Massachusetts lawmakers pass 'red flag' gun seizure bill

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker will now have to decide on signing a proposal allowing for temporary gun seizures from those thought to be a threat to themselves or others.

The emergency bill, H.4670, passed a final roll call in the state legislature last week with only one lawmaker, Fitchburg Republican Sen. Dean Tran, voting against the measure in the Senate, joined by 15 other GOP members in the House. Broad in scope, it would allow current and former romantic partners, family, roommates, and police to seek an extreme risk protection order, suspending someone’s gun rights and firearm license for up to a year.

“This is not anything that changes Second Amendment rights,” said Senate Majority Leader Cynthia Stone Creem, D-Newton. “This is about licensing, when a license needs to be suspended because that person is a risk.”

The so-called “red flag law” establishes a mechanism to allow family members or law enforcement to ask the courts to remove access to guns, ammunition, firearm ID cards, or licenses to carry a firearm from an individual thought to be at risk. The order, once issued, would be transmitted to federal agencies to bar future gun sales or transfers through licensed dealers. The ERPO would last for up to one year with the option open to discontinue to renew.

The bill has been repeatedly slammed by Second Amendment groups as it allows for ex parte proceedings where the accused does not have to be present to lose their gun rights and that law enforcement is not required to return seized firearms after the order expires. Further, the Gun Owners’ Action League argue that the proposed ERPO system puts the burden of proof on the accused gun owner who, in order to get their firearms back, will have to pay upwards of $10,000 to an attorney to challenge the order in the courts.

The measure has enjoyed the strong support from state and national gun control organizations with sponsor Rep. Marjorie Decker giving a tip of the hat to Everytown, Moms Demand Action, Stop Handgun Violence, the Massachusetts Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High students on social media after the bill was green-lighted.

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