Massachusetts gun legislation is taking a path less traveled as bill emerges from House lawmakers
The Massachusetts House has revived its gun reform bill. House Speaker Ron Mariano says this latest revised bill is significantly different fromone that failed to advance over the summer. The earlier version saw widespread opposition from some gun owners and lawmakers. State House News Service reporter Chris Lisinksi says bill HD. 4607 does take into consideration some of the concerns gun owners voiced.
Chris Lisinski, SHNS: It does certainly respond to some of the issues that were raised with the initial version of this bill. Mike Day, who co-chairs the Judiciary Committee and is effectively the point person on this legislation, pointed out three specific areas that have been revised here. It creates a grandfather clause for an update to the state's assault weapons ban that was not there in the original version.
It requires only gun receivers to be emblazoned with serial numbers, not barrels as well. And it changes the definition of private spaces where firearms would be banned. So, it doesn't apply to any sort of commercial or industrial space just to private homes.
Now, that being said, although those are significant changes that trim away some of the edges of this bill, it does not seem to be enough, at least for some of the gun owners’ groups who continue to say this is just a bad bill, that they can in no way get behind.
Carrie Healy, NEPM: So, what's next for this House bill?
We're going to have a hearing tomorrow... on Tuesday. It is just a House only hearing, which is really rare on Beacon Hill, it's not entirely unprecedented, but it's very unusual.
Members of the Judiciary Committee from the House side and the House Ways and Means Committee are going to gather to give the public a chance that they really have not had up until this point to sit in front of a group of lawmakers and say, we support this bill because X, Y and Z or we oppose this bill because X, Y, and Z.
After that, House Speaker Mariano says that he expects to bring it to the House floor for a vote by the end of the month. So sometime in October, we're not exactly sure when. And after that it'll be over to the Senate.
But I understand there is a separate piece of gun legislation being crafted in the state Senate. What do we know about that? And is that going to get a public hearing?
We know really little about that at this point, certainly less than we know about what the House's plan is. We've gotten some vague signals.
You know, Senate President Karen Spilka has said she expects to get a gun bill onto Governor [Maura] Healey's desk by the end of the two-year term. So, by July 2024, we know that the Senate in particular is really focused on the ghost guns issue. That’s the rise in firearms that are not traceable, don't have serial numbers or perhaps made at home without that information. That's one piece of the House bill.
We know the Senate is really focused on that. Other than that, we don't really know what the Senate is focused on, what its timeline is or if it will get a public hearing.
Switching topics, Chris, to the state's emergency shelters. It's been weeks since Gov. Maura Healey proposed drawing down $250 million from a reserve account to cover increased costs to house a record number of families. And there's a growing frustration on Beacon Hill about how the feds are handling this. What's the latest?
That's right. Members of the state's top Democratic leadership team seem to have had a Zoom call with the congressional delegation last week to air their frustration and call once again for more federal action.
We've heard Governor Healey talking for weeks about how she needs the Biden administration to speed up work authorizations and direct federal funding here to help Massachusetts bear the costs of this crisis.
We're now hearing some frustration aimed directly at the president himself. Speaker Ron Mariano last week said that Biden, quote, “better start paying attention,” to the crisis here in Massachusetts, saying that lawmakers in the state are doing about as much as they can, but they really need federal help. They need federal estimates of what the actual arc of this crisis is going to be, and they need it right now.