(BOSTON) – Representative Malia (D-11th Suffolk) joined her colleagues in the House to establish a process for family, household members or licensing authorities (petitioners) to petition the court for an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) for individuals who “pose a risk of causing bodily injury to self or others” by owning, possessing or having a firearm. An ERPO, if issued by the court, is in effect for up to one year and results in the immediate suspension and surrender of all firearms and ammunition.
Licensing authorities are required to provide the recipient of ERPO with a list of services “relating to crisis intervention, mental health, substance abuse and counseling.”
While licensing authorities in Massachusetts can currently suspend or revoke a license to carry (LTC) or firearm ID (FID) card on the basis of suitability, the ERPO court process provides petitioners - particularly family and household members who are far more familiar with an at-risk individual’s behavior - an additional tool to keep the licensee and others safe. It also provides an independent avenue for petitioners who are reluctant to go to law enforcement by allowing them to directly approach the court, doing so “under the pains and penalties of perjury”.
The legislation also allows the court to issue an emergency ERPO prior to a hearing in certain situations and provides for a justice of the court to grant an ERPO on nights and weekends if it finds “reasonable cause to conclude that the respondent poses a risk of causing bodily injury to self or others”.
The bill includes a range of due process protections for licensees, including a requirement for the court to hold a hearing within ten days of a petition being filed. Respondents will be able to use all existing statutory law remedies to demonstrate that they are not at risk, including legal counsel and the appeal process.
Any person who files for an order falsely is subject to a $5,000 fine or 2 ½ years in a house of correction.
Finally, in the wake of the recent Supreme Judicial Court ruling in Commonwealth v. Ramirez, the bill repeals the ban on stun guns and puts a licensing procedure in place.
The bill now goes to the Senate.