Mass. Gun Laws, Pot Regulation, Governors Meet: Beacon Hill In 5

Feb 19, 2018

While President Trump called for schools to be better secured, and expressed a need to address mental health issues, many in Massachusetts are calling for even stricter gun regulation. 

The Commonwealth has among the strictest gun laws in the country, but in the wake of the mass shooting at a school in Florida, gun-control advocates are pushing for further tightening of state firearm laws.

We saw the legislature move quickly to enact a bump stock ban after the Las Vegas mass shooting in October. Matt Murphy of the State House News Service tells us whether to expect a similar speed and action on additional regulations.

Matt Murphy, State House News Service: It doesn't appear that way. With the shooting in Las Vegas, and the kind of introduction into the the public consciousness, you had a lot of lawmakers who said they never really even heard of the bump stock -- that device that the shooter used to shoot down from the hotel.

So there was an impetus to take a look [and] try and understand that quickly. And then they moved to ban it, as we saw, and the governor supported that.

In this case, the shooter in Florida used an assault weapon that lawmakers and policy advocates will note are banned in Massachusetts. These assault rifles are largely not allowed.

Representative David Linsky -- and this was sort of purely coincidence; the timing had been planned for months -- the day after the shooting, [he] led a rally with mothers against gun violence, in the Statehouse, for bill that he has proposed that will allow regulators to restrict access to guns for people who are deemed an immediate risk to themselves or others.

This could result in temporarily taking someone's license away, or taking their guns away.

This is opposed, of course, by the gun lobby, and people point to this as sort of singling out gun owners. But we haven't heard any groundswell of support for just diving right into this.

I'm sure they will take a look at it. It's possible that it could come up later this year, but it's also unclear, after taking the bump stock vote last year, whether or not the legislature wants dive back into the issue of gun control in an election year.

Carrie Healy, NEPR: Do we expect that Republican Governor Charlie Baker will be addressing the issues raised by Trump last week when he said the country needed to better secure our schools -- and expressed a need to address mental health issues? Is that the message Baker might bring back after he attends the National Governors Association meeting?

I think you saw the president himself say that he was going to put this on the agenda.

The governor is leaving on Friday to go down for the National Governors Association meetings. This always includes a meeting at the White House with the president.

I'm sure that Democrats will be pushing, while they're down there, advocating for stricter gun control, or "common sense" gun control laws, as they like to say in Congress. And I think this will get discussed, about how to better ensure that these schools have the resources they need, and the security protocols in place, to prevent things like this from happening.

Even as we've seen in Florida, some people have said that that school was pretty well-prepared, and still couldn't stop such a horrific attack.

Last week, the public comment period on draft regulations for legalized recreational pot sales closed. We heard at the end of the week that more than a third of the Massachusetts legislature sent a strong message to the Cannabis Control Commission urging the industry to build up in a controlled manner. Does that send a very strong message to Chairman Steven Hoffman?

I think it really does. What you've seen over the past week or so has been a drip, drip, drip out of the administration, where they've released letters, timed not all at once, but one at a time, coming out of different agencies -- the public health department, the governor's public safety and security secretariat, and his own budget office -- expressing concerns with pieces of the legal marijuana market regulations.

The message from the governor was slow down, do the basics, get the retail market up off the ground and then start to consider these.

While some people criticize the government for doing this, the letter -- signed by almost 80 lawmakers, 78 lawmakers signing on -- basically delivering the same message to the Cannabis Control Commission. We're talking about Democrats here, too, so this is really reinforcing the message that the governor has been building for weeks.

I think you could see the commission itself is going to have to take some of these comments pretty seriously as they weigh their final determination on the regs.