firearm bans: Mass. House Advances Pair Of Gun Bills Amid Larger Talks

House Advances Pair Of Gun Bills Amid Larger Talks

Even Beacon Hill insiders are uncertain about why the House recently advanced a pair of bills prohibiting firearms in certain settings, which is one of the key topics covered by already-approved legislation bottled up in cross-branch negotiations.

The House gave initial approval to one standalone restricted-places bill (H 2305) on May 28, followed by a second (H 2359) on June 3.

Both bills targeted different areas for firearm bans than the sweeping legislation that cleared the House in October and the Senate in February. Lawmakers serving on a private, six-person conference committee continue to negotiate those measures.

“We’re not sure if this signals something or if they’re trying to plug holes,” Mike Harris, director of public policy for the Gun Owners Action League, said of the two smaller bills. “We’re a little confused ourselves as to why these are moving.”

Rep. Marjorie Decker, the Cambridge Democrat who authored one of the standalone bills, said she expects legislative attention to remain locked on the larger proposal in conference committee, not other proposals such as hers.

“The omnibus bill, that’s the place I have been focused on,” she said.

The pair of newer bills won favorable reports from the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security in May. They were then referred to the House Committee on Steering, Policy and Scheduling. That panel works to help measure the urgency of bills for scheduling purposes and under legislative rules it gets 30 days to review any bill. During that span, the panel can either schedule a measure to be considered by the House or discharge it to another committee. If it takes no action, the bill automatically gets scheduled for House consideration at the end of the 30-day window.

Once a bill is placed in the House’s orders of the day, also known as its calendar, top House Democrats choose which bills on the calendar to surface for votes on ordering to third reading, which signifies initial approval.

An aide to Speaker Ron Mariano downplayed the significance of the House votes on the two gun bills.

“Every session, bills reach deadlines and time out in committee, resulting in movement that is a reflection of nothing more than the formal legislative process at work,” Mariano spokesman Max Ratner told the News Service in an email. “As it relates to gun safety, the House remains focused on reaching an agreement with the Senate on the omnibus firearm legislation that is currently being discussed in conference  committee.”

Neither of the two bills ran up against the 30-day limit. One emerged from the Steering, Policy and Scheduling Committee 13 days after it arrived, and the other spent 14 days in the committee before the panel sent it forward to the orders of the day.

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