Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law a “red flag” measure that will let household members seek a court order to take guns from people posing a risk to themselves or others.
The bill strengthening the state’s already restrictive gun laws allows family or household members to petition a judge for an extreme risk protection order to remove guns from a person at risk of harming themselves or others and bar them from possessing firearms for up to a year.
Gun owners can appeal the order to show they are not a danger and have their guns returned.
Baker called the extreme risk protection order a “responsible way to help prevent gun deaths and suicides” that respects citizens’ Second Amendment rights.
The extreme risk orders became a focus of advocates after the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., and massive youth protests in Massachusetts played a large part in moving the bill through the State House so quickly. The bill also had the backing of the state’s police chiefs.
Massachusetts, in adopting the “red flag” measure, becomes the sixth state to pass such a law, and Baker the fourth Republican governor to sign the bill into law since the Parkland shooting.
Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was the victim of an assassination attempt in 2011 and later founded an anti-gun violence nonprofit, applauded Baker for “showing the rest of the country how we can work to help get guns out the hands of those experiencing a crisis.”
“Americans are demanding their elected leaders do something to curb our nation’s gun violence epidemic,” said Giffords, whose group sent experts to Beacon Hill to back the “red flag” bill. “Massachusetts legislators heard the calls from their constituents and found the courage to pass legislation that will save lives.”
House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo said in a statement the law will prevent “senseless tragedies and help keep Massachusetts’ children safe.”
“Massachusetts’ nation-leading gun safety laws are made stronger by this bill,” DeLeo added.
Opponents of the measure, including the Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts, have said they have due process concerns about the court orders and lamented the lost opportunity to address mental health issues.
The law includes a penalty of $2,500 to $5,000 and up to 2 1/2 years in jail for people who file an extreme risk order with false information or to harass the person.
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