Rep. Holmes plans amendments to speaker’s gun-issue proposal

By 
Lauren Dezenski, Reporter Staff
May. 30, 2014

Although he supports specific gun-related provisions in House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s new bill aimed at reducing gun violence, Rep. Russell Holmes intends to add amendments to the package when it comes to the House floor.

At Tuesday night’s B-3 Crime Advisory Meeting, Holmes told the Reporter that he hopes to fix flaws in the state’s criminal justice system. Holmes specifically referenced “three strikes” legislation that Black and Latino legislators have stridently opposed.

“We wanted to have it so when people are convicted of a drug offense, they don’t automatically lose their license,” Holmes said. “That never got done last year, so I can pretty much assure you that I will add it to this legislation.”

It would still be possible for courts to take away drivers licenses for those convicted, but it would not be an automatic punishment under the amendment, he said. That, in turn, would help more people still be able to get jobs after a conviction.

“How will we get a job without a license?” Holmes said.

Hours earlier, House Speaker Robert DeLeo unveiled the sweeping legislative proposal to reduce gun violence throughout the commonwealth in a packed press conference on Beacon Hill. Shaped by a year of community outreach, legislative feedback, and a high-profile task force and study, the bill is comprised of 51 sections dealing with everything from school safety to reducing gun trafficking in communities across the commonwealth.

The bill includes provisions that would give more discretion to police chiefs to deny individuals’ rifle or shotgun license applications, ensure law enforcement has access to appropriate information on gun license applicants’ health and criminal histories, and transfer all relevant data on mental health and criminal records of the state’s gun license owners to a national registry.

While Massachusetts has lower gun violence rates than most states– only Hawaii registering fewer gun deaths than Massachusetts–DeLeo said there is still room for improvement.

The in-depth bill was initially spurred by the fatal shooting in Dec. 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School, DeLeo said, though he was careful to make sure that no “knee-jerk” legislation passed solely in reaction to the events in Newtown, Connecticut.

Ahead of debate and amendments on the House floor, DeLeo said he’s getting opposition in the western part of the state, as anticipated. However, representatives from western urban areas were okay with the bill.

“Their feeling was that this really addresses a problem that we have in the state that we must take action on,” DeLeo said in an interview following the meeting where he talked about reducing gun violence in the neighborhood.

“I felt actually pretty good about it, because I was getting a feeling over the weekend that I might be up for a bigger uphill battle than I thought,” said DeLeo.