Ban Semiautomatic Guns In Massachusetts, Two Democratic Lawmakers Say

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Should most guns be illegal in Massachusetts?

That’s what at least two members of the Massachusetts Legislature think.

State Representative David Linsky (D-Natick) introduced a bill into the Massachusetts House of Representatives in February called “An Act Banning Semi-Automatic Firearms” (H.4038). State Representative Michelle DuBois (D-Brockton) is the lone co-sponsor on the bill. It was referred to the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security on Thursday, July 29, but has not been scheduled for a hearing yet. 

A semiautomatic weapon fires one shot every time someone squeezes the trigger until the magazine runs out of rounds. It is typically illegal to possess a firearm magazine of more than 10 rounds in Massachusetts.

Section 5 of the bill directly outlaws most semiautomatic weapons in the state. It would change Chapter 140 Section 131M of Massachusetts General Laws.

The first sentence of the section of the current state statute says:  “No person shall sell, offer for sale, transfer or possess an assault weapon or a large capacity feeding device that was not otherwise lawfully possessed on September 13, 1994.”

The proposed bill would cross out “assault weapon” and replace it with “any rifle or shotgun containing a semiautomatic mechanism.”

It also establishes the penalty for illegally possessing such a firearm. The first offense would carry a fine between $1,000 and $10,000 or imprisonment between one to 10 years — or both. The second offense would be a fine between $5,000 and $15,000 or a prison sentence between five to 15 years — or both.

The bill does not explain how people would have to dispose of their weapons, if enacted.

Massachusetts has a complicated definition of an assault weapon.

The Commonwealth defines a semi-automatic rifle as an assault weapon if it has a detachable magazine and two or more of the following features: folding/telescoping grip, pistol grip, bayonet mount, flash hider/threaded barrel, grenade launcher.

It defines a semi-automatic pistol as an assault weapon if it has a detachable magazine and two or more of these features:  a magazine that attaches outside of the pistol grip, a threaded barrel that allows for the attachment of a barrel extender/flash suppressor/handgrip/suppressor, a barrel shroud safety feature to prevent the gun from burning the user’s hand, an unloaded weight of 50 ounces or more, or if the gun is the semi-automatic version of a fully automatic weapon.

And for a semi-automatic shotgun to be an assault weapon, it must have two of these three features:  a detachable magazine, pistol grip, or folding/telescoping stock.

The bill would treat all semiautomatic firearms the way the state now treats what it defines as assault weapons — by banning them.

Gun rights advocates say that a total ban of semi-automatic weapons is a terrible idea that infringes on their Second Amendment rights.

Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, said his organization will take legal action if such a bill passed.

“Banning semiautomatic firearms is a blatant attack on the Second Amendment just like banning high-speed printing presses would be to the First Amendment,” Gottlieb told NewBostonPost in an email message. “If this semi-auto gun ban becomes law the Second Amendment Foundation will sue Massachusetts in federal court and overturn it.”

Jim Wallace, executive director of the Gun Owners’ Action League, said it’s yet another example of politicians misunderstanding the gun violence problem in the United States.

He called the bill “a solution looking for a problem.”

“What problem exists that you’re actually trying to solve?” Wallace said in a telephone interview with NewBostonPost on Friday. “They look at mass shootings and that has far more to do with our arrogance and ignorance about mental health than it does with guns.”

“The anti-civil rights crowd is expressing their bigotry once again,” he added. “They don’t understand us, they don’t want to understand us, and they really don’t like us.”

Wallace said that the guns are not the problem and that people will still find ways to harm themselves and others without firearms if they don’t get the help they need.

He used Red Flag gun laws as an example of ineffective overreach — a bill that passed with support of both sides of the aisle in the Massachusetts Legislature in July 2018. The statute allows family members and household members to ask a judge to restrict a person’s right to keep a firearm through what the state calls an “extreme risk protection order.”

Wallace said the Red Flag statute doesn’t keep safe gun owners who are emotionally unstable.

“If you truly believe someone’s suicidal, you’re gonna take them to court, embarrass them, and send them home with no mental help?” Wallace said.

He noted that the court petitioning process to remove firearms from someone using Red Flag laws wouldn’t hinder one’s ability to be in positions where the person can harm others — like working in a school, teaching, seeing patients as a doctor, or driving a tanker.

NewBostonPost contacted the sponsors of the bill, Linsky and DuBois, on Friday, but did not immediately hear back. (This story will be updated if either legislator responds.)

Among the questions NewBostonPost asked by email is:

“What types of firearms you think the general public should be able to own?”


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