Chapter 150 of the Acts of 2004: An Act Further Regulating Certain Weapons
This is a perfect example of don’t believe in titles. The bill was the greatest victory for gun owners since the passage of the gun control laws in 1998 (Chapter 180 of the Acts of 1998). It was a reform bill totally supported by GOAL. Press and media stories around the country got it completely wrong when claimed the bill was an extension of the “assault weapon” ban that had sunset at the federal level. They could not have been more wrong. Unfortunately for the Governor, someone had also wrongly briefed him about the bill. As a result the Lt. Governor and the Governor made statements at the bill signing ceremony that angered GOAL members. The following is what the bill actually did:
1.Established the Firearm License Review Board (FLRB). The 1998 law created new criteria for disqualifying citizens for firearms licenses that included any misdemeanor punishable by more than two years even if no jail time was ever served.
For instance, a first conviction of operating a motor vehicle under the influence would result in the loss of your ability to own a handgun for life and long guns for a minimum of five years. This Board is now able to review cases under limited circumstances to restore licenses to individuals who meet certain criteria.
2.Mandated that a minimum of $50,000 of the licensing fees be used for the operation of the FLRB so that the Board would not cease operating under budget cuts.
3.Extended the term of the state’s firearm licenses from 4 years to 6 years.
4.Permanently attached the federal language concerning assault weapon exemptions in 18 USC 922 Appendix A to the Massachusetts assault weapons laws. This is the part that the media misrepresented.
In 1998 the Massachusetts legislature passed its own assault weapons ban (MGL Chapter 140, Section 131M). This ban did not rely on the federal language and contained no sunset clause. Knowing that we did not have the votes in 2004 to get rid of the state law, we did not want to loose all of the federal exemptions that were not in the state law so this new bill was amended to include them.
5.Re-instated a 90 day grace period for citizens who were trying to renew their firearm license. Over the past years, the government agencies in charge had fallen months behind in renewing licenses. At one point it was taking upwards of a year to renew a license. Under Massachusetts law, a citizen cannot have a firearm or ammunition in their home with an expired license.
6.Mandated that law enforcement must issue a receipt for firearms that are confiscated due to an expired license. Prior to this law, no receipts were given for property confiscated which led to accusations of stolen or lost firearms after they were confiscated by police.
7.Gave free license renewal for law enforcement officers who applied through their employing agency.
8.Changed the size and style of a firearm license to that of a driver’s license so that it would fit in a normal wallet. The original license was 3” x 4”.
9.Created stiffer penalties for armed home invaders.