The Massachusetts House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to approve a bill that would revise the state’s gun laws, which are already among the strictest in the nation. The bill aims to address the challenges posed by new technologies, such as ghost guns and 3D-printed firearms, and to align the state’s regulations with recent Supreme Court rulings.
What are ghost guns and why are they a problem?
Ghost guns are firearms that are made from parts that are not regulated or serialized by the government. They can be assembled at home or bought online as kits. Ghost guns do not have serial numbers or background checks, making them difficult to trace and easy to obtain by criminals or people who are prohibited from owning guns.
According to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Michael Day, ghost guns pose a serious threat to public safety and law enforcement. He said that in 2023, more than 300 ghost guns were recovered by police in Massachusetts, and that nationally, ghost guns account for 30% of guns used in crimes.
The bill would require anyone who makes or sells a ghost gun to apply for a serial number from the state and register the firearm. It would also prohibit anyone from possessing a firearm that is not serialized or registered.
How does the bill update the state’s assault weapons ban?
The bill also seeks to update the state’s ban on assault weapons, which was enacted in 1998 and mirrors the federal ban that expired in 2004. The bill would revise the definition of assault weapons to include any firearm that has a detachable magazine and one or more features, such as a pistol grip, a folding or telescoping stock, a flash suppressor, or a grenade launcher.
The bill would also ban any firearm that is substantially identical to an assault weapon, regardless of its name or model. This would address the issue of copycat weapons that are designed to evade the ban by making minor changes.
The bill would reaffirm the state’s authority to regulate assault weapons, following a 2022 Supreme Court decision that struck down New York’s law that required people to show a special need to carry a handgun in public. The bill would clarify that Massachusetts’ law does not infringe on the right to self-defense or the right to bear arms for lawful purposes.
Where would firearms be prohibited under the bill?
The bill would also expand the list of places where firearms are prohibited, unless authorized by law or by the owner of the property. The bill would ban firearms from:
- Schools, including colleges and universities
- Certain public or governmental buildings, such as courthouses, libraries, museums, and hospitals
- Polling places during elections
- Private property where the owner has posted a notice prohibiting firearms
The bill would exempt police officers from these restrictions, even when they are off-duty.
How did the House vote on the bill and what are the next steps?
The bill was approved by the House with a vote of 120 to 38, with most Republicans voting against it. The bill was released from committee on Tuesday, after a public hearing where supporters and opponents testified. The bill was attached to the governor’s fiscal year close out budget, but was separated for a standalone vote.
The bill now moves to the Senate, where Senate President Karen Spilka said she expects to pass some form of gun legislation before the end of the session. Gov. Maura Healey, who has been a vocal advocate for gun reform, said she supports the House bill and urged the Senate to act quickly.