Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signed a sweeping gun bill into law on Wednesday that contained both positive and negative changes for gun owners, including expanding the power of police to petition courts in order to deny one a Firearms Identification card, a requirement for the possession of long guns.
“Our communities and our families are safer when irresponsible gun sales and use are reduced,” said Gov. Patrick in a statement. “This Legislation moves us in that direction.”
The bill, known as H. 4376, “An Act Relative to the Reduction of Gun Violence,” was spawned in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
At a glance, and courtesy of the Massachusetts State Firearms Association aka Gun Owners Action League (GOAL) which after lengthy and, at times, contentious negotiations opted to support the measure, here are the positive changes for gun owners:
- Juniors: Critical training language correction for juniors, this now allows trainers to provide firearms to junior shooters and hunters with parental consent. Juniors are now able to apply for their FID card a year early (age 14) and receive their card at 15.
- Pepper Spray: Person over the age of 18 will no longer need an FID card to purchase pepper spray. 15-17 year olds can still possess – but must have an FID card
- FID: Chiefs must first petition the court to deny someone his/her FID card. Because it is in the courts, it gives GOAL and others the ability to track what Chiefs are doing. The language also includes defined time limits, if there is no decision rendered in the prescribed amount of time, the license will be issued.
- LTC: The Class B License was eliminated; going forward there is only one License to Carry. (LTC). Chiefs now have to put denials in writing so that the burden of proof is on the police chief to defend the denial or restriction in District Court. Also, for the first time gun owners can appeal their LTC restrictions in District Court.
- Both licenses: The term “prohibited person” is now being used for both licenses – instead of “unsuitable”. This change in the language provides a much-needed change in framework around who is prohibited. Also the 90-day grace period – license renewal issue was fixed. Gun owners will now receive a receipt upon renewal, which makes the license valid until the new license is received.
- Mental Health: Language was added protecting people who voluntary seek mental health help preventing them from being listed as a prohibited person. This also gives protection to people who voluntarily seek help for drug and alcohol abuse issues.
- Olympic-style Handguns: There will be exemptions for the dealer transfer of Olympic-style handguns in the Commonwealth. These were previously not legal to transfer by licensed dealers in the Commonwealth.
- Curios and Relic Collectors: 01 FFL’s can now legally transfer C&R handguns and firearms to licensed C&R dealers. (03 FFL)
- Online portal: Created online portal for face-to-face transfers, preserving private sales
- Confiscation: We added language-providing protection of property for firearms owners. Now, if firearms are confiscated, the licensing authority is required, at that time, to inform the person in writing of their ability to transfer their firearms to an independent licensed individual
- Lost & Stolen Firearms: GOAL added language so that a person who, in good faith, reports lost or stolen firearms will have protection, so that the licensing authority cannot consider them a prohibited person.
- Military Personnel: We extended the time period an active duty military member has to become licensed, or renew their license from 90 to 180 days. We exempted active duty military members from having to take the mandatory gun safety training classes.
Meanwhile, the negative changes include the following:
- MA Police Chiefs now have more power over license applicants via applying suitability to FID cards.
- Increased penalties for violating storage laws.
- Increased penalties for being in possession of a firearm on school grounds.
And the stuff in the bill that wasn’t really pro-gun or anti-gun:
- There are also sections, which deal with NICS compliance (GOAL worked hard to ensure that the language met federal standards), “safe and supportive schools” (interesting that one of the things implemented was the NRA’s idea of adding armed police to schools) and increased fines for criminal acts involving firearms.