Update, June 28, 2018
For a more recent explanation of my support for this bill, please see this post.
I’ve received hundreds of emails urging me oppose legislation intended to allow relatives to take guns away from people who are apparently suicidal.
They read as follows:
Dear Senator William Brownsberger:
As a law-abiding Second Amendment supporter in Massachusetts, I urge you to please oppose H.3081.
Constitutional rights are generally restricted only upon conviction of a felony. The reasons for this are two-fold. It limits restrictions on constitutional rights to only the most serious offenses, and, perhaps more importantly, felony convictions provide greater procedural protections to the accused, which results in more reliable convictions. The Right to Keep and Bear Arms should not be treated as a second-class right and should be restricted only upon conviction of a felony, like other constitutional rights.
Once again, as your constituent, I urge you to please oppose H.3081. Thank you.
I have replied as follows:
Thanks for writing about gun violence restraining orders.
I am a cosponsor of this legislation.
I think it responds to a reasonable set of circumstances that may not be fully covered by existing restraining order law — we do want to take weapons away from people who are suicidal.
There is strong precedent for this approach under our law — it does not raise constitutional issues: We follow the same approach in domestic violence cases.
I listened recently to lengthy testimony on the bill — both pro and con — and my commitment to this legislation has been renewed and increased.
I appreciate hearing from you and I understand that you have a different view.
Many have followed up with an emphasis on the risk that people could be unfairly accused, to which I have replied along these lines:
From a constitutional perspective, here are two things that should give you comfort:
- It’s not just anyone who can ask for a protective order — only people you are very close to (family, girlfriend), or health care provider or police.
- You can at any time go in for a hearing to have it removed.
Not a perfect solution, but there is so much suicide going on — sadly, all too often among those who have served our country in the most honorable possible way.
Your thoughts? I’m committed to finding a way to make this legislation (language here) work, but we want to do it right, so input is much appreciated.