GOAL Massachusetts

S. 964 "An Act Prohibiting the Confiscation of Lawfully Owned Firearms During a State of Emergency".

GOAL Files Amended "Katrina" Bill

During the last legislative session Senator Richard Moore filed, on behalf of GOAL,  “An Act Prohibiting the Confiscation of Lawfully Owned Firearms During the State of Emergency” The legislation was filed as a result of the unlawful confiscation of privately owned firearms during the state of emergency in Louisiana, specifically New Orleans.

GOAL’s bill nearly became law, but was held up at the last moment during informal session by the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association. While the Association never contacted GOAL with any objections, we were informed that their main concern was that they could not determine what a lawfully owned firearm was. That alone speaks volumes for the need for real reform in Massachusetts.

Another concern about the bill came from the typical officer on the street. They expressed distress over the fact that they would be held accountable for confiscating firearms, but the person who ordered the confiscations would not face any penalties. Thus, GOAL has amended the bill to punish both.

“During the last legislative session this bill represented a litmus test of sorts here in Massachusetts,” said Jim Wallace Executive Director of GOAL. “It was a clear test to see if the legislature and law enforcement would accept that they could not unlawfully confiscate private property and further, leave citizens defenseless against marauding gangs of criminals when calling for help wasn’t possible. Sadly, the state failed that test.”

GOAL urges all of its members to contact their legislators and ask them to support this legislation by signing on as a co-sponsor. (The bill has not yet been assigned a number.)

AN ACT prohibiting the confiscation of lawfully owned firearms during a state of emergency

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:

SECTION 1. Chapter 140 of the Massachusetts General Laws shall be amended by adding the following section;

Section 129E. Prohibiting the confiscation of lawfully owned firearms.

     No government official or any person acting on behalf of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts shall order the confiscation of, or otherwise cause the confiscation of, any lawfully carried or lawfully owned firearm, rifle, shotgun, machinegun or ammunition.

     No law enforcement officer, person acting as a law enforcement officer, or other public official shall confiscate or attempt to confiscate any lawfully carried or lawfully owned firearm, rifle, shotgun, machinegun or ammunition.

     Whoever violates the provisions of this section shall be subject to a civil fine of not less than $500 nor more than $5,000 for each firearm unlawfully confiscated or by imprisonment in a state prison for not more than two and one-half years.

     Nothing in this section shall prohibit the confiscation of a firearm, rifle, shotgun, machinegun or ammunition from any person who;

(a)    Has been placed under arrest;

(b)   Is the subject of a protection order issued under Chapter 209A;

(c)    Has had their Firearm Identification Card or License to Carry revoked or suspended.

 

GOAL Sends Letter to Legislators Urging Enactment of S.1401

On September 10, 2008 Gun Owners' Action League sent the following letter to Massachusetts legislators concerning the delay in enacting the Katrina bill (S.1401):

September 10, 2008

Re: S.1401 “AN ACT prohibiting the confiscation of lawfully owned firearms during a state of emergency”

Dear Legislator,

In January of 2007, S.1401 was filed as a result of the abhorrent actions taken by law enforcement officials during the Katrina hurricane aftermath in New Orleans. During a time when lawful citizens needed their lawfully owned firearms to protect their very lives from roving mobs of criminals, rogue officials in the city of New Orleans began illegally confiscating firearms from lawful citizens. This action left many citizens at the mercy of the criminals during an event when it was virtually impossible to call for help.

Since these inexcusable actions were taken against the lawful citizens of our nation, state after state has passed a law providing severe penalties for any government or law enforcement official that sought to disarm the lawful citizens during a state of emergency. Alaska, Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia,  Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming and Utah have all passed this legislation.

S.1401 went through the normal legislative process for nearly one and a half years before being engrossed by the House and Senate. The bill is now ready for enactment and suddenly there are objections from law enforcement officials and organizations that were never aired prior to engrossment. The bill was carefully drafted to make it crystal clear that the intent was to protect only lawfully carried or lawfully owned guns:

“No law enforcement officer, person acting as a law enforcement officer, or other public official shall confiscate or attempt to confiscate any lawfully carried or lawfully owned firearm, rifle or shotgun in this state during a declared state of emergency.”

