Public Hearing run by Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security.

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Jim Wallace discusses issues with the committee.

Hearing Room A1, State House, Boston MA.

Welcome everyone from Room A1 at the Massachusetts State House, we are gathered today to discuss forty-two Second Amendment related bills. There is medium to light attendance, which appears to be predominately composed of Second Amendment supporters.

There were many people who spoke in favor of GOAL legislation here is an overview, apologies if we did not get a name correct.

Rep. Micelli was not able to speak so he had his assistant testify in favor of H.2158 our Constitutional Rights Act which will provide uniformity regarding Second Amendment related laws across the commonwealth, he compared the need for the bill to the need for uniform building code regulations. He noted how people that take the time to get licensed do not need additional restrictions put before them.

GOAL Executive Director Jim Wallace was up next; he thanked the committee, noting “it seems like we just did this in many locations across the state”. He continued, “I am testifying about H.2158, there is a hard, growing problem with cities and towns in general attempting to pass laws which creates a patchwork of laws and puts lawful gun owners in danger. We’re dealing with a civil right, this is a nationally recognized civil right and we’re putting people in danger of becoming criminals and losing their civil rights. In addition, there needs to be some sort of state control of the licensing process itself, as many cities and towns like Lowell are putting extra hurdles in place to discourage people from getting their license. The city of Lowell is now famous for demanding extra training above and beyond state requirements as well as an essay and statements regarding mental health. We’ve discussed the 33 steps required to obtain a license before, there is no reason why anyone at the local level who’s passed all state and federal criteria should have to prove him or herself. We should never have to prove a need to protect ourselves. We also need to discuss gun free zones, this very building is one of the most dangerous buildings in the state, and there is no armed security and nothing to stop a shooter in this building.”

He continued, “getting back to the licensing, this is a state mandated system and we have local authorities going beyond that, we need EOPS to look at this. The bottom line is that these authorities are putting these hurdles in front of us as a ‘need’ for public safety. There is no evidence of licensed gun owners causing an issue, none.”

“I’d also like to discuss H.2191 and act relative to firearms owners’ protection. This is similar to FOPA, which gives firearms owners who are travelling with firearms legally stored in their vehicle, protection from prosecution.”

Jim told the story of a man from ME who had recently driven down to Logan airport to pick up a friend. The man had a gun in his car and wound up getting pulled over and arrested. The man never did anything wrong, other than not realizing MA has laws which make his act illegal.

Jim received quite a few questions about H.2158, Rep. Vieira asked, “are we aware of any other towns or cities applying these extra requirements” Jim, “yes, we have spoken to many people, Woburn is requiring a written test on MA gun laws before anyone can apply. I’m not aware of any other civil right, which requires taking a test before you can exercise it.”
After a few more questions Chairman Naughton tasked Rep. Vieira with chairing an oversight committee hearing to bring in cities and towns who are requiring additional hurdles. This is a positive development indeed.

Jim added, “we are constantly told that the local authorities have the authority to do this via the discretionary clause”, we are also facing a lot of town meeting votes where they are trying to pass additional restriction.”

Jim also discussed that it is hard to get relief via the state courts as the SJC doesn’t recognize the 2A, he then explained how convoluted the laws are and discussed Glidden’s 400 page book published to help LEO’s understand the law, “if the police need a 400 page book, that’s asking a lot of your average citizen.”

Michael Ball spoke next, a lifelong MA resident, Marine and law school student. He spoke in favor of H.2158. He discussed Brookline demanding proof of gun range memberships or showing proof of need. “They’re not respecting the language passed a few years ago.” He went on to speak in favor of the online ammo act noting that the MA AG is essentially blackmailing retailers into not doing business with MA residents. He also spoke about the suppressor bill discussing the licensing still needed and the many benefits, especially for an instructor.

