S.661 "An Act Relative to the Common Defense"

  • Will provide explicit protection for those who use force, including deadly force, to protect themselves or others from great personal injury or death
  • Provides specific language that would clearly define what an act of lawful defense is
  • Protects a law abiding citizen that is involved in a self defense shooting from civil suits

February 8, 2012 Update:

Room B-1 at the State House was capacity only and our bill was heard along with many others. GOAL Executive Director Jim Wallace was in attendance and testified on behalf of the legislation.

GOAL would like to thank all of our members that took the time to attend, especially those that testified in support of this important legislation. We look forward to this bill becoming law, and will update as soon as the committee renders a decision. Please stay tuned to our channels for updates.

Please continue contacting your legislators and the committee members, ask that they support and vote favorably on this bill. See below for contact info.

January 23. 2012 Update:

Public Hearing - 2/7/12: The Joint Committee on the Judiciary has scheduled a public hearing on 2/7/2012 at 1:00 pm in Room B-1 at the State House.

Please support this important legislation by contacting your legislator and the committee members, and if you are able, by attending this important public hearing. For more on this legislation, see below.


September 8, 2011 Update:

There has been a lot of talk around the nation about the so-called “castle doctrine”. These are laws that commonly allow citizens to defend themselves, or others, in their homes. There is a common misconception that Massachusetts citizens do not have such a right and are legally obliged to flee their homes. Such has not been the case for some time.

Under current general law Chapter 278, Section 8A the law actually states: “There shall be no duty on said occupant to retreat from such person unlawfully in said dwelling.” The law also provides that a citizen may defend themselves if they have a reasonable fear of great bodily injury or death.

The one sketchy part of the law is the term “reasonable means” in reference to defending oneself. What may seem reasonable to one being faced by a drug crazed lunatic crashing through your front door may not be reasonable to a Second Amendment anti-activist judge.

Another couple of problems remain. One is that there are no protections from having your License to Carry (LTC) revoked after a self defense incident. As we are all well aware the “suitability” standard still gives licensing authorities wide latitude to pull our LTC for little or no reason. If, after a self defense incident, your local licensing authority believes you acted in poor judgment, they still have the authority to pull your license. The other problem is that currently there are no protections from civil lawsuits after the fact. A very real scenario is that a citizen has had to use deadly force to defend themselves. After the incident there are no criminal charges brought against the defender and the licensing authority takes no action either. However, there is no protection from the dead assailants relatives bringing a wrongful death civil suit or some other such action.

In an attempt to correct some of the current law’s shortfalls GOAL’s bill removes any reference to “reasonable means”. We also clearly state that an act of lawful defense shall not be cause for prosecution or revocation of one’s firearm license.

The bill currently resides in the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. There is currently no hearing scheduled.

S.661 “An Act Relative to the Common Defense” filed by Senator Stephen Brewer

SECTION 1. Chapter 278: Section 8A. Killing or injuring a person defense of self or others; Section 8A. It shall be an act of lawful defense if a person, who is an occupant of a dwelling or in any place that they have a right to be, used deadly force, or less than deadly force, if he or she acted in the reasonable belief that an assailant was about to inflict great bodily injury or death upon themselves or upon another person who also had a right to be in the location. There shall be no duty on a person to retreat from any place that they have a right to be. An act of lawful defense as outlined in this section shall not be cause for arrest or prosecution. Further, an act of lawful defense under this section shall not be cause for the revocation of a license issued under sections, 122, 123, 129B or 131 of Chapter 140. SECTION 2. Chapter 231: Section 85U. Death or injury to assailants; liability of defender Section 85U. No person who has committed an act of lawful defense as outlined in section 8A of chapter 278 shall be held liable in an action for damages for death or injuries to an assailant.


