperly storing firearms, and possessing firearms without an FID card, but this list is subject to change. These crimes can carry serious penalties, such as severe fines and jail time.  If you have been charged with a firearm-related crime, seek out an attorney immediately.