One small amendment to an IT bill is also one giant middle finger to SCOTUS

AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

I can’t help but be bemused by the shock and indignation (real or feigned) that I’ve seen in some quarters towards the Democrats’ disrespect for the Supreme Court’s recent decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen. It’s definitely worth pointing out the willful disregard for the Court’s opinion, but no one should be surprised by it given the left’s longstanding hostility towards the Court’s more conservative bent over the past few years. The one-two punch of Bruen and Dobbs has made flouting the Court’s authority nearly mandatory among Democrats, particularly those who want to show their base that they’re “fighters.”

Still, I suspect that the Court is going to have the last laugh, and there’ll be plenty of opportunities for justices to deliver their punchlines from the bench in the coming months with states from California to New York passing post-Bruen gun laws that little chance of surviving court scrutiny.

One of the latest examples comes from Massachusetts, where House Democrats quietly added sweeping new regulations to the state’s carry laws in a bill ostensibly about improving and modernizing the IT capabilities of the state’s judiciary system. Amendment 13 to the bill has nothing to do with information technology; instead it inserts all kinds of new and subjective authority for police in Massachusetts to deny or limit the right of law-abiding citizens to bear arms.

Most of the amendment’s language refers to specific portions of existing statute, so it’s not exactly the most quotable material, but here’s one salient modification that stands on its own.

A person residing or having a place of business within the jurisdiction of the licensing authority or any law enforcement officer employed by the licensing authority or any person residing in an area of exclusive federal jurisdiction located within a city or town may submit to the licensing authority or the colonel of state police an application for a license to carry firearms, or renewal of the same, which the licensing authority or the colonel shall issue if it appears that the applicant is not a prohibited person or determined to be unsuitable to be issued a license as set forth in this section.

The issuing authority “shall” issue a license (which is good), but only if they determine through subjective standards that the applicant is not “unsuitable” to carry a firearm. That’s “may issue” by another name, at least as long as the suitability standards are not clear and objective (and even then, depending on what qualifications they impose on applicants could still easily be unconstitutional).

The bill also cuts the time that a license to carry is valid from six to three years, and requires all gun owners seeking to renew their LTC to participate in an in-person interview with the issuing authority. This not only increases the time and money that must be expended before exercising a constitutionally-protected right, it’s going to create more paperwork for police departments and tie up officers with administrative duties instead of putting them out on the street.

Oh well, it’s not like police departments across the state aren’t suffering dire shortages of officers or anything like that.

Police departments in Massachusetts are facing a hiring crunch amid a shortage of new recruits to fill vacancies as increasing numbers of officers retire or leave the profession, which is prompting calls on Beacon Hill for action.

Law enforcement officials say provisions of the 2020 policing reform law — which will do away with part-time officers and require state certification — as well as a general climate of hostility toward police officers nationwide has many veteran cops retiring and others choosing to leave their posts for other jobs.

Meanwhile, fewer candidates are coming through the state’s civil service recruitment pipeline, which leaves police departments with less options to fill openings.

In Rowley, Police Chief Scott Dumas said he has struggled to find new recruits to fill recent vacancies in the town’s 12-member police force.

“It’s been difficult,” he said. “We recently went through the process of hiring a new full-time police officer, and only got six applicants. That’s it. A few years ago you couldn’t find a job in this profession.”

In Andover, the police department is down about seven full-time officers amid retirements and vacancies from on-the-job injuries, and while there are several prospective hires in the police academy the manpower shortage is having an impact. The lack of candidates from the Civil Service rolls hasn’t helped.

“It obviously put a lot of stress on our staffing levels, and on the officers who have to work overtime to fill those positions,” said Andover police spokesman Lt. Edward Guy. “We have people that are forced to work overtime every single day because of our manning issues.”

Honestly, I don’t think the Democrats in charge in Massachusetts are really concerned about how these new changes would impact either law-abiding gun owners or law enforcement officers, but they’re probably more sensitive to an argument that the new mandates will put more burdens on already understaffed departments than one that highlights the constitutional concerns with the language of the amendment. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some police chiefs who are grumbling about the bill’s provisions and the fact that many of them were blindsided by the changes, which were apparently introduced with little to no consultation from police groups beforehand.

Whether that’s enough to scuttle the bill in the state Senate ahead of Sunday’s scheduled adjournment remains to be seen, but we’ll be talking more about this bill and the other post-Bruen restrictions put in place in the state on Thursday’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co, when Jim Wallace of the Gun Owners Action League sits down with me to talk about the latest fights in the Second Amendment battleground state of Massachusetts. In the meantime, if you’re a gun owner (or even a fan of civil rights in general) in Massachusetts, now would be a good time to contact your state Senator and tell them that H 5046 is a terrible idea from both a constitutional and crime fighting perspective.