PATRICK-MURRAY ADMINISTRATION FILES BILL TO REDUCE GUN VIOLENCE IN THE COMMONWEALTH
Legislation seeks to reduce supply of illegal guns, increase penalties and comply with federal requirements
BOSTON- Wednesday, May 6, 2009 - Continuing Governor Deval Patrick's efforts to reduce gun violence and strengthen public safety, Public Safety Secretary Kevin M. Burke today announced that the Patrick-Murray Administration has filed a bill to give police and prosecutors more tools to tackle illegal gun use and make the Commonwealth a safer place to live, work, and raise families.
"We see and feel the effects gun violence has on our families and our communities throughout Massachusetts - and we must do everything in our power to help prevent it," said Governor Patrick. "This legislation gives law enforcement the critical tools they need, and sends a very strong message that illegal gun use will not be tolerated."
The Governor's legislation addresses a decision issued by the Supreme Judicial Court on May 4. The SJC held that so-called 58A dangerousness hearings, the court procedure that allows prosecutors to ask judges to hold dangerous criminal defendants without bail, does not apply to charges of illegal possession of a firearm. Governor Patrick's bill makes this procedure available to prosecutors for charges that involve illegal possession, use, or trafficking of guns.
In addition, the Governor's legislation makes it a felony to possess a gun while committing certain crimes that might otherwise be misdemeanors, and removes the requirement that state prosecutors must prove a gun is operable to be considered a firearm, a change that will bring state law in line with the federal regulations.
"Our law enforcement officers do great work making our streets safe using the tools they have," said Public Safety Secretary Kevin M. Burke. "This gun legislation helps take some of the criminal firepower off the streets and builds in a layer of protection for us all by giving the courts the right to detain anyone who uses a gun to commit a crime - even if it's a misdemeanor."
"The changes to the state's gun laws are a common sense approach to providing police officers and court officials with more powerful tools to maintain the safety of our residents by keeping criminals and guns off the streets," said Mayor Thomas Menino. "Through this tough approach, we address where the guns come from and make it harder for criminals with guns to suffer only misdemeanor charges."
"Of about 1500 firearms seized and traced in Massachusetts two years ago, more than 1200 came from another state with gun laws more lax than our own," said District Attorney Dan Conley. "But more than 20% of those traced guns came from right here in the Commonwealth, and that means we still have work to do here at home."
Specifically, the legislation would:
- Limit gun purchases to one gun a month in order to reduce gun trafficking by "straw purchasers" who purchase firearms for convicted felons or other prohibited buyers.
- Create a new crime (10-year felony) for possessing a gun while committing a misdemeanor that involves the use of force.
- Upon motion by the district attorney, the legislation allows defendants charged with possessing, using, or trafficking illegal firearms to be held without bail pending trial. The Supreme Judicial Court ruled on May 4 th that current statute does not allow for pre-trial detention for charges involving illegal possession of a firearm. The Governor's legislation clarifies the current statute, giving prosecutors the tools they need to help end the cycle of violence and retaliation.
- Change definition of "firearm" to parallel federal law, relieving Commonwealth from proving that gun is operable.
Secondary Gun Sales
- Requires individuals who resell their guns to conduct the transaction at a licensed dealer so that the transaction can be entered into the electronic firearms database for better tracking of secondary sales.
Machine Gun Reforms
- Clarifies laws to prohibit anyone other than a person with a machine gun license or a police officer receiving training from handling a machine gun.
- The Secretary of Public Safety and Security will promulgate new regulations to prohibit use of machine guns at gun shows or exhibitions and to narrow definition of "bona fide collector."
Brady Bill Changes
- Requires transmission of court records of involuntary commitments to state central criminal record repository for inclusion in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), and otherwise amends state law to comply with federal NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007.
- This provision will ensure the Commonwealth does not lose valuable federal grant funding.