From 2010:

S.1580 "An Act Relative to the Common Defense"  

S.1580 Receives an extension. 5/7/10 GOAL's "An Act Relative to the Common Defense" Bill, S.1580 has received an extension order from the Judiciary Committee, extended until 6/30/10. This is good news and means that the bill will continue on it's way to becoming law. This bill became a focus of attention recently when heroic citizen Paul Langone saved the life of a doctor at Mass General Hospital. Story here

S. 1580 is gaining momentum.

State Senator Bruce Tarr has written in support. Please call your legislators and urge them to sign onto this letter as soon as possible.

Find your legislators here.

Also, see Jim Wallace's editorial about S.1580/The MGH Defense Shooting here.


                                                            November 3, 2009


Senator Cynthia Stone Creem, Chairwoman
Joint Committee on the Judiciary
Room 416-B, State House
Boston, MA 02133

Representative Eugene L. O’Flaherty, Chairman
Joint Committee on the Judiciary
Room 136, State House
Boston, MA 02133

Dear Chairwoman Creem and Chairman O’Flaherty,

     We are writing today in support of S. 1580, “An Act Relative to the Common Defense”. This bill, which received its public hearing on October 27th, would provide needed legal protection to those who act in defense of themselves and others in response to a potentially lethal situation.

     From the recent events occurring at a Massachusetts General Hospital building last week, it is clear that the use of a firearm to protect the safety of others is regrettably sometimes necessary. Current Massachusetts law, however, does not explicitly protect the right of citizens to act in the defense of others when they are at risk of great personal injury or death. This omission risks jeopardizing those who would prevent harm from occurring by subjecting them to criminal and civil liability for taking action to defend the lives of others. S. 1580 would provide explicit protection for those who use force, including deadly force, to protect themselves or others from great personal injury or death, so long as the belief that the danger that existed was reasonable and that the actor was entitled to be in that place where action was taken.

   Failing to pass S. 1580 will perpetrate the unacceptable situation of allowing an individual who bravely acts to defend others from a lethal threat to be subjected to substantial penalties. Our obligation to promote public safety demands that this situation be corrected.

     We therefore request that the Joint Committee on the Judiciary report S. 1580 favorably as soon as possible. Thank you for your consideration of this request, and please do not hesitate to contact us if we may be of any further assistance.




Bruce Tarr
State Senator


October 29, 2009 

Subject: 1580 letter Common Defense Act 

Dear Legislator,

By now the world has heard the news of the lawful defense shooting that took place at the Massachusetts General Hospital clinic in Boston.  In a case of true American selflessness, Massachusetts citizen Paul Langone ran towards danger to come to the aid of what was probably a complete stranger. In doing so, Mr. Langone likely saved the life of Psychiatrist Astrid Desrosiers who was being repeatedly stabbed by patient turned assailant, Jay Carciero.  In what was most certainly a case of lawful defense, Mr. Langone found himself in a situation that called on deadly force in order to save Ms. Desrosiers and to protect the lives and safety of other clinic staff and visitors.

While there is much debate in the media and amongst the general public as to why Mr. Langone was there and why he was carrying a gun, the simple answer for everyone involved is that they are lucky he was. 

Regardless of the details involved as to how or why, this incident brings to the forefront an important issue concerning Massachusetts law.  Under current Massachusetts law there are no protections for lawful citizens who use force to defend themselves, or others, from suits brought against them by assailants who were injured or killed as a result.  However, the Massachusetts legislature has an opportunity to fix this. 

Gun Owners’ Action League (GOAL) currently has a bill before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary in the State House to address this matter. S.1580, “An Act Relative to the Common Defense”, was filed this legislative session to protect citizens who find themselves in a situation that requires the use of force to defend themselves or others.  The legislation provides specific language that would clearly define what an act of lawful defense is. It would also provide protection to citizens who have acted in lawful defense from civil suits regarding the death or injuries of an assailant.  GOAL would urge the legislature to immediately call for S.1580 from the Committee and pass it into law with an emergency preamble, thus protecting law abiding citizens from further legal actions from their assailants. 



James L. Wallace
Executive Director  
Owners' Action League

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