It has been brought to our attention that several law enforcement officials now have some of the following concerns:

·         This bill would prevent officials from confiscating firearms from someone who has been issued a protection order. False – Under state and federal law no citizen can lawfully possess a gun under such an order.

·         This bill would prevent licensing authorities from suspending or revoking firearm licenses. False –  There is nothing in this bill that affects a licensing authority’s ability to carry out their normal duties and since a citizen of the Commonwealth cannot lawfully possess a firearm without a license, this bill would not prohibit the confiscation of firearms from someone who has had their license revoked due to criminal actions.

·         This bill would prevent the confiscation of firearms from persons who are suspected of committing a crime. False – Remember we are talking about a declared state of emergency in this bill. In this instance if someone is suspected of committing a crime they should be under arrest. Persons under arrest cannot lawfully possess a firearm.

·         This bill might punish officials who have confiscated firearms using their best judgment. False – If there is a scenario where an officer felt it necessary to confiscate a lawfully owned firearm during a state of emergency then the owner of said gun should be in custody, otherwise there would be no reason to take anything from a citizen during such a crisis.

·         The punishment for violation of this proposed law is a felony. Any conviction of which would prohibit the offender from ever being hired as a law enforcement officer again. True – No official who would commit such an act should ever be entrusted with any authority ever again. Remember, we are talking about someone who abused their authority and unlawfully took away a citizen’s only means of defending their lives and the lives of their family when there is virtually no possibility to call for help. Any government official who would commit such an atrocity should ever be trusted again.

The mere fact that there are law enforcement officials in this state that cannot comprehend the meaning of what is a lawfully carried or owned gun speaks volumes about the problems lawful gun owners face in this Commonwealth. None of these so-called concerns that have been brought up at the last minute have any legitimacy. The legislation could not be written any more clearly, which is more than we can say about the laws and regulations that our members have been forced to deal with for over a decade.

On behalf of our members, I would urge the legislature to ignore these end of session tactics and move to enact S.1401. I would also ask that you keep in mind that to deny this bill’s final passage will send a message to our members that the Massachusetts legislature as a body supports the violation of the civil rights of lawful gun owners in a time of great crisis. This bill is a litmus test of sorts that will send a clear message to citizens of the Commonwealth as to where they stand in the eyes of our elected officials. I urge you to send a message of support and respect to your constituents and enact S.1401.

Sincerely,

 

James L. Wallace

Executive Director

 

Katrina Bill Enactment Held Up - Sept. 8, 2008

As GOAL members are aware, the Massachusetts version of the Katrina legislation S.1401 "An Act Prohibiting the Confiscation of Lawfully Owned Firearms During the State of Emergency", was engrossed by the House and Senate in the final hours of the formal session. We did inform our members that the bill would still need to be enacted during an informal session and that enactment is normally a formality, but we would have to watch it closely. Under the rules of the legislature, during an informal session it only takes one legislator to object to any action being taken.

We regret to report to our members that the enactment of S.1401 has been held up. Several legislators have reported to us that the Mass. Chiefs of Police Association has been lobbying hard to have the bill stopped.

The Chief's Association has given several reasons why they believe the bill should not be passed. The following are some of those reasons that have been passed on to GOAL:

  • The penalties in the bill are a felony and if an officer were convicted under it they would never be allowed to serve as a law enforcement officer again.

  • What if an officer is acting under their best judgment?

  • The bill would prevent an officer from confiscating firearms under a protection order.

  • This bill would prevent Chiefs from revoking licenses.

  • This bill would prevent officers from confiscating firearms from those committing crimes.

