As “red flag laws” sweep the country, it’s kind of surprising that Massachusetts hasn’t already embraced the potentially right-stripping legislation with gusto. One might have expected them to already have such a law in place well before Parkland, but they didn’t.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, however, is expected to fix that “oversight” at some point today.
Gov. Charlie Baker will sign a bill on Tuesday that will give Massachusetts even stronger gun control laws.
Massachusetts already has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. The so-called “red flag” bill, or extreme risk protection order bill, will allow a family or household member to petition a judge to confiscate someone’s gun if the person poses a danger to themselves or others.
Baker, a Republican, on Monday said he was swayed by the support of the state’s police chiefs.
“Massachusetts has always relied on police chiefs to serve as the primary point of decision-making on issues around license to carry,” Baker said. “The fact that the police chiefs came out and support this legislation meant a lot to us.”
The fact that police chiefs–political animals that often reflect the politics of the officials who appoint them than the rank-and-file officers who deal with crime on the streets–supported a law that will potentially strip the right to keep and bear arms from people they don’t particularly approve of isn’t shocking. What Baker failed to appreciate is that Massachusetts police chiefs tend to be fairly anti-gun, as a group, and thus less than neutral on the subject of people’s Second Amendment rights.
This particular bill places that power in the hands of family members.
Under the bill, if a family or household member believes someone poses a risk to themselves or someone else, they will be able to petition a District Court judge to immediately suspend that person’s gun license and confiscate their weapons.
Within 10 days, the judge would hold a hearing, and the person would have a chance to argue whether the protective order should be extended for up to a year.
The ruling could be appealed. It could be modified based on a request by either party.
Is it just me, or does it sound like the individual in question will be operating under an “innocent until proven guilty” kind of thing? I’m hoping it’s just poor writing by the reporter, but this is Massachusetts. I take nothing for granted.
What red flag law proponents aren’t considering, however, is just how this could set a precedent for future legislation that may temporarily restrict the rights of individuals. The gun rights tend to be people’s first targets, but it’s almost never the last target, after all. Such legislation may well lead to other restrictive measures that suddenly don’t sound so great.
Not that anti-gunners ever think that far ahead. They simply want to make guns go away. Since they can’t legally do that, they instead try to make it so that they can get the next best thing.
Red flag laws sound good, and they can be useful if handled correctly. It just doesn’t sound like Massachusetts did.