Proposed Mass. Law Would Allow Even More Gun Seizures by Police

Police in Massachusetts recently seized this 98-gun collection
Police in Massachusetts recently seized this 98-gun collection from a licensed 65-year-old resident because someone reported him for not having his firearms locked up in accordance with state law. photo from guns.comweb photo

A new plan in Massachusetts, a state already beleaguered by extremely tight gun control laws, could lead to the seizure of firearms from state residents.

The legislation, if approved, would allow police, health care workers, family members, and others to ask a judge to issue an "extreme risk protection order" allowing police to revoke the firearms license for up to a year, on the grounds that the person is considered a danger to themselves or others, according to this story from batesvilleherlandtirbune.com. Police would then be permitted to seize any firearms already owned by that individual as well.

Like domestic-violence protection orders, someone petitioning the court under this new law would have to present evidence outlining threats the accused individual has made to harm themselves or others, the story says.

The anti-gun proponents of the legislation say it will reduce gun violence and suicides that “claim tens of thousands of lives each year.”

Second Amendment advocates say the law is unnecessary and only allows people to carry out potential person vendettas against gun owners, since police chiefs in Massachusetts already have the power to revoke firearms licenses, the story says.

The legislation does include penalties built in to deter anyone who might maliciously attempt to have the courts restrict a person’s access to firearms.

Gun rights advocates also say in the story that, while the law includes due process, that it's hardly the best way to address problems with a person who potentially has a mental illness.

"If we drag someone with mental health issues through the court process, you're going to exacerbate those problems," said Jim Wallace, executive director of the Gun Owners' Action League, which is the state affiliate of the NRA. "This is actually a dangerous bill that really won't make people safe."

Wallace said in the story that police chiefs have broad discretion over firearms licenses, and already have the power to confiscate firearms from people with criminal records and a history of mental illness.

This was prominently displayed in a recent incident where police in a small Massachusetts town impounded 98 firearms and quantities of ammunition after someone complained to authorities that the owner was storing them improperly, according to this story from guns.com.

The story says the Cohasset Police Department announced on April 14 that they seized the collection after executing a search warrant that included vintage long arms like Mauser bolt-action rifles, lever-action Winchesters, a Browning Humpback Auto 5 shotgun, and others. Police crudely piled the guns in the bed of a pickup truck and took photos of them.

Cohasset Chief Bill Quigley said the unidentified 65-year-old owner of the guns had a license to do so, but he allegedly violated the state's safe storage laws by not having his guns secured with a locking device in place or stored in a locking container.

Massachusetts is the only state that requires all firearms be locked up inside a person’s home, rendering them nearly useless for home defense.

Instead of warning the senior citizen to put fairly inexpensive gun locks (often given away for free) on his arms, or buy a bunch of lockable gun cases, police simply got a warrant to break into his home and seize his firearms.

The story says at least 20 states are considering similar proposals to the proposed Massachusetts legislation, and California, Indiana, Washington, and Connecticut have already enacted similar laws.