Rep. Denise Andrews, seat challengers Karen Anderson, Susannah Lee against gun reform bill
Incumbent Second Franklin District Rep. Denise Andrews and her two Republican challengers in the fall election have all come out against the gun reform legislation now before the Legislature.
Andrews did not co-sponsor the bill, filed by House Speaker Robert DeLeo, that is now before the House Ways and Means Committee after being endorsed by the House Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security and the rules committee, contrary to a press statement by Susannah Lee, of Athol, who will face Karen Anderson of Orange in the Republican primary. The winner of that primary takes on incumbent Andrews.
The DeLeo bill would for the first time give local police chiefs the ability to deny a license for rifles or shotguns based on suitability standards and extend federal restrictions for firearm acquisition to the state level. It would also require background checks for all private gun sales and require Massachusetts to join a national instant criminal background database that would include pertinent mental health information.
The bill would increase penalties for failing to report lost or stolen firearms, improperly storing guns and carrying a gun on school grounds.
Both Anderson and Lee have come out strongly in opposition to the gun control legislation, appearing before the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee against the bill, which Anderson said she believes has little to do with its title, related to reduction of gun violence.
A key objection, according to Anderson’s statement, is the legislation’s provisions for determining the suitability of who should be issued a license to carry firearms.
Jim Wallace, head of the Massachusetts Gun Owners Action League, objected strongly to a provision that would expand suitability checks that local police chiefs conduct on individuals seeking to carry concealed weapons to include those applying to own rifles or shotguns.
Lee, in written testimony to the committee, called House Bill 4121 “the most regressive and restrictive firearms control bill in the country.” She warned that it will be “grossly ineffective and (it) restricts the rights of the honest, law-abiding folks in the commonwealth.”
Lee also argued that the gun control bill “intrudes on basic American freedoms,” adding, “I see the sapling of a gun registry growing in this bill and adamantly oppose it! We have a constitutional right to keep and bear firearms, as well as a constitutional right to private property and privacy in our homes.”
A longtime gun owner and shooting enthusiast, Lee also objected to the implication in the bill, drafted in response to the December 2012 Newtown, Conn., school shooting that killed 20 children and six adults, that there is a connection between “psychiatric distress and murderous behavior.”
Andrews, an Orange Democrat seeking her third term, said in a press statement that she is opposed to the DeLeo bill, which she said does not address the full range of issues that need to be considered in reducing gun violence.
She had been a co-sponsor of another gun-control bill, sponsored by Rep. David Linsky, D-Natick, which included provisions such as a one-gun-per-month purchase limit. That bill did not prevail, but some of those provisions could still be negotiated as House 4121 progresses.
Andrews, who said she supports Second Amendment rights, said conversations with constituents and seeking out different opinions on the issues raised thoughts about mental health, the effects of existing gun laws, the suitability clause in the DeLeo bill and other topics.
“We need to have a full discussion and full engagement on safe communities, gun violence and safe gun ownership and access,” said Andrews, adding that she doesn’t see the various factions concerned about specific aspects of the issue coming together to embrace the entire problem. “In my opinion, taking no action at this time on the proposed bill does not hurt or help the safety in our communities.”
In the First Franklin District, Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington, said he also does not support the gun-control legislation, because it would put additional restrictions on legal gun owners and doesn’t address the illegal use and trafficking on guns and mental-health concerns that were raised after the Newtown shootings.
Kulik, who is vice chairman of the Ways and Means Committee where the bill is now being weighed, called “concerning” issues raised by responsible gun owners in his district who feel they’re being singled out.
“I’m hoping this bill can evolve into something that’s more balanced,” he said.
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Editor's note: Some information in this story has changed from an earlier edition)