MA court upholds a state law requiring trigger locks
If, as and when Heller is applied to the states, this will be done away with. Read the last quote from the nanny-state attorney general. Lah-lah land.
SJC upholds trigger-lock law for guns in homes - The Boston Globe
SJC backs trigger-lock law on guns in homes
By John R. Ellement and Martin Finucane
Globe Staff / March 11, 2010
In a case that drew attention from the Gun Owners Action League and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the Supreme Judicial Court yesterday upheld a state law requiring trigger locks on guns kept in people’s homes.
In what was seen by some as a victory for law enforcement and advocates of gun control, the state’s highest court ruled that the Second Amendment does not restrict the right of Massachusetts to impose its own rules on gun ownership.
“We conclude that the legal obligation safely to secure firearms in [state law] is not unconstitutional,’’ Justice Ralph Gants wrote for the unanimous court.
The gunlock case involved Richard Runyan, a Billerica man facing prosecution for keeping a rifle under his bed without a trigger lock. Police in 2007 discovered the firearm as they investigated complaints that Runyan’s then-18-year-old developmentally disabled son was shooting a BB gun at a neighbor’s house.
A Lowell District Court judge threw out the case. Middlesex District Attorney Gerard T. Leone Jr.’s office appealed in 2009.
Leone said in a telephone interview yesterday that the SJC had struck the proper balance between the right to self defense and the right of society to prevent tragedies — such as a child mishandling a loaded firearm.
“What they did for us as a state is they allowed us to continue to engage a balance between how we provide for our own self-defense and how we . . . avoid tragedy, especially when guns are in the hands of those who shouldn’t have them,’’ Leone said.
Runyan’s attorney, Brenden J. McMahon said he had hoped the SJC would have brought the prosecution to an end. Now the case will limp along, he said.
“It doesn’t really give closure to my guy,’’ McMahon said.
In a companion ruling yesterday, the SJC upheld the conviction of a New Bedford man who had argued that the Second Amendment right to bear arms trumped state law making it a crime for an unlicensed person to have a handgun.
Nathaniel DePina was arrested by gang officers after a .22-caliber revolver fell out of his clothing. Gants said the Second Amendment does not apply in DePina’s case because the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights has never meant that an individual is free to own firearms.
Gregg Miliote, spokesman for Bristol District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter, said the court was right to uphold DePina’s convictions and to leave state firearms laws intact.
The unanimous decisions by the SJC flow from a landmark ruling by the US Supreme Court in 2008, in District of Columbia v. Heller.
The Supreme Court said for the first time that the US Constitution’s Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to own a firearm for self-defense, but the court limited the reach of its ruling to “federal enclaves’’ like the District of Columbia.
Last week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a gun ownership case in Illinois in which, legal specialists say, the court is likely to determine whether the Second Amendment will now be explicitly extended to the states — and state laws and regulations set up to control the use, sale, and storage of firearms.
In yesterday’s SJC cases, Justice Gants wrote that an 1875 US Supreme Court ruling (called Cruikshank) remains in force and gives Massachusetts the authority to chart its own course when it comes to regulating firearms and ammunition.
“Under Cruikshank, the Second Amendment imposes no limitations on the ability of the Massachusetts Legislature to regulate the possession of firearms and ammunition,’’ Gants wrote. “These cases are the law of the land until the Supreme Court decides otherwise, and we are therefore bound by them.’’
In a statement on the trigger lock case, Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Center, applauded the SJC. “Courts must continue to reject efforts by the gun lobby and gun criminals to strike down common-sense gun laws that save lives,’’ he said.
But Edward F. George Jr., attorney for the Gun Owners Action League, faulted the SJC, saying they left intact a confusing law and should have waited for the US Supreme Court to clarify the muddy legal waters later this summer.
“They jumped the gun,’’ he said of the SJC.
Attorney General Martha Coakley, whose office sided with Leone as did county prosecutors, said she approved of the SJC’s findings.
The court is protecting “the public, especially our children, from the risks of unsafe firearm storage practices while also recognizing a gun owner’s right to use a firearm for self-defense in his or her home,’’ she said.