A proposed bill that already has gun supporters up in arms has also raised the ire of the town of Cheshire.
In a letter sent to state Rep. John Barrett III last week from Cheshire’s Select Board and Police Department, town leaders asked him not to support HD.4420, “An Act Modernizing Firearm Laws,” calling it an “unjust persecution of our mutual constituents,” which is co-sponsored by state. Rep. Tricia-Farley Bouvier.
The bill puts another step in place to apply for a gun license — namely, an interview with a police officer — and more criteria in place to qualify for a license — applicants cannot have a harassment prevention order against them, nor can they pose a risk to public safety/themselves.
The bill would also essentially ban “ghost guns,” or untraceable, homemade firearms.
The Cheshire officials argued that the parts of the bill pertaining to “Red Flag,” meaning the criteria for who can own a gun, “will do nothing to deter criminals” and will “lead to unlawful search and seizure scenarios.”
“’Red flag’ laws place our police officers in harm’s way unnecessarily on potentially unfounded accusations, which assume that a person is guilty until proven innocent,” the letter reads. “Our police officers do not have the necessary resources to enforce any of the new serialization proposals, nor is it realistic or feasible for every component of an existing firearm to receive a serial number.”
The town officials said they believe the bill, if passed, would be appealed to higher courts as it “infringes on our Second Amendment rights.” They conclude by again asking Barrett to fight against the bill, saying it’s “geared toward prohibition and not public safety.”
The bill further regulates the state’s assault weapons ban, training for owners and where people are allowed to carry guns.
Authors of the letter to Barrett point out that many of Cheshire’s residents are “sportsmen and women who are involved in the shooting sports.”
“Through a culture that has developed here, generations have been taught to safely handle and respect firearms,” the letter reads. “Many parts of HD.4420 would create hurdles that would impede our ability to educate our youth on both firearms safety and outdoor conservation.”
The Cheshire officials argued that the bill doesn’t allow possession of commonly used target and hunting guns.
“I look forward to the public hearing that this bill, just like every other bill, has, and hearing people’s testimony for and against this bill,” Farley-Bouvier said Thursday. “When a bill is filed it’s an idea, and we continue to craft it until we get to the final product.”
A public hearing has not yet been scheduled because the bill has not yet been assigned to a committee.
Barrett stressed to The Eagle on Thursday that the bill is not fully formed.
“It’s a bill that hasn’t been assigned a number, it’s on the House Docket, which means it’s been filed,” Barrett said. “The two branches haven’t decided which committee it will go to.”
He said House Speaker Ron Mariano heard from legislators and ultimately made the decision that, “a lot has to be done before it can go forward.”
Barrett hasn’t directly responded to the letter since he became aware of it.
“They’ve given their views. The response will be when hearings are held on the bill,” Barrett said of the letter from Cheshire officials. “I work with the Cheshire selectmen, I respect them as public servants. They’ve made their views known.”
Jason Levesque, the vice chair of Cheshire’s Select Board, also did not respond to a request for comment.
Berkshire District Attorney Timothy Shugrue has said he supports banning ghost guns and thinks passage would be more realistic if simplified legislation focused on only that element.
Barrett added that he agreed with an editorial in The Eagle that ghost guns should be banned immediately, but he isn’t sure about the other provisions.
Cheshire officials are not alone in their critiques. Many pro-Second Amendment and pro-gun groups, including the National Rifle Association, have come out against the bill, and made similar arguments. The legislators who favor the bill say its enhanced gun control measures brings Massachusetts up to date with the safest gun laws elsewhere in the country.
Statehouse leadership decided not to move on the bill until after the summer recess.