BRAINTREE -- In a letter sent to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, the Massachusetts Catholic Conference (MCC), the public policy arm of the Catholic Church in the Commonwealth, urged support for a House bill that would restrict the access of firearms to individuals deemed "dangerous" or "suicidal."
Signed by MCC executive director Jim Driscoll and addressed specifically to Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo and House Ways and Means chairman Jeffery Sanchez, the letter urges representatives to make House Bill 3610, "An Act temporarily preventing firearm access for dangerous or suicidal individuals" a "priority this legislative session."
"In the past few years senseless gun violence has broken out across our country taking the lives of adults, adolescents, and young children. These shootings devastate families and tear at the heart of a civilized society. These types of violent acts have no boundaries. They have occurred in churches, night clubs, concerts, restaurants, schools and many other venues," the letter reads.
The "common thread" that ties a number of these cases together is that the suspect acted alone and previously exhibited signs of "mental instability and/or violent personality traits," the letter continues.
"These traits are quite often first detected by family members or close family associates. More often than not they are the first to recognize the potential for violent acts based upon personal observations."
Backers say House Bill 3610, also known as the "Red Flag Bill," could prevent some incidents of gun violence by giving authorities the possibility of prohibiting individuals who exhibit violent or threatening behaviors from owning or purchasing firearms or ammunition.
Specifically, family or household members of the individual, law enforcement, or an "agency with jurisdiction over the respondent's residence" would be able to file a court petition for an "Extreme Risk Protection Order."
If found to be warranted, the order, issued by a judge in a civil court action, would prohibit the individual from purchasing firearms or ammunition, and would also allow law enforcement to confiscate weapons and ammunition already in possession of the individual. The order could last up to a year, with the possibility of renewal.
"Recent history has proven that the time to act on this legislation is now," the MCC's letter reads. "We applaud you for taking a firm stand against gun violence and urge you to take this matter up as a priority this legislative session to help prevent further violence."
The bill, championed by Marjorie Decker, State Representative for the 25th Middlesex district, was presented more than a year ago. It was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee in April of this year.