By Sabrina Schnur
BU News Service
BOSTON – An amendment in a spending bill passed in November banning bump stocks and trigger cranks goes into effect Thursday. The law is the first of its kind.
The amendment was encouraged because of a letter signed by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey saying Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas gunman, had used bump stocks to help his rifles shoot faster.
According to the press release from Mass.gov, bump stocks will now be classified as machine gun weaponry and will be considered contraband. All residents are required to turn in bump stocks and trigger cranks to local police on February 1.
Jim Wallace, spokesperson and litigator for Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts, said he is alarmed citizens did not get a say before the bill was passed.
“They get behind closed doors and try to work out the differences,” Wallace said. “The problem is the conference committees are done in private. They’re done in secret so it’s not like you can sit there as a citizen.”
Wallace said owners will not be compensated for what they spent when they legally purchased the items and even police are not exempt from the ban.
“They declared no one is exempt,” Wallace said. “Not police, not government, no one in Massachusetts.”
Wallace said the legislators did acknowledge the public after passing the bill with a hearing near him but there was nothing left to be said, in his opinion.
“I was there but I didn’t testify,” Wallace said. “What was I going to testify on, they already did it.”
Wallace said this amendment may violate the Fifth Amendment and reaches beyond the scope of what the spending bill was intended to pass. He and many of the people he works with are unhappy with the result.
“They’re angry about the process, they’re angry about the way it was done, they’re angry about you taking my property and you’re not giving me anything for it,” Wallace said. “They’re angry on many levels. There are constitutional issues. There’s procedural issues … That’s exactly what they did though. They took a spending bill and filed an amendment about a fire arms accessory that had nothing to do with the spending bill.”
Wallace said he thinks Massachusetts gun laws are on a slippery slope, and he worries they are taking away too many rights.
“You look at what happened a year and a half ago when the attorney general changed the gun laws overnight without even a hearing and just held a press conference and said, ‘All these guns that you bought for the last 18 years are illegal, but we promise not to prosecute you,’” Wallace said.
Jack Phillips, a resident of East Longmeadow, received a notifying letter on Jan. 23 informing him to turn over his bump stocks and trigger cranks on Feb. 1.
“There are no exceptions to this prohibition for licensed firearm owners: an FID card, a License to Carry, or even a license to possess a machine gun will not authorize possession of a bump stock or trigger crank,” the letter said.
Phillips said he too had no idea the legislation had been passed or was even being discussed in political hearings.
“There were no public meetings or notifications that I was aware of,” Phillips said. “I’d heard stories that it was going to happen but had no idea when until the letter showed up.”
Philips said he does not own either item and has no problem with the ban but is afraid of what this bill could mean for future government legislation around guns.
“Honestly I think bump stocks and trigger cranks are stupid novelty devices that there is no need for.” Phillips said. “However, I have an issue with the way the government is going about this. Confiscation of private property without reimbursement runs counter to the Fifth Amendment and I think this is going to be fought by someone. If not, this is opening a door to more flagrant abuses of power.”