Popular gun measure appears dead on Beacon Hill

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STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JUNE 27, 2016…..The bill that would allow the state to deny a gun license to anyone on the federal government’s terrorist watch or no-fly lists has had a rollercoaster ride through the Legislature since Rep. Lori Ehrlich filed it in December, but that ride now appears to be over.

Despite renewed interest on Beacon Hill in the last two weeks, the bill is not on the schedule for the last five weeks of formal sessions, Senate President Stanley Rosenberg said Monday.

“I know there’s some buzzing around at this point. We have five weeks left in the formal sessions and so this is a thing that has just sort of popped up,” Rosenberg said after meeting with Gov. Charlie Baker and House Speaker Robert DeLeo. “Right now I know that some people are talking about it but it isn’t on the agenda at this time.”

Filed hours before the shooting that left 14 dead in San Bernardino, California, Ehrlich’s bill (H 3914) was sent to a study order at March’s bill-reporting deadline, often a death knell for legislation. Rosenberg said the committee chairs “thought that was the right thing to do at the time.”

But following the country’s deadliest mass shooting on June 12 in Orlando, Florida, Ehrlich’s bill caught the attention and support of DeLeo. The speaker, though, was hesitant to pledge there would be any action on the measure this session. Baker had also expressed his support for the bill earlier.

The Gun Owners Action League opposes the bill, saying that it “would do away with due process for MA citizens who appear on one or more of the federal watch lists … Legislation of this nature goes directly against the Constitution and must be stopped.”

Since 2005, more than 2,000 people on the terrorist watch list have legally purchased weapons and 91 percent of all terror suspects who tried to buy a gun were legally able to do so, according to a study by the federal Government Accountability Office.

The bill also drew attention from Washington D.C. Ehrlich was invited to the White House three times in six weeks, including once for a convention of state and local elected leaders working on gun violence prevention.

And Washington is exactly where the gun control debate should be taking place, Rosenberg said Monday.

“Everything that we need to do at this point really would be better done at the federal level than the state level,” the Senate president said.

Earlier Monday, the Senate adopted a resolution Rosenberg filed to urge leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate to “carefully examine and consider for adoption” the Bay State’s gun laws.

Last week, the U.S. Senate voted to keep alive a proposal similar to Ehrlich’s — this one sponsored by Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine — but did not advance it in the legislative process, leaving its prospects for passage murky at best.

But public opinion polls, including one released last week by CNN, report that as much as 85 percent of the national population supports preventing people on the terror watch or no-fly lists from owning guns.

Public Safety Committee Co-chair Rep. Hank Naughton told the News Service last week that the panel’s chief concerns included questions about whether the bill could be effective and whether it could deny due process for people who find themselves on either federal list.

“As a state, can we even get to look at this database?” Naughton said, adding that he has concerns about the federal government’s information sharing.

“We’ve seen instances where our federal partners were supposed to be sharing information with us and they were not,” Naughton said. “We might be seeing that in Florida now. We saw it in the days and weeks after the marathon bombings. I would want strong assurances that we would get the information we need if we were to go down this road.”

Naughton said the committee heard from “groups as diverse as GOAL and the ACLU,” referring to the Gun Owners’ Action League and the American Civil Liberties Union, that had concerns that a citizen who finds themselves on a federal terror watch or no-fly list could have their right to bear arms denied without due process.

Copyright 2016 State House News Service

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