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Proposed "Safe Storage" Petition is Unconstitutional

Keith G. Langer Aug. 14, 2019

The Attorney General is responsible for vetting all Initiative Petitions, and also seeks comment on them. This is my submission to the AAG reviewing this particular petition:

AAG O'Leary:

I see you seek public input regarding the pending Initiative Petitions. I submit the following as my comments regarding 19-02, the "Mass Gun Safe Law:"

1. This is unconstitutionally vague.

It demands that all gun owners keep their guns, without exception, "within a certified gun safe."

There is no such thing as a "certified gun safe." Neither does the proponent of this petition provide proposed criteria for such a safe, still less any industry reports or policies upon which to create such standards. The petition is defective on that point.

2. The petition is overbroad and conflicts with existing law. 

It mandates that "any and all rifles and handguns[,] regardless of munition type or caliber" be so secured.

Antique and replica guns are expressly exempt under Federal law, and from licensing and storage requirements under current Massachusetts law. See 18 USC 921(3)(D), and M.G.L. c. 140, §121.  This petition not only ignores those laws; it conflicts with them.

3. Massachusetts already has storage requirements:

M.G.L.c. 140, § 131C - Storage in a Vehicle

 “...such weapon is unloaded and contained within the locked trunk of such vehicle or in a locked case or other secure container.”

M.G.L.c. 140, § 131L. Weapons stored or kept by owner; inoperable by any person other than owner or lawfully authorized user; punishment.

“...such weapon is secured in a locked container or equipped with a tamper-resistant mechanical lock or other safety device, properly engaged so as to render such weapon inoperable by any person other than the owner or other lawfully authorized user.”

The petition's proponent ignores, or is wholly ignorant of, existing law. The petition is redundant and overbroad.

4. The petition unconstitutionally makes no provision for actually using one's firearms.

 The petition mandates storage at all times. There is no exception for self-defense, attending shows, hunting, or any other use. This negates the very basis of the Second Amendment, meaning the petition trammels upon a fundamental Constitutional right.

5. The petition negates due process.

The petition will make any gun owner within the Commonwealth "...held equally responcible [sic] for any and all actions and crimes committed by any persons using unsecured weapons obtained from any residence, business, or vehicle, regardless of owner consent or nonconsent."

This is:

a. Unconstitutionally overbroad. The petition purports to secure firearms; then imposes joint and several liability for any "weapons." Under this false reasoning, one could be held criminally liable for the misuse of a kitchen knife, nail gun, hammer, or baseball bat; all are inherently, or readily used as, weapons.


b. Violative of due process. The petition imposes "collective guilt" upon the owner of any "weapons" which are "unsecured." Other than the requirement of an undefined "certified safe" for rifles and handguns, the petition goes on to include "unsecured weapons," also undefined, in its scope. There is no language of limitation, as the petition includes not just crimes, still less actual convictions, but "any and all actions." 

I trust you will find this ill-written and superfluous petition fails to pass Constitutional muster and reject it accordingly.

Very truly yours,

Keith G. Langer, J.D.