Endorsed by gun violence prevention advocates, district attorneys, and police chiefs, bill is set to protect residents and modernize firearm laws, following extensive debate in the Senate
BOSTON (2/1/2024)—Today, with bipartisan support, the Massachusetts Senate passed An Act to sensibly address firearm violence through effective reform—the SAFER Act—to increase firearm safety in the state without infringing on the rights of gun owners. Following a thorough debate amongst members on the Senate floor, the bill passed 37 to 3, with Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) voting in support of the legislation.
The omnibus legislation—S.2572—was introduced following extensive testimony at a November hearing of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, where the public provided over four hours of testimony on more than 50 gun safety bills before the committee. Led by Majority Leader Cynthia Stone Creem, the bill’s passage follows months of discussions which included stakeholders and advocates with diverse perspectives on the issue.
The bill’s provisions would help make residents safer—and ultimately save lives—by building on the Commonwealth’s already strong record on gun safety and updating laws to prevent those who wish to do harm from being able to access and use deadly weapons. It would reform and modernize the state’s firearm laws, support the state’s public safety and public health infrastructure in mitigating gun violence, and strengthen accountability and oversight mechanisms for illegal gun activity.
“The Supreme Court’s repeal of gun safety policies in recent years, in tandem with a drastic rise in gun violence nationwide, makes it impossible for us to ignore this moment – we must take meaningful action on this critical issue,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “This legislation will implement effective reforms by updating our gun laws to mirror federal definitions and standards and strengthening our red flag laws to better support public safety personnel and those at risk of harm to themselves or others. It will set new standards and guidelines for licensing based on recent court decisions and bring new tools to address the increasing problem of illegal gun and ghost gun possession. This will result in a safer Commonwealth overall for our residents and law enforcement officers.”
The legislation focuses on common sense policies to reduce gun crime and gun injuries in the Commonwealth, and updates the state’s laws to provide law enforcement agencies with the necessary support to tackle today’s concerns relating to gun violence prevention and keep Massachusetts at the forefront of gun safety.
The bill includes the following gun safety policies:
- Ghost Guns. Updates the state’s laws to bring Massachusetts in line with national standards and to ensure accountability and oversight for those who own and possess un-serialized and untraceable firearms.
- Assault Weapons. Codifies Massachusetts’ existing prohibition on assault weapons and copies or duplicates of those weapons, to ensure that our residents are kept safe from weapons of war.
- Glock Switches and Trigger Activators. Makes it illegal to possess devices that convert semi-automatic firearms into fully automatic machine guns.
- Inspections of Gun Dealers. Ensures that gun dealers are inspected annually and allows the Massachusetts State Police to conduct those inspections if a local licensing agency does not or cannot do so.
- Red Flag Law and Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO). Allows health care professionals to petition courts to remove firearms and licenses from patients who pose a risk to themselves or others. The bill also allows preemptive orders to prevent a dangerous individual from obtaining a license to carry a firearm.
- Harassment Prevention Orders. Protects survivors of harassment by requiring courts to compel the surrender of firearms by individuals who are subject to harassment protection orders who pose an immediate threat.
- Sensitive Places. Prohibits the carry of firearms in government administrative buildings, with exceptions for law enforcement officers and municipalities that choose to opt out.
- Mental Health and Gun Licensing. Ensures that firearm licensing authorities have access to certain information about an applicant’s history of involuntary mental health hospitalizations due to posing a serious harm—with appropriate safeguards to guarantee privacy and due process. The Senate adopted an amendment filed by Senator Friedman that would align the legislation with current statute and include Advanced Practice Registered Nurses in the list of qualified health care providers that can attest to an applicant’s history of hospitalizations.
- Data Collection. Creates a more robust data reporting and analysis mechanism for guns used in crimes, suicides, and attempted suicides to ensure that the Commonwealth can better target training and enforcement efforts.
- Gun Industry Accountability in Advertising. Prohibits the marketing of unlawful firearm sales to minors and allows industry actors to be held civilly liable if such marketing practices lead to an individual being harmed.
- Firing at a Dwelling. Creates a criminal charge for intentionally firing a firearm at a dwelling or other building in use.
- Community Violence Prevention. Creates a commission to analyze the allocation of state violence prevention funding and recommend changes to reduce gun violence in disproportionately impacted communities; develops a pilot program to promote gun safety awareness and firearms licensing education; and establishes a task force to make recommendations for maximizing federal funding for gun violence prevention in the most equitable way.
- Emerging Firearm Technology. Establishes a commission to study emerging firearm technology, with a particular focus on products and features that could increase safety.
Highlights of the bill can be found at cindyfriedman.org/saferact.
The Senate’s bill garnered support from the Attorney General of Massachusetts, gun violence prevention advocates, District Attorneys, and police chiefs.
Along with Senator Friedman’s amendment, during debate the Senate adopted several amendments related to the legislation, including:
- Providing more access to the department of public health of gun crime data to ensure gun violence is treated as the public health issue it is.
- Creating a commission to better understand data around gun violence to help get to the root of gun violence crimes.
- Providing information on suicide prevention to individuals taking firearm safety and hunter safety courses.
- Creating a voluntary do-not-sell firearm database to allow individuals who worry they are a threat to themselves or others to voluntarily exclude themselves from having the ability to purchase firearms.
Having been passed by both the Senate and the House, the branches will now reconcile differences between the versions.