BOSTON (State House News Service) - Two days after news of another mass shooting rocked the nation, this time in Nashville, Massachusetts lawmakers renewed their commitment to passing an omnibus gun bill this session.
"While Massachusetts remains among one of the safest states regarding violence, such violence continues to make headlines, and I am committed to do something about that," said Senate Majority Leader Cynthia Creem.
Creem said the Legislature will focus on ghost guns, reducing violence through a public health lens by investing in community programs, and making Massachusetts a leader in the collection and analysis of gun data and research.
There have been 64 incidents of gun violence in Massachusetts so far in 2023, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit that tracks gun violence in the U.S.
Massachusetts lawmakers had to pivot at the end of formal sessions last summer to conform Massachusetts laws to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, in which the court struck down New York's concealed-carry gun licensing law, affecting Massachusetts laws as well.
The Legislature acted quickly to include expanded language in a judiciary bond bill to adjust gun laws while "proactively safeguarding existing components of our gun laws from future challenges," House Speaker Ron Mariano said at the time.
Mariano released a statement last summer pledging that "the House will continue its legacy of enacting strong gun laws by taking both immediate action and forward-looking steps to ensure Massachusetts remains one of the safest places in the nation" in both the remainder of the 2021-2022 legislative session and into the 2023-2024 session.
The Speaker said he asked Rep. Michael Day, House chair of the Judiciary Committee, to work on an omnibus gun safety bill that would "consider everything from updating our firearm licensing and training framework, to clamping down on evolving technology designed to circumvent our safety laws, to refining tools that help identify individuals who pose a danger to themselves or others."
Now that the next session has come, Moms for Demand Action is not letting lawmakers forget their promise.
Over 200 advocates were at the State House Wednesday knocking on office doors and presenting their legislative priorities to prevent gun violence.
Day spoke to the advocates and said they had the commitment of the House. He is in the midst of a listening tour across the state to hear from residents about gun safety laws. Their next stop is in Greenfield in mid-April. A Day aide said they are looking to do another 10 stops on the tour before June.
"We are going everywhere in Massachusetts, to hear from everyone in Massachusetts: responsible gun owners, Moms Demand Action, GOAL [Gun Owners Action League], anyone who wants to come and talk to us, we are making ourselves available in your backyards to come listen to you," Day said.
The firearm safety tour will inform the gun legislation the Legislature tackles this session, he said.
"What that looks like, it's still up in the air. We're still in discussions with our colleagues and leadership, but you've got the commitment of the Speaker of the House and the House itself that we'll be getting something done this term," Day said.
He said the mass school shooting that happened in Nashville likely wouldn't have happened in Massachusetts because of the state's gun laws. The Nashville shooter was under a doctor's care for an emotional disorder. The shooter's parents said they previously voiced concerns about their child owning firearms, though the guns were purchased legally.
"That individual was mentally disturbed, was seeking treatment -- that's a disqualifier under our laws. Wouldn't have been licensed to carry a firearm under our laws here in Massachusetts," Day said, referencing the "red flag" law, which prevents a person who shows signs of being a threat to themselves or others from purchasing guns.
Rina Schneur, legislative leader for Moms Demand Action, said that the red flag law is important, but not enough people in the state know that it exists or how to use it if someone in their life is struggling with mental health and owns or wants to own a gun.
Among other legislation the gun violence prevention group supports, advocates lobbied Wednesday for a Rep. Frank Moran bill (H 2380) that would allow both the state attorney general and individual residents to file lawsuits against firearm industry members if they feel harm was caused by irresponsible industry practices.
They are also supporting a Creem and Rep. Marjorie Decker bill to expand gun violence data reporting requirements "to help ensure that legislators and law enforcement have the data they need to craft effective gun prevention policy, investigate violent crimes, and prevent gun trafficking and gun violence."
"Collecting data and not doing anything with it helps nobody and does nothing," Schneur said. "So we need to make sure we get inside where these crime firearms are coming from, especially with the increasing threat of firearm trafficking from other states."
Schneur added: "Now I want to address everybody who resides in this building. You have a unique power to prevent grief. So I'm asking you, we are asking you today to pass a comprehensive, strong gun violence prevention omnibus bill. And we ask you today to pass it sooner rather than later... as soon as possible. Because we know that strong gun laws save lives. So the sooner you pass an omnibus bill into a law, the more lives you will save. And the more grief you can prevent."
Written By Sam Drysdale/SHNS
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