BOSTON (SHNS) – With a number of recent incidents on her mind, Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan told lawmakers on Tuesday that legislation strengthening penalties on those who fire a weapon at a residence has “only become more essential” since she first began supporting it in 2015.
Ryan endorsed bills (H 1803 / S 1064) before the Judiciary Committee that would create a new felony charge for intentionally striking a home with gunfire, punishable by up to five years in prison or a fine of up to $10,000. A similar bill (H 1662) is also being weighed by the panel, which Ryan said “reflects that this is becoming more of an issue across the state.”
Two days ago, Ryan told lawmakers, a suspect fired 21 shots from an East Cambridge street and struck two houses and a car. While no people were hit by the gunfire, one shot landed in a room where children were sleeping and another entered through an air conditioner into an inhabited living room, Ryan said.
“The kind of fear that is created, even thinking these incidents are going to happen, is really something that eats away at the fabric of a community,” she said. “We do not have a statute that appropriately allows us to charge for this conduct, (which) really is a gap that needs to be addressed.”
Sen. Edward Kennedy, a Lowell Democrat who filed the Senate version of the bill, said his city’s police tracked 79 incidents involving firearms discharged at homes between 2015 and 2019. Existing law allows prosecutors to bring a misdemeanor charge against someone who fires a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling, Kennedy said.
“This charge is disproportionate to the severity of any incident in which gunfire is directed at a home,” he said. “Acts of this nature leave people living in a constant state of anxiety that innocent family members will be seriously injured or even killed in their homes.”