GOAL Alert – Please Call Your State Legislators Today – Urge Them Not Too Support H.3610 and H.3081 – “Extreme Risk Protection Order” (ERPO) Bills.
ERPO Legislation Very Cruel and Extremely Dangerous
The Massachusetts Legislature is back in session today. They will be in formal session starting on Wednesday 2/28/18 and it is highly likely that they will fast track one of the two “ERPO” bills in an attempt to get it to the Governor’s desk very soon.
It is our opinion that both of the “ERPO” bills, H.3610, filed by Rep. Marjorie Decker, and H.3081, filed by Rep. David Linsky are both very cruel to the individual and his/her civil rights and extremely dangerous to the general public.
If passed, either of the proposed “ERPO” bills would allow for cruel and extremely dangerous treatment of people who may or may not have severe mental health issues. It is extraordinarily unfair for the state to treat a person who may going through a temporary crisis in the same manner as a person that may be so mentally ill that he or she is a potential mass murderer. To make matters worse, any person named in one of these orders would be deprived of their civil rights. The state would haul them into court and fast track seizure of any firearms they legally own. Following the court appearance and firearms seizure, they would be set free, back into society with no provision of medical help, and no structured support system.
Taking points, please use the talking points below when discussing these bills with your legislators.
First, “Chief’s Discretion”. The Massachusetts Chief’s of Police Association (MCOPA) has fought for decades to keep a discretionary clause as part of the licensing process in MA. This is called “Chief’s Discretion”, they have always argued that they know their town best and can make the best decisions regarding who should, or shouldn’t be able to legally own firearms. It should be noted that a chief can use the discretionary clause to deny or revoke a license for any reason, with no standards.
Second, “Section 12”. This begins with a wellness check by a local police officer. Should an officer, after said wellness check decides that a person might have mental health issues, they can begin the Section 12 process. This enables them to get a person mental health care in a facility for at least 72 hours. After 72 hours of observation medical professionals would decide the best course of action for their patient. Should a person be involuntarily held after this period, it triggers automatic revocation of any valid firearms license and seizure of firearms legally owned.
Third, 209A Restraining order. Should a person pose a threat to another individual, that person can file a 209A restraining order in court. This process requires the petitioner to prove that the plaintiff poses a threat. If proof is provided, it then fast tracks seizure of all legally owned firearms, ammunition, etc.
Fourth: Suicide prevention. One of the driving points of these proposals is supposedly to prevent suicides, which is a very complex issue. However, there is nothing in these bills that provides assistance or support to the individual or their family. The proposal only seeks to make their problems public, remove one of their civil rights and then send them home. If part of these proposals is to prevent and address the epidemic of suicides, we need a much more compassionate and comprehensive approach. Certainly we need a system that does not punish those in need that come forward. Such treatment will only further deter people from seeking help and may cause a situation to become worse.
Fifth – Identifying dangerous individuals. Another motive of these bills is to enable the state to identify a potential mass murderer before they commit a crime. What is strikingly dangerous is that after the state identifies these potential killers among us – they are set free! If the state is identifying people who present such an extreme public safety risk, why are they setting them free, and why are they only taking away their ability to legally own or possess guns?
Sixth – “Section 35”. This is a substance abuse prevention version of “Section 12”. Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 123, sec 35 permits the courts to involuntarily commit someone who has an alcohol or substance use disorder and there is a likelihood of serious harm as a result of his/her alcohol or substance use. Such a commitment shall be for the purpose of inpatient care of a person with an alcohol or substance use disorder in a facility. Once again, this process provides for qualified medical care of a person who needs help, instead of just dragging them to court, likely exacerbating the problem.
If a court has determined that a person is an “extreme danger to society”, are we ok with them practicing medicine, driving a school bus, flying a plane, renting a truck or resuming active duty in the military? The answer should be resoundingly “NO”, yet this legislation does nothing to address the numerous other means a dangerous person could cause harm. If the public is going to buy into this method of identifying dangerous people, then they should demand the bill be expanded to include the removal of all professional licenses or certificates that would allow a dangerous person to present a public safety risk.
Take action – Oppose ERPO!
Today, please call your state legislators at the Massachusetts State House, 617-722-2000 (click here to look up your legislator’s direct phone number). Please ask your legislator to vehemently oppose H.3610 and H.3081. These are very cruel and dangerous proposals. Ask your legislators to show compassion for those in need of counseling and support and to keep dangerous killers off the streets and away from children and families! Harming good people and setting potential killers loose is not an answer, it is a tremendous problem.
Please contact your legislators in this order. Call or go meet them, write a letter, send and email. If you call or meet, please follow this up with an email or letter, or better, bring a written statement with you to leave after your meeting concludes.
For more information, you can also read our statement about this legislation here.