Property Ownership, Modifying Orders and Stun Gun Language New Problems Added to the List
To add to the list of the many problems with the new “gun licensing bill” (ERPO) passed by the house, there are new problems. Among them, a last minute amendment that was not available for public review prior to the voice vote on it.
Amendment #43 was offered as a Ways & Means “Technical Amendment” by Chairman Jeffrey Sánchez. Tucked in the amendment is language dealing with who could store the confiscated guns and ammunition. It would appear that this new language may force a person to relinquish “ownership” of their property if they file an appeal, but it is not clear.
“… that nothing in this section or in said section 129D shall allow the respondent to: (i) transfer any firearms, rifles, shotguns, machine guns, weapons or ammunition required to be surrendered, or surrendered, by the respondent to anyone other than a licensed dealer; or (ii) maintain control, ownership or possession of any firearms, rifles, shotguns, machine guns, weapons or ammunition during the pendency of any appeal of an extreme risk protection order…”
This certainly could be just hastily written language where they usually get it wrong. What raises a “red flag” though is that it is attached to language allowing law enforcement to sell off guns and ammunition if they cannot ascertain ownership.
“…and provided further that, notwithstanding section 129D, if the licensing authority cannot reasonably ascertain a lawful owner of firearms, rifles, shotguns, machine guns, weapons or ammunition surrendered pursuant to extreme risk protection order within 180 days of the expiration or termination of the extreme risk protection order the licensing authority may, in its discretion, trade or dispose of surplus, donated, abandoned or junk firearms, rifles, shotguns, machine guns, weapons or ammunition to properly licensed distributors or firearms dealers and the proceeds of such sale or transfer shall be remitted or credited to the municipality in which the licensing authority presides to be used for violence reduction or suicide prevention.”
A further piece in Amendment #43 has to do with “modifying” a protection order.
And moves to further amend the bill in section 12 by inserting after the word “order.”, in line 113, the following words:- The court may modify its order at any subsequent time upon motion by either party. When the petitioner’s address is inaccessible to the respondent as provided in subsection (d) of section 131R and the respondent has filed a motion to modify the court’s order, the court shall be responsible for notifying the respondent. In no event shall the court disclose any such inaccessible address.
We believe this is the new language that supporters are pointing to as an appeal or review process being restored. The only alternative would be to appeal to a higher court with the burden of costs and proof of innocence on the shoulders of the accused. The great problem is with the vagueness of the new language. Since either party can ask for a modification, what are the standards for the request, what sort of modifications, can this be a way around the hearing standards for extension of orders? It could possibly work in a defendant’s favor, but we simply don’t know. Being in Massachusetts we must always look at vague language as to how it has been historically used against us.
Another incredibly poorly written piece in the bill places stun guns under the official definition of “Firearm”. While normally a generic term in the gun owning world, the term legally means handgun in Massachusetts’ law. This brings a whole host of problems with it; since handguns have to meet standards including accuracy, trigger pull, drop tests and more. A stun gun will never be able to meet these requirements. This move would essentially ban stun guns. Since law enforcement is not exempt from the approved roster, they presumably would be prevented from purchasing as well. There is also the problem of NICS and MIRCS checks that are required for handguns. The systems are not designed for stun guns.
To further confuse this issue, the bill may ban the sale of stun guns, but it may completely de-regulate electronic dart guns (Tazers). The bill does repeal the entire existing Section 131J of Chapter 140 doing away with the unconstitutional ban for non-law enforcement. The problem now lies in the definition.
Most states that regulate these products define “stun guns” and “electronic dart guns” differently. This bill only provides a definition for “stun gun” that does not seem to include dart guns.
“Stun gun”, a portable device or weapon from which an electrical current, impulse, wave or beam may be directed, which current, impulse, wave or beam is designed to incapacitate.
So are dart guns now unregulated and stun guns banned if this passes into law? We simply don’t know. For the record, GOAL did point this entire problem out to house leadership and many others. Minority Leader Brad Jones tried to offer an amendment to address it (#30), but it was rejected on a voice vote.