Mass. gun bill advances after close committee vote
BOSTON — House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s new proposal to reduce gun violence has barely emerged with a favorable report from a legislative committee, foreshadowing a potentially turbulent reception in the full House and Senate.
The Public Safety Committee’s co-chairs, Sen. James Timilty (D-Walpole) and Rep. Harold Naughton (D-Clinton), parted ways, with Timilty voting against the bill and Naughton supporting it. It cleared the committee 7-6.
The bill (H 4121) has been on the fast track since DeLeo filed it on May 27. The close vote follows a lengthy committee hearing last Tuesday, when supporters said the bill will curb gun violence and opponents countered that the bill unfairly imposes hardships on legal gun owners, while not focusing enough on illegal gun owners.
The bill, created with the aid of a task force and spurred by the 2012 shooting inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, includes a provision giving police chiefs authority to deny a firearm ID card for a rifle or shotgun based on a “suitability” standard, which has drawn criticism from the Gun Owners Action League.
The bill also increases penalties for improper storage of a firearm, rifle or a shotgun, and requires schools to come up with a plan to deal with the mental health needs of their students.
The bill does not include a proposal Gov. Deval Patrick has long pushed for: limiting gun sales to one a month.
House lawmakers who signed off on DeLeo’s bill, aside from Naughton, included Reps. Alan Silvia (D-Fall River), Brian Ashe (D-Longmeadow), Michael Brady (D-Brockton), Linda Campbell (D-Methuen), and Sean Curran (D-Springfield). They were joined by Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Jamaica Plain).
House lawmakers who voted against the bill included Reps. Cleon Turner (D-Dennis), David Vieira (R-East Falmouth), and Nicholas Boldyga (R-Southwick). They were joined by Sens. Timilty, Michael Moore (D-Millbury) and James Welch (D-West Springfield).
Three lawmakers reserved their rights: Reps. James Dwyer (D-Woburn), Brian Mannal (D-Barnstable) and Sen. Richard Ross (R-Wrentham).
A motion to reconsider the bill, made by Rep. Boldyga, failed on a 6-10 vote. The six who voted for reconsideration were Boldyga, Turner, Vieira, Moore, Timilty and Ross.
The committee poll on the bill opened on Friday and closed on Saturday. The results were released by the committee to the News Service on Monday afternoon.
Supporters of the bill hope to get it to the governor’s desk before the July 31 end of formal sessions.