"None of these so-called concerns over the bill are legitimate," said Jim Wallace, Executive Director of Gun Owners' Action League. "The legislation was clearly written to cover lawfully owned firearms. You can't lawfully possess a firearm under a protection order or in the commission of a crime. As for an officer acting under their best judgment, why would they be confiscating a firearm from someone they haven't arrested? You certainly are not in lawful possession if you are under arrest. We have one of two things happening here. Either this is a political tactic to wait until the formal legislative session is over so no one actually has to go on record as voting against it or the Massachusetts firearm laws are so complicated that even the Police Chiefs are having difficulty interpreting what a lawfully owned firearm is."

GOAL is urging our members to contact the House Speaker’s Office (617-722-2500) and the Senate President’s Office (617-722-1500) and ask them to enact S.1401. Georgia, Alaska, Idaho, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Missouri, Texas, Arizona, Montana, Tennessee, Nevada, Delaware, Oregon, California, Wyoming, Wisconsin and Utah have all passed this legislation, there is no reason why Massachusetts shouldn't.

GOAL would also suggest that our members contact their local chiefs to ask them what their stance on the bill is and if they have any legitimate concerns.

___________________________________________________________

Mass Katrina Bill Needs Your Help

Senate Committee on Ways & Means

617-722-1481

With the general budget debates over, on Wednesday, June 4, 2008 the Massachusetts Senate will begin regular formal sessions once again. Now that the Senate will be taking up regular business again, it is time to continue work towards the passage of GOAL's bill  S.1401 "An Act Prohibiting the Confiscation of Lawfully Owned Firearms During the State of Emergency". As our members recall this bill was filed as a result of the unlawful confiscation of firearms during the Katrina disaster.

At the end of March this bill was released favorably by the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security. The bill now resides in the Senate Committee on Ways & Means. GOAL is urging our members to contact the Senate Committee on Ways & Means and urge them to release S.1401 with a FAVORABLE report. The Committee can be contacted at: 617-722-1481. As always we ask our members to be polite, brief and to the point when contacting the State House.

Members appointed to the committee:

Panagiotakos of First Middlesex
Brewer of Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin
Chandler of First Worcester
Antonioni of Worcester and Middlesex
Augustus of Second Worcester
Baddour of First Essex
Fargo of Third Middlesex
Morrissey of Norfolk and Plymouth
Pacheco of First Plymouth and Bristol
Resor of Middlesex and Worcester
Joyce of Norfolk, Bristol and Plymouth
Tucker of Second Essex and Middlesex
Wilkerson of Second Suffolk
Creem of First Middlesex and Norfolk
Spilka of Second Middlesex and Norfolk
Knapik of Second Hampden and Hampshire
Tarr of First Essex and Middlesex

________________________________________________________________

Update 12/13/2007

GOAL is pleased to announce that the support of S.1401 "An Act Prohibiting the Confiscation of Lawfully Owned Firearms During the State of Emergency" is growing. Today we were forwarded a copy of a letter that will be signed by the entire House Republican Caucus. This letter of support for the measure is being sent to the House and Senate Chairs of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security urging the Committee to report the bill out favorably.

GOAL would like to express our thanks to the House Republican Caucus for supporting this important civil rights bill. This brings the total of supporting legislators to 27. GOAL urges its members to check the list below and see if your local legislators have expressed their support yet.

________________________________________________________________

GOAL Urges Passing of State of Emergency Bill

With winter approaching and being the time of year that the northeast is most likely to face a state of emergency caused by our weather, GOAL is asking the legislature to pass into law S.1401 - "An Act Prohibiting The Confiscation Of Lawfully Owned Firearms During A State Of Emergency". Filed by Senator Richard T. Moore.

This bill would put in place a law that would prevent government officials from confiscating lawfully owned guns during a state of emergency. It also establishes punishments for any rogue officials that choose to violate the law.

 

"No reasonable person would say that citizens placed in a state of anarchy caused by a natural or manmade disaster should be forced to give up their only means of protecting their lives and property," said Jim Wallace Executive Director of Gun Owners Action League. "When the looters and killers are breaking into homes looking for food or property to steal and calling the police isn't even an option, it is the government's obligation to ensure that the lawful citizen's are allowed to protect themselves without harassment."

 

GOAL is urging all of its members to contact their legislators and ask them to support S.1401 by:

  1. Sending a letter to the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security asking the Committee to release the bill with a FAVORABLE report.

