Massachusetts police chiefs blast proposed gun control package

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Democrat law makers in Massachusetts are rushing to enact a slate of new restrictions on gun owners in the next few weeks, but law enforcement officials are raising a lot of red flags around HD 4420.


In a report to the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association obtained by Bearing Arms, the retired chief who heads up the group’s firearms committee recommends that the organization oppose HD 4420 as written, highlighting just a few of the more egregious issues with the bill. As retired Chief Vincent C. Alfano wrote, “to respond to every section of this Bill that is problematic would require an extensive detailed study and response beyond the scope of this summary”; something worth noting given that Democrats are racing to enact the legislation as quickly as possible.

The issues identified by the chiefs start with the legislation’s attempt to dramatically expand “gun-free zones” across the state, which Alfaro says was the “the foremost significant concern of all Chiefs who reviewed this Bill.”

Creating “Gun Free” zones beyond the scope of courthouses, prisons, and schools, has been proven to be a practice that does not prevent crime, and, in fact, encourages criminals to seek out these areas as soft targets of opportunity, where their chances of meeting resistance will be minimal. Criminals do not follow rules. The significant majority of mass shooters have demonstrated that when they meet armed
resistance, they either take their own life, or perish in armed encounters, both with the police and in some cases legally permitted civilians. There is almost always a social media component as well by the shooter, and others are aware of the event before it occurs, and take no action, or react too late. Mass shooters rarely surrender.


Alfaro says there was also unanimous concern among both chiefs and rank-and-file officers to a section of HD 4420 that, according to law enforcement, “PROHIBITS legally licensed off-duty and Retired Police Officers, Corrections Officers, Court Personnel, Private Security Bodyguard Personnel, and other Federal and State personnel who carry a firearm for personal protection due to the nature of their profession and the associated risk and threat
to their safety. This Bill, in effect, eliminates the nation-wide, ,time-tested common term and practice ‘OFF-DUTY Firearm.’”

The Firearms Committee of the MCPA also takes issue with the bill’s mandate that anyone who wants to allow concealed carry on their premises must post signage to that effect; a practice contrary to the vast majority of states that require businesses that want to ban firearms to post signage, with the default being that the right to bear arms is respected.

We feel this practice would lead to additional calls for Police Service at locations that do not have this “sign” as they would be targeted by criminals. This Section is also harmful to merchants and commerce, and will create anxiety and panic, as well as potential economic loss. Many Chiefs noted that the creation of prohibited area gun free zones outside of the current school/secure facility restriction creates a potential Constitutional Rights infringement, and is in direct conflict with the recent United States Supreme Court Decision NYSRPA vs. Bruen, which affirmed the Rights of Citizens to carry firearms for personal protection under the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.


It’s weird to think that Massachusetts residents would probably enjoy more robust Second Amendment rights under a literal police state than with their current representative democracy, but it’s pretty clear that the members of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association have both a better understanding and a greater respect for our Second Amendment rights than the majority of sitting legislators in Boston.

The report goes on to note that police departments around the state are already understaffed and overworked, and “Some provisions in this Bill create a new host of crimes and activities that Officers must respond to. This will divert Officers from pursuing investigations into other traditional activities. Some provisions of this Bill will create a new host of felons who are not criminals (who would never engage in traditional criminal activity) are currently legally licensed firearms owners, yet would become ‘criminals’ if the Bill is passed and new regulations not known or misunderstood, or they possess a newly prohibited item.”

This isn’t coming from the NRA or “the gun lobby”. It’s coming from Massachusetts police chiefs themselves. HD 4420 would turn lawful gun owners into felons, and would divert law enforcement resources away from combatting violent crime in order to enforce these new anti-civil rights restrictions.

The MCPA report also contains another report written for the state’s Executive Office of Public Safety by retired police chief Ronald Glidden, who Alfaro describes as “universally considered by Massachusetts Law Enforcement Agencies and personnel as the most knowledgeable and credible authority for Law Enforcement training regarding Massachusetts Firearms Law.”


Glidden offers many similar critiques of the legislation, but also points out big problems with the legislation’s mandate that all ammunition magazines be serialized and registered with the state:

While it is one thing to regulate prohibited post-ban large capacity feeding devices, it is another to try to regulate, serialize and register non-large capacity feeding devices. These feeding devices are a functional part of every semiautomatic firearm being purchased, owned, or possessed. There is currently no method of serialization (to my knowledge) being used by manufacturers. So, to require this would
essentially prohibit the import into Massachusetts of all feeding devices (including non-large capacity feeding devices). By logical extension, it might prohibit the sale or possession of semiautomatic firearms that contain un-serialized feeding devices.

One needs to go no further than the various district attorneys’ offices to try to ascertain how many times anyone has been charged let alone convicted since 1998 for having a prohibited large capacity feeding device. Now we are proposing adding non-large capacity feeding devices to the mix by requiring a license to own a common 7-round magazine, and then penalizing a person if that magazine is not serialized and registered.

Please keep in mind that all large capacity magazines produced between 1994-2004 were required by federal law to be stamped “Restricted to Military/LE 9/13/94”. And even with those stamping requirements, ATF reported almost zero enforcement. The proposed feeding device language will cause only confusion without improving safety. If the guns are traceable, law enforcement does not need feeding devices to be serialized and registered.


Glidden notes as well that the proposed changes to the state’s existing “assault weapons ban” would include “semiautomatic rifles that were legal under the old federal ban and believed to be legal at least until 2016 under MA law because they were considered ‘Massachusetts Compliant’ which simply means they did not have two or more of the aforementioned features. Even the current AG’s guidance says if you own one of those in July 2016, no enforcement action will be taken. This immediately creates a large group of felons out of currently lawful gun owners.

HD 4420 isn’t about preventing crimes, but creating them; chiseling new criminal offenses out of our fundamental right to keep and bear arms. The report by the Firearms Committee of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association is a damning indictment of the Democrats’ gun control package, but it alone won’t be enough to derail the legislation. Gun owners need to be reaching out to their own representative and state senator and demand that they oppose HD 4420 and its anti-civil rights prohibitions.

Honestly, criminal justice reformers on the left should be equally and vocally as opposed to the sweeping new prohibitions that will inevitably result in more people being put behind bars for non-violent, possessory “crimes” created by HD 4420. This bill threatens to turn almost every lawful gun owner in the state into a criminal simply for keeping what they’ve legally purchased, and it’s hard to see how that could lead to anything but more arrests, more convictions, more felony records, and mass incarceration in Massachusetts for those attempting to exercise their constitutional right to keep and bear arms.


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