Unfortunately, the Massachusetts House of Representatives today passed House Bill 4278, a watered-down version of House Bill 4121, by a 112 to 38 vote. While concessions were made and the NRA was able to scale back some of the anti-gun aspects, H.4278 still contains provisions which will directly and adversely affect your constitutional right to keep and bear arms. As previously reported, this bill has already had multiple redrafts and was not given adequate time for review from stakeholders and policy makers. Considering the draft of H.4278 was circulated late last night and became available to all stakeholders early this morning, it would be a wonder if many state Representatives even read it at all.
While H.4278 has been significantly improved in many areas, perhaps the bill’s most egregious provision, which gives issuing authorities discretion to deny firearm identification cards, remains in the current version of the House-passed bill. This discretionary provision has been somewhat limited compared to prior versions to require that the issuing authority can show “reliable and credible information that the applicant or card holder has exhibited or engaged in behavior that suggests the applicant or card holder could potentially create a risk to public safety if issued a card; or (ii) existing factors that suggest that the applicant or card holder could potentially create a risk to public safety if issued a card.”
While an improvement over prior versions of this bill that would have given essentially unfettered discretion to issuing authorities to deny applicants or renewal applicants, it isn’t difficult to imagine how this provision will be abused if H.4278 becomes law. For example, a government official with a personal grudge against an applicant or an opposition to individual gun ownership could use almost any “bad” conduct in an applicant’s past to deny the applicant, which might include any number of menial acts that wouldn’t normally prohibit a person from possessing a firearm. Simple speeding tickets might be enough to show that a person “has exhibited or engaged in behavior that suggests the applicant or card holder could potentially create a risk to public safety . . . .” Like current law, denials of a FID card would be reviewable by a court, however, because the bill does not include a standard for review of a denial under the new discretionary provision, a court would likely review those decisions under a very deferential “abuse of discretion” standard, which, in layman’s terms means that very few discretionary denials would likely be overturned.
Some of the other misguided provisions include new requirements which will create problems for hunter education courses and requirements that Massachusetts submit unnecessary records to NICS, including records of individuals who are NOT prohibited from possessing a firearm under state or federal law.
While H. 4278 does include some positive provisions, such as fixing the process for renewing both FID and LTC (License to Carry) cards, for the aforementioned reasons, the NRA remains opposed to this bill. It is critical that you contact your state Senator and urge him or her to oppose H. 4278 in its current form.
Please also contact your state Representative and urge him or her to advocate for elimination of these misguided components in the state Senate.
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