Special to the Independent
Senator Sal DiDomenico joined his Senate colleagues as they introduced Senate bill S.2572, An act to sensibly address firearm violence through effective reform—the SAFER Act—comprehensive gun safety legislation to reform and modernize the state’s firearm laws, support the state’s public safety and public health infrastructure in mitigating gun violence, and strengthen accountability and oversight mechanisms for illegal gun activity.
The omnibus legislation would help make residents safer—and ultimately save lives—by building on the Commonwealth’s already strong record on gun safety and updating laws to prevent those who wish to do harm from being able to access and use deadly weapons.
This proposed legislation focuses on common sense policies that will reduce gun crime and gun injuries in the Commonwealth, without infringing on the legal rights of responsible gun owners. It updates the state’s laws to provide law enforcement agencies with the necessary support to tackle today’s concerns relating to gun violence prevention and keep Massachusetts at the forefront of gun safety.
“Gun violence has wreaked havoc in communities across our state and I am always proud to support reform measures like this one that promotes public safety and responsible gun ownership,” said Sal DiDomenico, Assistant Majority Leader of the Massachusetts Senate. “This commonsense proposal has secured support from gun safety advocates, law enforcement, the attorney general, and district attorneys across our state. This expansive coalition is a testament to the collaborative process we used while crafting this legislation and I look forward to voting for its passage so we can continue to lead the country in gun safety.”
“There is no appropriate measure of the pain and heartbreak that gun violence has caused in our Commonwealth and across the nation,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Today the Senate has blazed a trail forward on gun safety. By bringing together stakeholders with a variety of viewpoints, the Senate has shown that it is possible to make changes to our gun laws that will save lives while respecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners in the state. Words cannot capture my gratitude to Majority Leader Creem for her steadfast leadership over the past several months, and to each and every stakeholder who took the time to engage with us on this important issue.”
The SAFER Act was shaped and informed by extensive testimony at a November hearing of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, where the public provided over four hours of testimony on more than 50 gun safety bills before the committee. It also follows months of discussions, led by Majority Leader Cynthia Stone Creem, with stakeholders and advocates with diverse perspectives on the issue.
The bill has garnered support from stakeholders around the state.
“I am thrilled to see the Senate introduce legislation that will combat the scourge of gun violence in our communities, including new tools to address ghost guns and selector switches. I appreciate the Legislature’s commitment to strengthening the Commonwealth’s gun laws to protect the public’s safety, and we look forward to working with both the House and Senate as the process moves forward,” said Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell.
“This comprehensive bill is a much needed step to ensure that we can appropriately hold accountable those who violate our gun laws and seek to escape responsibility by exploiting loopholes,” said Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan. “There is no question that the time to act is now. We must have gun laws that reflect the changes in technology, the personal tragedies caused by gun violence and its shattering impact on communities. I am committed to working with my legislative partners as this bill moves forward through the legislative process.”
“The filing of the Senate’s gun safety bill today is an important step toward addressing the gun violence epidemic with the long-overdue urgency that it deserves,” said Joe Platte, State Legislative Manager for Giffords. “We look forward to continuing to work with Senate President Spilka and Senator Creem to save lives, promote responsible gun ownership, hold the corporate gun lobby accountable, and keep the people of Massachusetts safe.”
“The Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, which represents city, town and university police chiefs across the Commonwealth, supports the concise firearms reform bill put forth by the Senate,” said Chief Eric P. Gillis, President of Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association.
“Massachusetts has been a national leader in gun violence prevention and we’re grateful to Senate President Karen Spilka, Majority Leader Cynthia Creem and our gun sense legislators who continue to modernize our laws so that they remain some of the strongest in the country,” said Bobbie Dressel, a volunteer with the Massachusetts chapter of Moms Demand Action. “We know that every death caused by gun violence is preventable, and it takes forward-thinking measures and the participation of all of us to keep our communities safe. Now is the time for our lawmakers to work together and ensure that lifesaving legislation gets to Governor Healey’s desk.”
“This gun safety legislation is a significant step forward in protecting the public without infringing on the rights of lawful gun owners,” said David Sullivan, Northwestern District Attorney. “The prohibition against ghost guns, enhancement of the red flag law, and strengthening of our assault weapons ban are critical changes necessary in keeping everyone safe. I applaud the Senate for their thoughtful gun safety legislation.”
The bill includes the following gun safety policies:
• Ghost Guns. Updates the state’s laws to bring Massachusetts in line with national standards and to ensure accountability and oversight for those who own and possess unserialized and untraceable firearms.
• Assault Weapons. Codifies Massachusetts’ existing prohibition on assault weapons and copies or duplicates of those weapons, to ensure that our residents are kept safe from weapons of war.
• Glock Switches and Trigger Activators. Makes it illegal to possess devices that convert semi-automatic firearms into fully automatic machine guns.
• Inspections of Gun Dealers. Ensures that gun dealers are inspected annually and allows the Massachusetts State Police to conduct those inspections if a local licensing agency does not or cannot do so.
• Red Flag Law and Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO). Allows health care professionals to petition courts to remove firearms and licenses from patients who pose a risk to themselves or others. The bill also allows preemptive orders to prevent a dangerous individual from obtaining a license to carry a firearm.
• Harassment Prevention Orders. Protects survivors of harassment by requiring courts to compel the surrender of firearms by individuals who are subject to harassment protection orders who pose an immediate threat.
• Sensitive Places. Prohibits the carry of firearms in government administrative buildings, with exceptions for law enforcement officers and municipalities that choose to opt out.
• Mental Health and Gun Licensing. Ensures that firearm licensing authorities have access to certain information about an applicant’s history of involuntary mental health hospitalizations due to posing a serious harm—with appropriate safeguards to guarantee privacy and due process.
• Data Collection. Creates a more robust data reporting and analysis mechanism for guns used in crimes, suicides, and attempted suicides to ensure that the Commonwealth can better target training and enforcement efforts.
• Gun Industry Accountability in Advertising. Prohibits the marketing of unlawful firearm sales to minors and allows industry actors to be held civilly liable if such marketing practices lead to an individual being harmed.
• Firing at a Dwelling. Creates a criminal charge for intentionally firing a firearm at a dwelling or other building in use.
• Community Violence Prevention. Creates a commission to analyze the allocation of state violence prevention funding and recommend changes to reduce gun violence in disproportionately impacted communities; develops a pilot program to promote gun safety awareness and firearms licensing education; and establishes a task force to make recommendations for maximizing federal funding for gun violence prevention in the most equitable way.
• Emerging Firearm Technology. Establishes a commission to study emerging firearm technology, with a particular focus on products and features that could increase safety.
The SAFER Act will be brought to the Senate floor for debate on Thursday, February 1, 2024.