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Massachusetts gun rights group gives up on Senate bill

Senate Majority Leader Cynthia Creem discusses details of Senate leadership's proposed gun reforms package, alongside Senate President Karen Spilka (left), at a press conference Jan. 25, 2024.
Sam Doran
Senate Majority Leader Cynthia Creem discusses details of Senate leadership's proposed gun reforms package, alongside Senate President Karen Spilka (left), at a press conference Jan. 25, 2024.

As it did with the bill that the House passed in the fall, the Massachusetts arm of the National Rifle Association is not backing any of the nearly 80 amendments filed to the gun law reform package the Senate is expected to pass Thursday.

The Senate is currently debating the suite of reforms crafted by Majority Leader Cindy Creem on behalf of the branch's leadership with more than six dozen amendments pending. Senators filed 79 amendments by Monday's deadline and three had been withdrawn as of Wednesday afternoon. But none of them are being pushed at the request of Gun Owners' Action League, the local NRA chapter that says the Senate bill "like the House bill ... is so convoluted that there is no way it can be fixed with amendments."

"The fact that legislators are constantly telling us, well it's better than the House bill, does not forgive the substantial assault on our civil rights,” GOAL Executive Director Jim Wallace said in a statement. "Like the House bill, there is absolutely nothing in this bill to address crime and mental illness. The senate’s proposal would produce massive authority to create limitless regulations and authority of the Attorney General to use the proposed laws in a punitive manner even against people outside of the 2A community!"

Creem's proposal seeks to rein in so-called ghost guns by requiring serialization of gun frames and receivers and by classifying those individual parts as firearms, explicitly prohibit the use of 3D printers to manufacture or assemble firearms without a license, expand the list of people who can petition a court to remove someone's ability to possess guns if they are deemed dangerous, ban carrying firearms in government administrative buildings, and update the information that firearms licensing agencies get about applicants who have been involuntarily hospitalized for mental health reasons.

Among the 76 active amendments to Creem's plan is a proposal from Republican Sen. Patrick O'Connor of Weymouth to strike the entirety of Creem's bill and replace it with his own bill language titled "Making Massachusetts Safer." There are also amendments to ramp up the penalty for firing at a dwelling (#10 from Sen. John Velis), to compel the Pension Reserves Investment Management Board to divest from firearms companies (#37 from Sen. Adam Gomez), to impose a penalty of imprisonment in state prison for at least 10 years for anyone who discharges a firearm at a law enforcement officer (#55 from Sen. Ryan Fattman), and more.

Once the Senate passes its gun law reform bill, senators will have to negotiate a compromise with the House. Representatives passed their own gun bill this fall and the branches take different approaches to addressing many of the same issues. Talks on a final bill, if Democrats can agree on one, will need to wrap up by July 31, when formal business ends for this legislative term.

"That's almost every bill that we take up. You know, that's the legislative process," Senate President Karen Spilka said Wednesday when asked about the differences between the House and Senate gun bills, according to audio provided by her office. She added of the bill Creem wrote, "I believe it's a very strong bill. It will really make our commonwealth safer. We have strong gun safety laws now. This will even improve on that and help improve the safety for all of our residents. So, we'll pass it, and then we'll meet with the House. And I'm hoping that we get something to the governor's desk before the session is over. "

Sam Doran contributed to this report.

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