  2. Forward a copy of that letter to GOAL so we can add their names to the legislators who support preventing the illegal confiscation lawfully owned guns.

Click here to find your legislator.

 

Bill Text:

 

AN ACT prohibiting the confiscation of lawfully owned firearms during a state of emergency

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:

SECTION 1. Chapter 140 of the Massachusetts General Laws shall be amended by adding the following section;

Section 129E. Prohibiting the confiscation of lawfully owned firearms.

No law enforcement officer, person acting as a law enforcement officer, or other public official shall confiscate or attempt to confiscate any lawfully carried or lawfully owned firearm, rifle or shotgun in this state during a declared state of emergency.

Whoever violates the provisions of this section shall be subject to a civil fine of not less than $500 nor more than $5,000 for each firearm, rifle or shotgun confiscated or by imprisonment in a state prison for not more than ten years or by imprisonment in a house of correction for not more than two and one-half years.

 

Summary: This bill prohibits law enforcement or government officials from confiscating the “lawfully owned or lawfully carried” guns of citizens during a declared state of emergency.

A few years ago, television coverage during the aftermath of the Rodney King trial showed rioters and looting throughout Los Angeles. Careful observation would show that the rioters stayed clear of certain stores, where shopkeepers who lawfully owned firearms were able to protect their property.

More recently our nation saw first hand the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. Adding insult to nature’s injury were the actions of many state and local governments that poorly prepared, failed to issue evacuation orders, and were caught flat-footed by the devastation. One of the most tragic government actions was the confiscation of lawfully owned firearms.

 Local law enforcement were going door to door, confiscating firearms, and leaving good people at the mercy of criminals and looters. One TV camera caught on tape an elderly woman having her arm broken as she was thrown to the ground because she questioned the officer’s right to confiscate her firearm. Court action regarding these confiscations is still pending, as the city of New Orleans has been held in contempt of court for failure to return these firearms to citizens.  

Also common in photos being circulated around the internet at that time were photos of neighborhoods where groups of people had banded together to share food, water, and protection. Spray-painted signs warned looters to keep away. People evacuated by canoe testified that criminals were ready to take their few belongings away, and that it was only the presence of a firearm, rifle or shotgun that prevented criminals from preying on others.

When civilized government fails, as it does in times of extreme stress, good people are often left without basic services provided by government – water, electricity, and fire and law enforcement service. That is no time to disarm the good people of the commonwealth, as we know the criminal element will thrive in such chaos.

List of Supporting Legislators

 

House Senate
George Peterson (9th Worcester) Richard T. Moore (Worcester & Norfolk)
Geraldo Alicea (6th Worcester) Edward Augustus (2nd Worcester)
Denis Guyer (2nd Berkshire) Robert Antonioni (Worcester & Middlesex)
Frank Hynes (4th Plymouth) Stephen Brewer (Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin)
Garrett Bradley (3rd Plymouth) Scott Brown (Norfolk, Bristol and Middlesex)
Vinny deMacedo (1st Plymouth)  
Christine Canavan (10th Plymouth)  
Bradley Jones (20th Middlesex)  
John Lepper (2nd Bristol)  
Paul Frost (7th Worcester)  
Mary Rogeness (2nd Hampden)  
Fred Jay Barrows (1st Bristol)  
Lewis Evangelidis (1st Worcester)  
Susan Williams Gifford (2nd Plymouth)  
Robert S. Hargraves (1st Middlesex)  
Donald Humason (4th Hampden)  
Jeffrey Perry (5th Barnstable)  
Karyn Polito (11th Worcester)  
Todd Smola (1st Hampden)  
Bradford Hill (4th Essex)  
Paul Loscocco (8th Middlesex)  
Elizabeth Poirier (14th Bristol)  
Richard Ross (9th Norfolk)  
Daniel Webster (6th Plymouth)  

 

*This page is made possible by the membership of GOAL and their generous donations. If you found this page helpful please Join - Support - Donate to GOAL.

 

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