Jeff Keegan from Lowell discussed the attitude they are getting, when he renewed in 2011 he was told he can appeal and how the licensing officer told him, “I know the judge and he will deny your appeal.” He went on to testify about the many abuses regarding the city’s policy. Rep. Naughton asked about Lowell and the policy, Jeff explained how they won’t give out an LTC with no restrictions, and then explained the process as to how we got to where we are. Rep. Naughton had no further questions.

Jean Peeples another Lowell resident spoke in favor of H.2158. “Why is my LTC restricted just because I live in Lowell MA?” She discussed state law and all the requirements that need to be met in order to get a license. She also discussed the Lowell hearings and the response of “more regulations” in order to get the license. She noted how the restrictions are not fair, that she has a legitimate need for the license, noting, “what about other people and their rights they should be allowed to get a license.”

Rob Kinney an instructor from Natick. Rob started by discussing how LTC holders are the most vetted individuals in the state. He asked why Chief Taylor hasn’t been hauled before the state for “making up rules”. He also discussed the Second Amendment and how streamlining state law would simplify things across the Commonwealth for the courts and legislature. “I would much rather be outside enjoying this beautiful weather, than sitting here discussing 42 additional restrictions on the Second Amendment, shall not be infringed is pretty clear”

Michael Williams, General Council of the American Suppressor Association. Mike discussed the realities of sound suppressors, how they reduce the noise about the same as a pair of earplugs, approximately 25-30db. He noted how suppressed firearms are still as loud as a siren or jackhammer. He then noted that 41 states have passed legislation, including VT and ME, which just passed laws for suppressed hunting.   He finished by asking for support of the bill.

Two representatives from Yankee Hill Machine, a local firearms and suppressor manufacturer spoke next, discussing how they can manufacture suppressors but can’t sell them in MA. They also noted how 41 states now have laws making ownership much easier and compared them to car mufflers, noting how they are good on the range for safety reasons as well. They went on to point out that there are many federal regulations, which must be met to purchase suppressors, “you can’t just go buy them”. They noted that the current MA regs hurt their business and that they would see a noticeable bump if the law was passed to bring MA in line with the other 41 states.

Kevin Moore discussed how he had inherited firearms and needed to get a license to receive the gun, he discussed the red tape he had to go through as the firearms was out of state and how long the process took.

Another Lowell resident, Dan Gannon discussed the licensing process, how lengthy it was, how he was not allowed to apply for an unrestricted LTC, how he was told that “there’s no reason for you to have an unrestricted license”. Rep Naughton then asked to read the actual policy, which he did. After reading it he stated, “We’ll look into it”.

There was one gun prohibitionist who testified, an elderly women who went on to discuss that she appreciated MA gun laws and didn’t want any bill passed which would weaken existing law. She spoke against H.2158 and constitutional carry, discussing how the term is new and part of the NRA agenda. She concluded by stating the need for permits to carry. She was also very opposed to open carry.

During the hearing there was a lot of Lowell talk, questions and answers regarding the situation and the history of the meetings between a Lowell citizens group and the city leadership. It was discussed how the city council washed their hands of the issue after 3 rounds of meetings and essentially handed it off to the city manager who ultimately sided with Superintendent Taylor and his anti Second Amendment policy.

Representative Heroux showed disappointment with the city council, noting that “citizens get the government they deserve, for better or worse” and followed “maybe it’s time that some of you run for City Council”.  He encouraged the Lowell residents to run for the city seats as a means of protecting their rights.  The Lowell citizens all agreed.

All in all we had a very pro 2A crowd, with the exception of the one lady everyone in attendance spoke in favor of GOAL legislation and covered why it is needed. Most of the talk centered on Lowell, H.2158 and the suppressor bill. Everyone who came to speak did an excellent job.

GOAL would like to thank the citizens who took the time to come to the State House and testify, or simply show up in support. We would also like to thank the members of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security for the opportunity to speak in favor of restoring our Second Amendment here in the Commonwealth.

We will follow up soon regarding the special committee to be chaired by Rep. Vieira.

State House Hearing Notes – January 28 2016