Massachusetts gun owners are absolutely fed up with threats to their Second Amendment rights.
That was the message repeated by speaker after speaker and echoed by a crowd of hundreds on the Boston Common Wednesday, when opponents of a House proposal to sharply curtail gun rights gathered to lobby their representatives.
“At the end of the day, the only way to stop this bill is for all of you to go talk to your lawmakers,” Justin Davis, a spokesperson for the National Rifle Association, told the crowd ahead of their march on Beacon Hill.
Gun owners are concerned because less than a year after the U.S. Supreme Court decided in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen that most extraordinary gun licensing requirements were at odds with the constitution — including many implemented by Massachusetts municipalities — Judiciary Committee Co-chair Rep. Michael Day filed HD.4420, or An Act modernizing firearms laws.
Coming in at more than 100 pages, the draft bill is “the most egregious attack on our civil liberties in my lifetime,” Jim Wallace, the Gun Owner’s Action League executive director and the man behind the rally, told the Gadsden Flag flying audience.
Day’s bill would ban the carrying of firearms in most public places without express permission and aims to fight the rise of so-called ghost guns. According to a release from Day’s office, it would establish an “enhanced tracing system” to track guns used during the commission of a crime, “modernize” the firearms registrations system and make firearms data available to academics and policymakers.
The bill would also create “specific crimes that will prohibit discharging firearms at or near dwellings and carrying firearms while intoxicated” and it “standardizes training requirements for individuals seeking a license to carry and will now require live firearm training.”
Gun rights advocates responded to the bill’s filing with alarm, declaring it would instantly make felons out of thousands of previously law-abiding gun owners, many of whom say they already have it hard enough just trying to follow the state’s existing firearms laws. Toby Leary, the owner of Cape Gun Works in Hyannis, told the audience he shouldn’t need to ask the government for their leave to have his rights.
“That is not a right, it’s a privilege if I have to go out and ask you for permission to exercise my enumerated rights,” he said. “I didn’t personally have to get a permit today to speak to you guys. That’s the way rights work. It’s not a permission slip; it’s liberty without license.”
Wallace told the crowd that even if the state Legislature managed to pass Day’s bill as written, he wouldn’t be complying with a law so plainly at odds with the U.S. Constitution.
“What do you think, folks? Are we going to comply with this garbage if it passes?” Wallace asked the audience.
Repeated and resounding shouts of “No” came in answer.
The State House lobbying day organized by gun rights proponents comes following an opposing event by Moms Demand Action held earlier this month. Those advocates were there to urge the Legislature into action on Day’s bill, which they hope to see passed by the end of the year.
That group shared a new poll on Wednesday, which they say shows “overwhelming support among Massachusetts voters, including Republicans and gun owners, for strengthening the Commonwealth’s gun laws.”
“As communities across the country continue to be torn apart by gun violence, we cannot afford the price of inaction. We look forward to working with our gun sense leaders on Beacon Hill to pass gun safety measures that put Massachusetts families first,” Lynn Grilli, a volunteer with the Massachusetts chapter of Moms Demand Action, said in a statement along with the release of the poll.
According to the poll of 1,000 likely voters, 84% of respondents, including 80% of self-identified gun owners, are in favor of the stricter requirements for firearms licensure outlined in Day’s bill. Nearly 70% said they would support prohibiting guns at schools, day cares, polling places, and bars. About 67% supported outlawing concealed carry on private property without express permission from the property owner.