GOP rep re-ups effort to relax gun licensing checks

Boston Statehouse

BOSTON (SHNS) – A Webster Republican is again proposing a process that would allow Massachusetts residents to apply for firearms licenses during the COVID-19 pandemic without first getting fingerprinted, refiling legislation that did not gain traction at the tail end of last session.

Rep. Joe McKenna’s bill would allow local police chiefs or the state Executive Office of Public Safety and Security to temporarily waive the requirement that applicants for firearms identification cards and licenses to carry a firearm have their fingerprints taken for a background check, if they determine it’s unsafe or unreasonable to collect prints.

The new bill (HD 69) is identical to one McKenna filed on Nov. 19, which died when the session ended on Jan. 5, without ever being referred to a committee for a hearing. McKenna had said the idea “certainly garnered some interest and some discussion” among his colleagues.

He told the News Service last month that while many communities are working with gun-license applicants to limit in-person contact and find safe ways to proceed, the bill is meant to prevent cities and towns from using the pandemic “as an excuse to deny someone their constitutional rights to obtain a license to carry.”

The Gun Owners’ Action League, which in October filed a federal lawsuit against police officials in Weymouth, Cambridge and Stoughton on behalf of license applicants, has advised people facing barriers to gun-licensing to send their local authorities a copy of December guidance from the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services and the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association.

Among other measures, the guidance suggests different fingerprinting options agencies might consider, including completing the process in garages or carports, directing applicants to fingerprint themselves, and making arrangements with surrounding agencies that have more personnel or resources.

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