BOSTON – Representative Jennifer Benson joined her colleagues in the House of Representatives to pass legislation establishing a process for family members, household members, or licensing authorities to petition the court for an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) for individuals who “pose a risk of causing bodily injury to self or others” by owning, possessing or having a firearm. An ERPO, if issued by the court, is in effect for up to one year and results in the immediate suspension and surrender of all firearms and ammunition.
“I heard from dozens of constituents calling for action in the wake of a series of horrific mass shootings. After careful consideration, I voted with the House of Representatives to pass H.4517 to establish an ERPO petition process,” said Representative Benson (D-Lunenburg). “This common sense legislation is both strong and fair, and preserves the right to due process.”
“I’m proud of the members of the House for passing this thoughtful legislation that will save lives,” House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop) said. “In Massachusetts, we have the most effective gun laws in the country. Now, we have a new way to keep people safe and prevent senseless tragedies. I thank Chairman Naughton, Representative Decker, my colleagues in the House, and the students who raised their voices for their work on this crucial, life-saving measure.”
While licensing authorities in Massachusetts can currently suspend or revoke a license to carry (LTC) or firearm ID (FID) card on the basis of suitability, the ERPO court process provides petitioners – particularly family and household members who are far more familiar with an at-risk individual’s behavior – an additional tool to keep the licensee and others safe. It also provides an independent avenue for petitioners who are reluctant to go to law enforcement by allowing them to directly approach the court.
The legislation also allows the court to issue an emergency ERPO prior to a hearing in certain situations, and provides for a justice of the court to grant an ERPO on nights and weekends if they find “reasonable cause to conclude that the respondent poses a risk of causing bodily injury to self or others”.
The bill includes a range of due process protections for licensees, including a requirement for the court to hold a hearing within ten days of a petition being filed. Respondents will be able to use all existing statutory law remedies to demonstrate that they are not at risk, including legal counsel and the appeal process. Any person who files for an order falsely is subject to a $5,000 fine or 2 ½ years in a house of correction.
Licensing authorities are required to provide the recipient of ERPO with a list of services “relating to crisis intervention, mental health, substance abuse and counseling.”
In the wake of the recent Supreme Judicial Court ruling in Commonwealth v. Ramirez, the bill repeals the ban on stun guns and puts a licensing procedure in place.
The bill now goes to the Senate.